I am not a particularly social media-savvy person. The first time I saw “IRL” on Twitter, I had to Google it to find out what it meant. “In real life,” as in, “I don’t talk about my cats as much IRL.” Let us hope no one talks about their cats as much IRL as they do online.
I also had to have one of my friends explain what trolling is. Then I became sadly familiar with it at a remove, watching the incredibly ugly things people say to public figures like Roxane Gay, who takes a very brutal online beating every time she speaks up about something important.
Even as I write this, I am probably being trolled online. I wrote an article for Gawker, which is a site that is kind of notorious for that. I swore to myself and my husband before the article went live that I wouldn’t look at the comments. So when the article went up, I read the first four comments and then I stopped. That was enough. (Mom, if you’re reading this, don’t read the comments. Take my word for it. Just don’t.)
In real life, I’m sitting on my couch in a house I love. I have a cup of tea and there are orange rolls coming out of the oven. In a minute, I’ll sit down and watch GameDay Morning on NFL Network, because that’s our Sunday morning ritual. A cat will probably show up and sit in my lap, because cats really are everywhere, even in real life.
Last night, we went to our favorite restaurant and sat at the bar. We caught up with friends, because we always run into people we know there. The night before, we had folks over for dinner. I spent all Friday afternoon making a chicken pot pie from scratch, which was quite a lot of work but well worth the effort. It was delicious.
That’s my weekend in real life, and I’m very lucky. There is certainly ugliness in the place I live. Madison has its own trolls, online and elsewhere. But I don’t have to have them over for chicken pot pie. They don’t sit at the bar with us, I guess because they are too busy trolling, which is sad for them. I can’t help but think that the people who troll must have a sad lack of beer and cats in their life. Or just not a lot of happiness in general.
I won’t sugar coat what it must feel like to have to endure online meanness and harassment day after day. I know what it felt like reading just those four comments, and only two of them were ugly. It felt like fear, in real life–my heart raced and my stomach churned. I hope for the sake of people who endure this daily that they develop a thick skin, because otherwise, it has to be taking a toll–a real, physical one on their bodies. I can’t imagine what that’s like and no one should have to endure it.
But in real life, it’s supposed to snow later tonight, and it occurred to me when I walked across our new bridge that it would be a beautiful place to watch snowflakes drift down onto town. So I think that’s what I’ll do.