Punch Drunk 

The Troll Toll


A selfie is a genre of self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone. Selfies are often associated with social networking and photo sharing services such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat where they are commonly posted or sent. — Wikipedia

The timeless playground fight is no more.

Recently I read that a few psychology masterminds issued the finding that selfies are causing confidence problems in teenagers because they’re left vulnerable to abuse, which seems like a fairly obvious observation. When you post a duck-face selfie, people can’t help but attempt such witticisms as “Hey clown face, go jump off a bridge,” or “You look like a duck, now go jump off a bridge.”

Not nice things, people!

With the anonymity that the Internet affords, return comments often are negative because people will say anything when they know it won’t lead to an immediate punch in the face. So this study isn’t exactly a shock. Sure, the Internet can be an evil place, especially for younger, less-world-weary minds. But what about everyone else?

I face angry troll comments and emails and tweets and personal attacks all the time. But it’s because I invite them (and sometimes dole them out). No one likes people being mean to them, and then there are people like me who revel in all the shit talking. Clearly all of this Internet hate has made me a worse person. It’s certainly scarred others.

Or worse. Examples of people — teens especially — committing suicide over hateful Web comments are numerous. A recent example is Hannah Smith, a 14-year-old who hanged herself after taking abuse on a site called Ask.fm. There are multiple stories like this of kids killing themselves because of cyber bullying and trolling. Go ahead, Google it. It’s pretty sick.

Then — in a slightly different arena, yet very similar to cyber bullying — you have such sites as Yelp and UrbanSpoon, whose commenters are constantly helping to destroy the reputations of restaurants, sometimes quite deservedly, but still. Pretty much every restaurateur I’ve worked for reads these sites and takes every stupid comment way too seriously. I get it though. It’s their lifeblood, their money, their rep.

There are literally thousands of places online to go for criticism and baseless antagonism.

Instagram? The best way to figure out flaws in your appearance, quickly.

Reddit? A constant mob-mentality dog pile on the defenseless.

Twitter? A war zone of venomous hate bile.

And have you ever seen a YouTube comment section? Just don’t. I beg of you. It’s for your own good.

It’s tough out here in these streets. Even tougher in here on the Web.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see it all as angry trolling. The Internet can be a great place to seek and receive approval. And then there’s porn. So much sweet, sweet porn. Of course when you put your pictures and writing or whatever out there, you open yourself up to the haters. It’s a double-edged sword. But what else can you do? Seek approval in real life from your friends and family? Ha. Get real.

This constant snark and ability to opine on every piece of news instantaneously does not an adult make. But it isn’t going anywhere. Might as well get used to the white-hot hate, or stay out of the kitchen, or offline, or whatever. You know what I mean.

It’s a sad commentary, I know, because obviously no one is giving up the Internet. People try all the time, but it’s just a cry for help. We all know you’re going to start another Facebook account, tough guy. Hell, I can barely write this column without checking Twitter every 15 minutes or so for NBC-12 meteorologist Andrew Freiden’s latest weather haiku and other, equally mindless filler (No offense, Andrew). My ability to focus is shot for life.

Sometimes I think the older, less-technology-inclined are lucky.

My grandfathers and grandmothers fought fascism and worked in factories and built this nation through grit and grind. They were forced to deal with problems head-on and grow up quickly. They knew how to enter a room and introduce themselves with a firm handshake — how to communicate in the real world. They’re the greatest generation for a reason. This same respect and veneration can basically be applied to my parents. They came up without the Internet and didn’t have to hear about the f-ing “MTV Video Music Awards” for a week straight, which I feel makes them better people.

We on the other hand, are a generation of whiny bitches, and unlike my elders, I’m too lazy and not manly enough to change this.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a snarky meme about Miley Cyrus’s ass cheeks that I’d like to post on Facebook. Then I need to show people that I’m working and drinking a vanilla latte at Starbucks on Instagram. Afterward I’ll probably go on Twitter to pick a fight with someone over a perceived slight but is really something that has absolutely nothing to do with me.

You want some of this, punk? Watch your back online.

You’re fine in public though.

Connect with Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback at bartender@styleweekly.com. Lauterback also is co-host of 103.7-FM’s “River Mornings with Melissa and Jack,” weekdays from 6-9 a.m. On Twitter @jackgoesforth.

Editor's note: This story reflects a change from the print edition, correcting the spelling of Andrew Freiden.



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