Blog Post

Of Trolls and Gray Vampires: Gender, Blogging and You

What does the online speculative realism movement have to offer a conversation about gender and blogging? Easy: several years of experience dealing with intimidation and despair. Whenever you put new stuff out there, you get flak, no matter what your gender. Since the issues around women and blogging seem systemic rather than individual—as Meredith Ramirez Talusan's recent Arcade editorial makes clear—I thought it might be helpful to share some thoughts on aggression and blogging.

 If your computer is like mine then it's got this glass screen, like a windshield. And just like driving, blogging can be disinhibiting. This would naturally select for aggression, expressed in the comments section of your blog. And just as road rage can happen to anyone, anyone can suddenly find themselves performing blog aggression. It's easier to destroy than create, and envy is real. Add some avatars, controversial opinions and the speed of light in optic fibers and hey presto.

Aggression comes in two flavors: active and passive. The terms SR bloggers and their affiliates have used for some time now are Troll (fairly common term) and Gray Vampire, respectively. Trolls want to hit you in public. Gray vampires want to suck your soul by asking you for endless clarifications until your head explodes. No guesses as to what their gender usually is. 

For more information on both, and some soothing confirmation, see Marxist philosopher Mark Fisher's epic posts (this one on trolls and this one on gray vampires). 

It's taken quite a lot of steely-nerved gumption on my part not to respond once I've figured out I'm being trolled or gray vampired. The intellectual in me wants to be right, goddammit! And my ego wants others to notice. 

I've been in group psychoanalysis, which is about as intense a training in group dynamics as you can get, and it's quite helpful when this stuff comes up because you can see it's systemic. What you have to remember is that Big Other is watching: no interaction ever takes place in isolation, so you can rest assured that the activities listed above are seen by the larger group.

Trolls are easy to neutralize: you pay them no mind, or you magnetize them, which often isn't expected. Gray vampires are less easy. I have a rule of thumb, which is that after two or three go-arounds with someone, I stop. Some people aren't ready to be convinced or even to have a discussion. They are simply trying to suck your soul. 

Some suggestions:

Conferences only allow one or two questions per participant: why not Arcade? 

Can we have a "kill switch" that switches off comments if we don't want any, no questions asked? 


Timothy Morton's picture
Timothy Morton is Professor of English (Literature and Environment) at the University of California, Davis. Professor Morton's interests include literature and the environment, ecotheory, philosophy, biology, physical sciences, literary theory, food studies, sound and music, materialism, poetics, Romanticism, Buddhism, and the eighteenth century. He teaches literature and ecology, Romantic-period literature, and literary theory. He has published nine books and sixty essays, including The Ecological Thought (Harvard UP, 2010) and Ecology without Nature (Harvard UP, 2007).