Saturday, April 26, 2014

I Fed The Troll

Yesterday, I broke one of the biggest rules of the Internet. I fed a troll, meaning I responded to a negative comment.

I used to reply to the odd negative comment in the past, but I quickly realized that conversing with a troll is a lot like conversing with a brick, except the brick can magically talk and has the attitude and reasoning skills of a very angry and aggressive four-year-old. So I stopped responding and started blocking, for the sake of my own mental health, because I never developed a hard outer shell like others who have also been exposed to the joys of comment sections for many years.

But yesterday I replied. And then they replied. And then I got upset and deleted both their comments and my own. This means I can't tell you exactly what they said, but I can give you a rough idea.

[Comment was posted on my "Introduction to Joseph Birdsong" video on my channel page]

Them: Guess which YouTuber I won't be subscribing to. 
Me (in reply): Guess which YouTuber won't be giving a shit.

I didn't take this initial comment seriously. It sort of made me laugh and, before I knew it, my fingers started whipping out a sarcastic response. To be honest, I thought my reply was hilarious. At least I laughed when I typed it. Because, really, if you aren't gonna invest time in my stuff, why are you even wasting your time commenting to tell me that? That's like waiting in line for two hours to see Santa at the mall and then bending down and whispering in his ear, "I'm not gonna fuckin' tell you what I want for Christmas, you jolly asshole."

I don't want someone like that subscribing to me anyway. I rather my subscribers be the wonderful sort of people who reserve their commenting for polite agreements, or for laughter-related acronyms like "LOL" or "ROFL," or for starting intelligent discussions about politics or dinosaurs or something.

I blocked the troll so they couldn't reply, but I guess YouTube is so fucked up these days that blocking someone doesn't stop them from replying to you anymore. Apparently you have to "ban" them, which sounds like it should be a synonym for "blocking" but I guess it isn't. I still don't understand this whole Google+ integration thing. Anyway, they replied, and I knew it was gonna be bad when it had a "19 more lines" thing underneath it that I had to click to expand and read the full comment.

Their reply was laced with some general homophobic remarks, which is actually one thing I've developed a hard shell for. They also said I was gender confused, but that didn't get to me either, because I don't think being confused about your gender is something to be ashamed of or is an insult in any way. It was the other stuff--between the hints of homophobia--that made me upset.

Basically, they lumped me into a category of people I've fought so hard to not be lumped into. They claimed they knew my type. And that type (according to them, to paraphrase) was someone who doesn't care about his viewers and who is just putting on an act to try and get famous. Someone who appropriates other cultures for cheap laughs. Someone who manipulates people for money and without doing any work.

And that hurt. Because I work my ass off to come up with original material every week instead of mindlessly doing challenge video after challenge video. (Even the one challenge video I did, I created solely for myself.) Because I am hyperaware of the things that I say and do in videos (and in my everyday life) and go to great lengths not to say offensive things or appropriate other cultures because I believe it's wrong. Because I have made a conscious effort to distance myself from others who I believe do those things. And because it has never been a primary goal of mine to get rich and/or famous from my videos, which should be evident by the amount of opportunities and appearances I've turned down in the past (which you wouldn't know about, I guess, because I turned them down) and the fact that I get embarrassed in real life whenever anyone brings up my online stuff. Because I care greatly for and respect the people who subscribe and invest time in me, which I'd hope is evident because I reply to as many comments as I physically can each week. (Although it's probably my own fault the troll didn't think I cared about my subscribers because my reply to him was rather flippant. In reality, though, I just don't care for that type of person to be subscribed to me.) Oh, and I live with my parents, so I guess that's another point for not being in it for the money. Gotta throw that one on there.

Yet this was the category I was being lumped into by this person who had only seen one video on my channel, or possibly only a few seconds of one video. And that made me insecure as to how other people perceive me. And then I starting worrying if I had ever unintentionally appropriated a culture. And then I started wondering if this might just be how people perceive vloggers in general these days, which made me sad because back when I started it was just a bunch of cool, awkward, relatable people trying to express themselves and figure out their lives, instead of polished and unattainable individuals who got invited to interview celebs and attend awards shows. (Note: There's nothing wrong with being polished and going to awards shows. I wish I were polished. I don't really wish I could go to awards shows, though, because they seem boring. I just find these things a little unrelatable, and also watching people who are too perfect makes me feel worse about myself.)

And then I wondered how long I can keep doing this. How long can I keep feeling like I have to defend myself against these types of perceptions and having these sorts of worries and trying to swim against a current that just keeps trying to pull me harder and harder in the opposite direction? And those worries reminded me that I'd been worried earlier about whether or not the milk in the fridge had gone bad. And thinking about the fridge made me worry if I'd forgotten to buy chocolate ice cream, because I suddenly really wanted needed some. And then I worried my way over to WebMD and read an article about how worrying negatively affects the body and I literally exploded.*

Then I noticed a receipt on my desk for chocolate ice cream so I knew there was some in the fridge. And then I remembered I don't really drink milk anyway, so that part didn't matter. And once I started feeling better about those things, I also realized I shouldn't be a dumbass and reply to other dumbasses who probably haven't heard me speak more than three sentences. Me replying to a troll is almost as stupid as that guy who waits to see Santa and then cusses him out. And I definitely shouldn't let a negative comment influence what I do, as long as I'm still enjoying it. I guess that would be the real lesson here. It at least sounds like a good way to sum up this entry.

*I didn't literally explode. That's just how the kids are phrasing things these days and I'm still trying to be cool and relatable.