The Troll Under the Bridge

I like to read comments. It’s a bit of a hobby. Reading an article or a status update or watching a video is *edifying* and all, but it’s in the comments that the fun really begins. That’s why you should wait awhile after an item has been published online to read it; the comments will pile up and then you can go see individuals doing their best to illumine why everyone is wrong and they are right.

The New York Times is going to implement some changes to its commenting system that they hope will make the process more streamlined and – more importantly – improve the quality of comments. This heartily distresses me. Moronic, predictably bad comments are what make the Internet the modern-day Wild West, a new coliseum where we can see the freaks at play while we are sitting safely in the risers.

I love the trolls. They are the cool kids who sit at the back of the class and give the nerds and the near-sighted teacher the ride of their lives. I love how easy it is to see the the trajectory of their vile comments.


The troll lobs some easy missile about sexuality, politics, or religion. It may or may not have anything to do with the original subject. The trap is set.

It gets a reaction, a torrent of thumbs down. Several more if the comment permits the inclusion of a trollface emoticon. Those in the know will immediately be tipped-off to the inauthenticity of the commentator’s thoughts when they see the grinning face, but the uninitiated will see the face and immediately get to retaliating against this menace who is putting the morality of all society in jeopardy.

The experienced troll will disguise his identity more stealthily. He will have chosen as his emoticon a picture of an old white dude with no shirt on who lives in Craptown, USA. Intrigued and distressed, the upstanding citizens of the online community wonder how this character managed to get a computer with Internet access at all. He must be schooled.

The retaliation begins. Lots of comments in the thread to set him straight and demonstrate the troll’s own backwards idiocy. Some are longer than others. Although they will initially address the troll directly (as he eagerly awaits the masses’ response), the best refer to him in the third person. The public humiliation of the now-mute imbecile begins.

A few will come to the troll’s aid and say something that is even more egregious than the original fabricated statement. These are the actually disturbed people who genuinely agree with him and can only be handled with tact and a thousand thumbs down. Back away slowly.

But then – AHA! – the climax of the thread: the troll’s identity is revealed! A commentator indicates his suspicion that the originator of this thread is a troll! A mean prankster who intentionally got everyone’s panties in a knot over a sentiment he doesn’t even believe! Some Internet bastard.

The thread huffs and puffs over how it’s been duped by some stupid jerk who enjoys getting a rise out of good, hardworking people who are just taking a break from their long days at work to berate idiots online. Shame on him. Probably one of those Occupy Wall Street communists.

The thread is abandoned as quietly as it was begun. All is well on the interwebs again. But beware; the troll will strike again!


  1. “Moronic, predictably bad comments is what makes the Internet the modern-day Wild West, a new coliseum where we can see the freaks at play while we are sitting safely in the risers.”

    This. is. HILARIOUS! So well-written and witty! You and Ben are going to have Bebe in stitches as soon as she is born!

    1. Haha except for all the subject/verb agreement errors throughout. I’m kind of embarrassed. Guess I’m not the proofreader I used to be. :( Oh well. Wuv you.

  2. I’m worried about the NYTimes changes too. Mostly because of all news sites, they have some of the most intelligent commentators EVER. I can read a persuasive column by Paul Krugman and completely agree with him, and then completely change my mind because of a disagreeing comment of which makes inciteful arguments not mentioned in the above article. they have always done a good job keeping the self-promotional spam out and the high quality comments in.

    Now, with a reply option, there is a likelihood that someone will reply to the 1st commemorators post simply to be near the beginning with their blog signature and not necessarily as part of the discussion. Plus the “read more” thing is annoying as hell. I bet it’s going to be even more annoying on a mobile device.

    1. Ugh, I agree! Everything is more annoying on mobile devices. First world problems, first world problems ;)

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  3. Hmmm. Wait awhile before adding comments? That must be what people are doing for my blog.

    1. Haha, I should put an asterisk in at that point and say that this goes for all except blogs! I like comments, too. They’re like candy in my belly!

  4. Actually, I rather like the changes they are making. The system they are moving to is much like the one we are using on WP. I like the idea of threading. It makes it easier to skip over the troll incited mayhem or for those like you that enjoy that brand of crazy to more easily follow it. Of course, it will take a while for people to figure out how to use it, but it never takes long. I’m seeing more and more people using it here.

    A very entertaining and informative post.

    1. I think I’m the only person in the world who gets distressed when actual improvements are made to things. It makes me nervous because in all likelihood I JUST got done figuring out how the old thing worked. In all honesty I am really glad NYT is changing things up :) Thanks!

  5. that is so funny, i was JUST thinking about this this morning and wondering why it takes me sooooo long to read a couple of articles, and i realized it’s because i spend more time on the comments section. which is the only reason the bbc annoys me… no comments! (at least on my phone). v funny post. :)

    1. Really? No comments on the BBC? Crazy!

      I waste WAY too much time reading comments. My husband thinks I’m insane.

  6. Oh man, I hate reading comments. I swear I FEEL myself getting dumber. But then you’re talking NYT, and I’m thinking more along the lines of, say, youtube.

    1. I really wanted to include a thing in this post about YouTube comments!!! It was getting a little too long, though. On YouTube I love how if you watch ANY music video prior to 1995, there is always always always: one, someone who says music nowadays sucks the big one; two, some kid who claims to be fifteen and hates all music from his/her own era and wishes they could’ve been born in the era of the music of said video; and three, about a million comments about how Justin Beiber is worse than Hitler. LOVE IT!

  7. I want someone to design an ad system for comments. I have some posts with more comment readers than post readers!

    1. I hope you’re getting paid for that! Seriously, though, that’s a shame because the content on your blog is by far some of the most solid I see online. It’s everyone’s loss if they don’t peruse it!

  8. I go to YouTube on bad days. It makes me feel better about myself and my life choices.

    1. Whatever it takes!

  9. I’m no troll! I stand by every offensive comment I’ve posted…oh, dear, I hope that doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings…

    1. I think you’re good ;)

  10. trying to think of an offensive comment to stir things up. fail.

    1. LOL that’s a good thing to fail at. I love it when the trolls dump all over other people’s articles/entries, but I don’t know if I could handle it if they occupied my own little ole blog.

  11. Oh, but one can only LOVE that face :)
    Problem officer? :p

    1. Seriously, I get more traffic on this blog from people image searching for that face than anything else.

  12. this post is racist and sexist towards trolls. Michelle and Barak Obama are the same person and they wrote this blog post.

    1. And I didn’t even have to sing a few bars of “Let’s Stay Together” for you to know my true identity!!!! :D

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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