Adventures on the Internet – How I Met Trolls and got into Flame Wars.

Virtual attack

      My recently co-written detective story Virtual Strangers (find it on my e-book page), describes how participating on Internet forums can kill. This is fiction but in real life, being active on the internet, blogging and chatting with people you have never met can be both frightening and enlightening.

   The novel came about after a long stint on a website for writers, where I met my now partner in crime, Ola Zaltin. I think we were both forum novices then and soon got sucked into the addictive and seductive habit of Internet chatting. To me, it was wonderful to find friends always ‘there’, during long winter evenings of working on my novels. Writing is a lonely business and being able to communicate with fellow authors makes a welcome break from staring at your own text for hours.

   It was not always so nice, however and it didn’t take long before the trolls started to appear. I was introduced to the concept of ‘flame wars’ during an attack on me that came out of nowhere. It appears that there are people out there in cyberspace, whose only entertainment is verbally abusing perfectly nice people and the fun is of course intensified if you try to fight back. As a novice, I was dreadfully upset and imagined that these people could find out where I live and then come and knock on my door. Silly notion, of course, but as a beginner, I actually thought they were after me and didn’t understand that it wasn’t ‘me’ they were after but anyone who showed any signs of weakness or upset. I soon realised that the only thing to do is not to respond and just leave whatever forum the attack took place.

 When I was first attacked, I reported the abuse to the forum moderators, thinking they’d ban the attackers and then all would be well. But nothing much happened. I slowly realised that cyber bullies or ‘troll’s are very common on the Internet and part and parcel of participating in forums. You just have to shrug the attacks off and try not to get upset. There are far more really nice people than trolls in any case, and if you let a few bad apples ruin the pie, they will have won.

    Easier said than done, though. As a self published e-book author, it is necessary to promote your books on forums where you will find lots of readers. I have been participating in such forums for over a year now and have been attacked over and over again by these cyberbullies. Some of it has been partly my own fault, as I am a very chatty person and love to take part in all sorts of threads. I have also actively (a little too actively, perhaps) promoted my books and mostly gained readers and friends, some of whom I am in touch with on a daily basis.

But the trolls are always there, ready to pounce. Those who know me in real life, might be surprised to learn that I am ‘an abusive liar’ who has a ‘cabal’. I am a more used to these attacks now and I know most people who are active on the Internet occasionlly get attacked in the same way. Especially self published authors, or ‘indies’ as we are called.

That’s the way it is and there is nothing I, or anyone else can do about it. ‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen’ they say. Which is true. If cyberbullying gets to you, stay away from the Internet. So I try to take it on the chin, even if some of the more insane behavior gets to me at times. It’s creepy and scary.

But I can’t stay away. Recent events have given me fantastic material for the next ‘Virtual’ novel.

It’s going to be even more frightening than the first.

Incidentally, ‘Virtual Strangers’ got the thumbs up from the famous book blogger Big Al (of ‘The Greek Seaman’ fame)

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mandyeward
    Mar 26, 2011 @ 18:03:54

    I knew you had to have a thick skin as an author – dealing with rejection is hard enough at the best of times! Those who take pleasure in upsetting though, them I would like to… no, I’ll stay calm.

    Keep on going! You’ll get there.



  2. susannefromsweden
    Mar 26, 2011 @ 18:14:21

    Thanks, Mandy.


  3. K. A. Jordan
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 07:20:55

    I remember being totally confused when the trolls started appearing on Autho. One even had a blog on HOW to troll and trolling terms.

    Freaked me out.

    I do my best to stay out of flame wars and avoid trolls.

    Good post – made me think as well as remember.


  4. L.C. Evans
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 14:29:01

    Thanks so much for this post. A couple of my author friends have recently been attacked by the trolls. I haven’t read your story yet, but I plan to.


  5. susannefromsweden
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 14:37:18

    Thank you. The book is very topical- how you can get sucked in and nearly destroyed.


  6. Pete
    Apr 01, 2011 @ 19:24:08

    You’re the ringleader of a Popular Persons Clique. Signed, BarbAnn


  7. susannefromsweden
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 17:49:58

    Me too. Don’t want those laser beams directed my way.


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