It’s once again the time of year for New Year’s resolutions that we’ll keep for a few months and then forget about by spring.
Last year, in the realm of geek, I suggested you start a hold at your local comic-book store, play more board games and read classic geek books that you’d never read before. Those are all still important things you should think about, but this year, I think there’s something you can do to make your geek life and the geek lives of others a lot better.
It will be no simple challenge, because we’re all strong-willed geeks with fierce opinions, and we feel the need to debate every point and take steaming craps on things we don’t like. But here’s a suggestion for a New Year’s resolution: Don’t do that. Don’t be a troll, and don’t feed the trolls.
Everything out there, no matter how bizarre it might seem to us, brings someone a bit of joy. We might not understand it, but why tell those people they’re wrong? Reserve your ire for something truly damaging to the world.
The fact that someone likes some bit of geekdom that you don’t—or vice-versa—is not reason enough to work yourself up into a froth. You’re only ruining your day and the day of someone else by arguing ceaselessly about something. As an ardent defender of the Star Wars prequels, I’m often on the receiving end of these missions. I’ve learned to tune them out, but seeing me happy about the prequels brings out a rage in some people. And it doesn’t make any sense.
I don’t get mad when people like The Matrix, which I find preposterously bad. When someone says they like The Matrix, I don’t get on a high horse and tell them they’re an idiot for doing so.
This resolution is about keeping your opinion to yourself when it’s not wanted and it doesn’t matter. It’s bad enough to do this in person, but doing it online is even worse. Facebook is never the proper venue for an argument with strangers about the superiority of someone’s opinion.
And never, ever engage in a serious debate or conversation online with someone who is anonymous. If you’re protecting your anonymity on the Internet, either you’re a legitimate whistleblower with a dire need to protect your identity, or you’re a troll who uses anonymity as a shield for your overbearing—and usually ignorant and ugly—opinion.
Geeks are passionate. I get that. It’s one thing we’re really good at. We’re passionate about what we love, we’re passionate about what we hate—and, ironically, we’re even passionate about what we’re ambivalent about. We’re always ready to offer an opinion, and too often no one actually asked us for it.
So that’s what we, as a community of geeks, should resolve for 2014. The passion we have for things is what’s important. We need to encourage that passion in others, whether we like what they’re passionate about or not. We will not—cannot—channel that passion into negativity. If we don’t foster positive passion for geeky things we don’t understand, at the end of the day, we are all just trolls. And no one likes a troll.
Trolls feed on that negative energy, and their hunger knows no bounds. We can feed them all we want, but we’ll never sate their evil lust—so why even try?
Bryan Young is the editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com