I had an Internet revelation recently: I am no good at trolling.
“Trolling,” according to one definition, is “mak[ing] a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.” A lot of times this involves memes, those delightful pictures with funny captions on them, usually relating to pop culture, politics, or simple buffoonery designed to make you laugh.
But you’re Internet-savvy, so you already knew this.
Trolling and memes are fun. They crack me up sometimes. And the best part is that they’ve infiltrated our normally stuffy and over-serious politics. Some see this as a symptom of societal decline. I beg to differ. I see it as using psychological operations to attack your opponent’s credibility using the tools available to us in this digital age.
Internet trolling is about:
- Throwing rhetorical bombs in order to get a reaction (reaction = attention).
- Using the power of images to back up your words.
- Appealing to emotion rather than reason or logic.
- Good old-fashioned hell-raising.
You know, standard ideological warfare tactics that have existed since the dawn of time.
But trolling is not for everyone. I thought I’d try my hand at it just to get a few laughs, draw some attention to my writing, and in general join in the fun. So I tried to create some memes.
They did not work.
For a brief, stupid moment I felt kind of left out of the “in” crowd. But then I had another revelation: Trolling isn’t me, so who cares?
The Internet is a wonderful thing. You can make it work for you, no matter who you are. You don’t have to troll or create memes to get some use out of this gigantic world-wide free-for-all.
The best and most liberating thing about the Internet is that it allows you to be whatever you want to be. Here’s why: No matter your interests or passions, there are like-minded people waiting to share them with you.
So here are some things I’ve discovered about using the Internet in a way that works for me:
- Be authentic. Authenticity travels over the world-wide web. So does fakeness. People can feel it digitally as well as in real-life. Whatever you do, do it in a style that feels right to you. Don’t try to be something your not, the cloak of anonymity notwithstanding. This was behind my decision to ditch my dopey avatar and use an actual picture of myself.
- Create a connection. People want to read your writing, see your artwork, or listen to your music because they want to experience a little piece of you. If you’re inauthentic, that will translate into your work feeling artificial. If you can show your vulnerabilities as well as your interests, all while remaining true to yourself, you’ll find that more people will be interested in what you do. Think about the people who draw you in and why they do. I guarantee they’re all sharing a part of themselves.
- Do A/B tests. I’m not the only guy to talk about A/B testing, but let me tell you, it works. A/B testing is where you put out two versions of the same thing simultaneously–a book cover, a web design, some Tweets–and you see, in real-time, which ones people respond to. In other words, if you want to build an audience, you need to first know what the people want before you can give it to them.
- Seek out and listen to feedback. We’re all in the business of blogging because we think we have something to say that people want to hear. More often you are right, but there might be variances in what people want to hear and how you deliver it. This goes back to A/B testing: Do people like your writing better when you’re snarky and snappy, or serious and contemplative? Do people like it better when you write about cooking, or about sports? Luckily, the Internet gives us a simple way of determining this stuff: Analytics. Stuff like the “Like” button and user comments help, but you can go deeper. You are actually able to see views, impressions, visitors, and how many people clicked on each individual element of your site. Ignore this stuff at your own peril.
- Promote others. This sounds kind of shady, like a quid pro quo scheme. And it is. Sort of. See, I can guarantee that you read a lot of stuff that you like on the Internet. So just promote it. Write about it. Retweet it. Leave comments. Offer to help in other ways, asking for nothing in return. What this does is not only spread the word about something you think more people should check out, you make yourself useful to other people. They’ll remember this and might just start promoting your stuff. Why? Because if you make yourself useful others, you’ve proven that you’re worth associating with.
I like communicating with people and learning and sharing knowledge. Most of what I’m in to can be boiled down as: Jesus, the Founding Fathers, and Frank Zappa, i.e., religion and philosophy, politics and history, and music and culture. I’m also not mean, so I had to find a style that works with my personality.
Some of you might be on the Internet to stick it to people you don’t like, to vent, to change people’s minds, to keep up with current events, to find love, or just to troll the hell out of others. That’s great! Do what works for you. Your audience will fell it and reciprocate.
We can’t all be the Head of Corporate Trolling, after all. But we can all make the Internet work for us.
Plus, we all know who the real Head of Corporate Trolling is . . .
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