Don’t Feed the Trolls

A week or so ago, in a debate, Bernie Sanders made a joke about mental illness. Now, his supporters would say the joke wasn’t about mental illness at all, but rather about the Republican presidential candidates. If, for some reason, you missed the “joke” what Sanders said was, “When you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to invest in mental health.”

This is a very stigmatizing statement. What Sanders did essentially equated bigoted bombastic assholery with mental illness. If you don’t know why that is a problem then there are many posts you can read on the subject. This is not a post about why it is a problem. This is a post about the response to the problem.

I am a liberal. I am on social media. I associate with a lot of liberals like me on social media. While I am not “Feeling the Bern” an awful lot of my friends and acquaintances are. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

As an advocate trying to live an open and stigma free life, I felt the need to explain the issue to a number of people that I saw posting the “joke” as a meme. My expectations were, since these are “well intentioned” liberals who are pretty progressive on economics, gender, race, sexuality, etc. that they would hear, from my perspective, what a stigmatizing “joke” like that really does, and respect my point of view. That might not change much but ideally it would at least get them to see where I am coming from and be aware that there is, in fact, an issue.

What happened instead was the internet equivalent to a brawl. Instead of my experience and perspective being honored, I was told, in essence, that I was wrong. I was being too sensitive. I was blowing it out of proportion. I was manufacturing a controversy.

Worse than that, Sanders supporters said that he was right. They began to diagnose the Republicans, particularly Donald Trump, with all manner of mental maladies. Trump was “crazy”. His supporters were “crazy”. The whole damned Republican party was “crazy”. They, and people like me who live with mental illnesses, were essentially just a bunch of crazies. I don’t need to tell you how stigmatizing that was. It was also quite stressful and triggering, as I continued to try to explain my position in good faith, with admittedly increasing hostility, while being completely dismissed and insulted. I ended up fully taking the bait and really going at it with a few of them, hurling profane insults of my own.

Trolls exist on the internet. Trolls exist on Facebook. They exist for no reason than to insult you and piss you off. I took the bait. I joined the fray. And in return I allowed myself to get triggered. It was a bad day. It was a bad night. I lost sleep that night and had a very bad day the next day. All of this because of Facebook trolls.

Rule number one of the internet is “Don’t feed the trolls”. This, I think, especially goes for those of us with bipolar. I broke that rule and I suffered for it. And I will never do it again.

You know, until I do it again.


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