the internet

Theorem: No matter how minor your authority on the internet, you will attract trolls.

As The Critic of Pure Reason, I’m hardly one of the web’s elite movers and shakers. I think I get a few thousand reads a month. If internet popularity were understood through a metaphor for high school popularity, then I am the third-string tight end who the cool guys might nod at in the hall but mostly has to pass the lunch hour reading The Lord of the Rings in the shade of the auxiliary building.

But here’s the latest comment I’ve got on one of my reviews: “Your Fedora does not look good on you, you lack the ‘Distinguished Gentleman’ look, give it up man.”

(For context, the Herald uses a picture of me in my fedora.)

It’s the only comment on that review. It was not a comment on the movie, True Grit. It was not even a comment telling me I have a stupid opinion about True Grit. It is a comment telling me I look bad in my hat.

I’m not surprised or even insulted. Over at The AV Club, if there’s an interview with a woman, you can bet your one and only life that 30-60% of the comments will be about how hot she is, how ugly she is, or her ultimate boneability.

I can’t say whether this attitude is driven by our culture, the medium of the internet itself, or the intersection of the two. (Well, yeah I can. It’s that last one.) If this is what the internet’s about, I wish I could spend less time on it.

Roger Ebert, who’s great, has a pretty great article about the temptation and folly of snark, the international language of the internet. The piece is over a year old, but so are a lot of great things, like me.

I’m pretty worn out on snark, too. I’m sure I use it in my columns sometimes, but I try to pull most of the humor there out of nonsense, absurdity, wordplay, and self-insulting jokes rather than snark. Except in the case of stuff like College, which deserves to be assaulted with every weapon in the critical arsenal, including several prototypes designed specifically to reduce College to a smoldering pile of shit-smelling ash.

Elsewhere, I’ve unfollowed people on Twitter (I’m sure they miss me) for excessive snark. One guy would watch movies–good ones–and snark-attack them in real time; over two hours, my stream would flood with 50-100 tweets of varying amusement that did nothing but make fun of the film. A few were genuinely funny. Most, eh. After the second or third movie he subjected this to, I unfollowed. It got old. Too bad. He’d usually tweet some interesting links, too.

I don’t read internet message boards anymore. I used to do a lot of this at jobs where I had access to a computer and some downtime; something like the AV Club’s boards, especially these days, is essentially a nonstop user-generated content mill, perfect for killing a few minutes behind the counter or a desk. But same deal. It got old. I decided I’d rather be learning something, or creating it myself, than reading an undammed torrent of clever insults.

I’ve been housesitting for my brother across the state this week, and fell off the comment board wagon. Got all my reviewing done, but not nearly as much fiction as I wanted to write. But it’s been a good reminder of what I’ve been missing the last year or so: not much.

About Me

I am a Science Fiction and Fantasy author, based in LA. Read More.


My Book Genres