Thursday, November 24, 2011

Comment Phishing: why bloggers should feel better about Internet trolls


There's a group of us Chicago Now bloggers who participate in an online forum where we talk to each other about all things blogging. A lot of the time it's technical issues, or sometimes how our softball team did (really well until NPR trounced them in the finals) or our latest get-together. (A City Mom has never once been spotted dancing on the bar, most likely because I've never been able to attend; they wisely have conspired to hold them when I am out of town.) Lately however, the conversation has turned to blog comments. You know, the really mean kind made by Internet trolls.
For A City Mom (117 Facebook Likes) to listen to other bloggers (175,000 Facebook Likes, ahem.) complain about the one or two mean comments they received in their latest comment thread, which go on for miles btw (my all-time comment record is like 20), is a little like listening to the king complain he has too many subjects, or hearing the queen complain she has too many servants.

But lest you think I am heartless and only jealous of these other insanely popular bloggers, we shall get to my point, finally. Comment Phishing. And the fact that, unbeknownst to me, I was harboring two comment phishermen in my basement.

My sons first mentioned the term comment phishing to me and I don't know if they coined it or just heard it somewhere. I did know what phishing was and I immediately inferred what comment phishing is. Kyle helped: "Oh, you just know exactly who you're going to bait with each type of comment you post."

"Wait a minute," I thought. "I have trolls in my basement?"

My sons surf the net, sure. They're really smart and insightful. Great. They read CNN and other news websites and apparently, as I came to find out, enjoyed leaving comments. But not insightful, intelligent comments. No. They went comment phishing.

"If you write a really conservative comment, you know you're going to snag some irate liberal who'll rant at you. And if you phrase a liberal comment just the right way, you get all the conservatives down your throat."

Apparently, this is great fun for them. Or, at least it was until I put a stop to it. "You guys, us writers read those comments and we take them seriously! It's mean to anonymously take people down just for spite."

In the five-year history of A City Mom, I can count on one hand the mean or hateful comments I've received. Actually, I can practically count on one hand all the comments I've received. Yet, I feel fortunate for this: the first part, not the latter. Still, it doesn't take away the sting of having someone viciously attack me personally or my opinion or my humor. No, the only thing that was able to do that is--and this is what I want to share with all my fellow bloggers, with their high-class-too-many-commenter-problems, because I genuinely want them to never, ever again fret over any anonymous Internet troll's hate--is the fact that the angry commenter could be, and probably is, nothing more than a comment phisherman, a thirteen-year-old boy in his mother's basement.

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