Concern Trolling Is A Real And Painful Thing — From Someone Who Knows

Photo: Sander van der Werf / Shutterstock
internet troll on computer

Hello, my name Is Rebecca Stokes.

For the past 9 years, I've primarily made my living writing on the Internet. I've learned a lot doing it, such as how to be my own boss, how to value my own work, how to meet deadlines, and how to grovel for forgiveness when I miss deadlines. 

But the most important thing that I have learned as a woman who writes (often about her life) on the internet is how to deal with — read: ignore — monster-sized trolls.

RELATED: Internet Trolls Are Narcissists, Psychopaths, And Sadists (Says Science)

Let me back up and explain.

Because I am a woman who identifies as a feminist... and because I am fat and do not believe that a person's physical appearance is an accurate indicator of their health... and because I often write about these things on the internet... I get a lot (and I mean a lot) of hate messages and e-mails.

There are, of course, the people who politely disagree. And there are, of course, the people who respond positively to what I write. And yeah, these people sometimes take the time to message me. But more often what I get are messages from men who do a half-rate job of hiding their identities, and who have a lot of hateful things to say.

These messages can be divided into two categories and two categories only:

1. Hateful trolls

The folks in this category are easy to dismiss. Even the ones who say they are going to murder me, or that I am going to die alone, or who call me horrifying names — at this point, I pretty much nod, block, delete, and move.

I learned early on that you can't give these things power because that's exactly what they want from you. I often compare it to the scene in the sequel to "Nightmare on Elm Street" where Freddy Kreuger is brought back to life by a dog urinating on his grave.

Don't be the dog who brings back Freddy. Just keep walkin'.

2. Concern trolls

The second category of trolls is more pernicious. They are the kind of trolls that I am the most likely to engage with because instead of hiding behind fake avatars and spewing pure vitriol, these trolls present every single hateful thing that they have to say about your body as something they are "worried" about. You know, for YOU. They don't care, but it's soooo important to them that you know how much danger you're in. Yeah, it sucks.

A while back I wrote an essay about an experience I had with a box of cookies on the subway. It gained some traction again recently, which meant that I received more Facebook messages than you could shake a stick at, though why anyone would want to bother with that is beyond me.

Then, a concern troll came to play.

I'd like to share with you what he had to say and how I responded.

"Rebecca, because you have not been diagnosed (my assumption) with a fat-related disease (yet) does not mean you are 'healthy' as you claim. You have artery disease, for sure. It will progress for years until diagnosed. They (sic) you'll take high BP meds and cholesterol-lowering meds until that fateful day when you have a heart attack." 

"For 30% the first sign of artery disease is sudden death. You are just kidding yourself. I'm sure your attention-seeking 'fat-shaming' story did its job getting attention, but you are still alone facing an uphill battle with obesity and heart disease. If you have any interest in correcting your health issues, may I suggest John McDougall, MD? He has a free nutrition plan to free you of disease and obesity. But, of course, you must educate yourself on nutrition and eat healthy. Good luck."

"My blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart are all really healthy. I eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. I've weighed the same amount now as I did in my late teens. The fact that you read the story I shared on MSN and decided to come here under the pretense of concern for my well-being is laughable. This is a dummy account. You have no profile picture. You have six friends. You aren't worried about me. You don't know me. You made assumptions about me that are baseless. Concern trolling is a thing — you just did it. Now kindly --- right off."

RELATED: A Woman Fat-Shamed Me On The Subway And I Actually Fought Back

Now I want to tell you why I even bothered.

Usually, if someone were to ask me if they should ever respond to a troll, I would say no (see the aforementioned Freddy comparison). But in the case of concern trolling, I think it is okay to break your own rule by responding and putting them on unmitigated blast.

Why? Because at least the regular trolls are honest.

They aren't hiding their ugliness. They aren't pretending to care about you. They are treating you badly for whatever their own personal reasons are. Maybe it's their hobby. Maybe they have a rage problem. Maybe they are sad and only twelve years old. You just can't know.

Concern trolls use the guise of love and care to undermine female voices.

Every time a man reaches out to me with "helpful" advice that I never asked for about my own body it's a nice reminder of why abortion is still a debate, why I still don't make as much money as my male peers: because there is a significant portion of the population who exists solely to stamp down female voices, particularly those who are saying something that empowers women.

This guy doesn't care about my arteries. He cares that I worked hard enough to have a platform upon which I can loudly say, "You deserve to be treated with respect no matter your size," because that goes against his idea of the natural order — one where men, no matter how pathetic, reign supreme and women everywhere are forced to adhere to whatever social mores they have determined matter.

It's hot trash and it needs to be called out so that it can wither under the gaze of the populous at large.

So concern troll me all you want. I'm gonna put you on blast and it won't be because my feelings are hurt and it won't be because I want revenge.

It will be to continue my mission to make the world a place that is just as safe and supportive of women as it is of men.

RELATED: 7 Things Fat Women Are So Damn Tired Of Hearing

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer who writes about love, sex, and relationships. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.