Trouble at the Koolaid Point â€” Serious Pony by Kathy Sierra
Joyce Park stashed this in Modern problems
Terrifying essay by a longtime target, who demonstrates how online "trolling" has evolved to sociopathic competition.
This essay IS terrifying.
It's too easy for random people on Twitter to hurt other people.
And Twitter doesn't seem to care.
This month is the 10-year anniversary of my first online threat. I thought it was a one-off, then. Just one angry guy. And it wasnâ€™t reallyÂ THATÂ bad. But looking back, it was the canary in the coal mineâ€¦ the first hint that if I kept on this path, it would not end well. And what was that path? Weâ€™ll get to that in a minute.
Later I learned that the first threat had nothing to do with what I actuallyÂ madeÂ orÂ saidÂ in my books, blog posts, articles, and conference presentations. TheÂ realÂ problem â€” as my first harasser described â€” was thatÂ others were beginning to pay attentionÂ to me. He wrote as if mere exposure to my work was harming his world.Â
But hereâ€™s the key: it turned out he wasnâ€™t outraged about my work. His rage was because, in his mind, my work didnâ€™tÂ deserveÂ theÂ attention. Spoiler alert: â€śdeserveâ€ť and â€śattentionâ€ť are at the heart.
A year later, I wrote a light-hearted article about â€śhatersâ€ť (the quotes matter) and something I called The Koolaid Point. It wasnâ€™t about harassment, abuse, or threats againstÂ peopleÂ but about the kind of brand â€śtrollsâ€ť you find in, say, Apple discussion forums. My wildly non-scientific theory was this: the most vocal trolling and â€śhateâ€ť for a brand kicks in HARD once a critical mass of brand fans/users are thought to have â€śdrunk the Koolaidâ€ť. In other words, the hate wasnâ€™t so much about the product/brand but thatÂ other people were falling for it.Â
She goes on to describe lots of hurtful threats she has received online. It's awful.
And yet it's important to read this.
To know that there are terrible bullies online who enjoy terrorizing other people for sport.
Internet culture has created a large population of these cruel, angry, bullying haters:
I now believe the most dangerous time for a woman with online visibility is the point at which others are seen to be listening, â€śfollowingâ€ť, â€ślikingâ€ť, â€śfavoritingâ€ť, retweeting. In other words, the point at which her readers have (in the trollâ€™s mind) â€śdrunk the Koolaidâ€ť. Apparently, that just canâ€™t be allowed.Â
From the haterâ€™s POV, you (the KoolaidÂ server) do not â€śdeserveâ€ť that attention. You are â€śstealingâ€ť an audience. From their angry, frustrated point of view, the idea that others listen to you is insanity. From their emotion-fueled view you donâ€™t have readers you have cult followers. That just canâ€™t be allowed.Â
You must be stopped. And if they cannot stop you, they can at least ruin your quality of life. A standard goal, in troll culture, I soon learned, is to cause â€śpersonal ruinâ€ť. They arenâ€™t alltrolls, though. Some of those who seek to stop and/or ruin you are misguided/misinformed but well-intended. They actually believe in a cause, and they believe you (or rather the Koolaid youâ€™re serving) threatens that cause.Â
But the Koolaid-Point-driven attacks are usually started by Â (speculating, educated guess here, not an actual psychologist, etc) sociopaths. Theyâ€™re doing it out of pure malice, â€śfor the lulz.â€ť And those doing it for the lulz are masters at manipulating public perception. Master trolls can build an online army out of the well-intended, by appealing to The Cause (more on that later). The very best/worst trolls can even make the non-sociopaths believe "for the lulz" is itself a noble cause.Â
But I actually got off easy, then. Most of the master trolls werenâ€™t active on Twitter in 2007. Today, they, along with their friends, fans, followers, and a zoo of anonymous sock puppet accountsÂ are. The time from troll-has-an-idea to troll-mobilizes-brutal-assault has shrunk from weeks to minutes. Twitter, for all its good, is a hate amplifier. Twitter boosts signal power with head-snapping speed and strength. Today, Twitter (and this isnâ€™t a complaint about Twitter, itâ€™s about what Twitter enables) is the trollâ€™s best weapon for attacking you. And by â€śyouâ€ť, I mean â€śyou the server of Koolaid.â€ť You who must be stopped.
It begins with simple threats. You know, rape, dismemberment, the usual. Itâ€™s a good place to start, those threats, because you might simply vanish once those threats include your family. Mission accomplished. But today, many women online â€” you women who are far braver than I am â€” you stick around. And now, since you stuck around through the first wave of threats, you are now a much BIGGER problem. Because the Worst Possible Thing has happened: as a result of those attacks, you are NOW servingÂ Victim-Flavored Koolaid.Â
The bully trolls have created an "unsafety net" :