What abuse by Twitter trolls taught me about survival

Advaita Kala
Advaita KalaJul 13, 2016 | 11:24

What abuse by Twitter trolls taught me about survival

An interesting tale about Twitter trolling, is the one of a boxing champ in England, who went through the effort of announcing a reward for the identity of his anonymous troll and then tracked his co-ordinates.

Driving 50 miles to the troll's home, who continued to mock him through his journey, he finally posted a photograph of a sign outside the troll's home.


What followed after was a quick apology from the troll. So who was the victor in this battle? The boxer?

Not quite, since then the pugilist has admitted that he has been trolled even more.


He now wishes he hadn't gone through this vengeful exercise. Everyone on Twitter has a troll story to tell.

Last week, I was besieged with them on the numerous debates I participated in, leaving little opportunity for me to tell my own.

Especially the most recent one, of real threats of violence that accompanied my posts and a video on the violence directed at the RSS workers in Kerala, which has led to numerous deaths and maimings.

These were intimidating in the genuine sense, because I had seen on the ground what those who attacked me on Twitter were capable of.

The person I had spent time with Sadanandan Master, a man whose legs were hacked off by CPI(M) workers 20 years ago and was contesting the state Assembly elections, was attacked yet again on the day I left. It was but a matter of chance that I missed being involved.


It led me to make an uncharacteristically dramatic statement on Twitter that I would continue to tell the stories I chose to tell.

A bravado aided in part by the fact that I now wrote from the safety of my home and not from the streets I had just left, where the violence lurked.


I didn't report the threats; neither did I block the users. However, a Twitter friend who tracks social media, asked for a list of handles and offered to observe their activity for a while.

It was enough of an assurance. The chance I had taken to bring forward another narrative was intended to be disruptive, although the violent responses given the visceral hatred towards the RSS in some sections was discomfiting. The well-worn axiom of the pen being mightier than the sword finally rang true.

My lesson was that what one writes matters and that despite the vulnerability I experienced as a lone freelance writer with no organisational support, there was satisfaction.

There have been other abusive threats which I ignore as a principle, given the regularity with which they appear on my mentions page.

I find many things personally objectionable about the interactions on Twitter. 

But this particular instance was important for me as a Twitter user, because it encompasses the "fatal" attraction of Twitter.


On one hand, I was able to share these stories that no one seemed to care about and on the other hand, I opened myself up to violence that I could have easily avoided.

I recall the utter helplessness I felt the day Sadanandan Master was attacked again, a man with no legs who spoke of reconciliation was still being targeted.


I wrote a desperate message to the BJP president, Amit Shah requesting him to provide Masterji with security.

It was retweeted over 1,500 times. I wrote asking if anyone would carry my story on him, so there was some attention and he was helped. I received a response within minutes from a new media site.

This was empowering, because before going to Kerala a major newspaper who had asked me to write for them, ignored my request when I asked if I could write on this RSS man.

They didn't even refuse or express disinterest, just simply didn't reply. It was a new kind of apartheid I was unprepared for and it made me value Twitter even more.

I find many things personally objectionable about the interactions on Twitter. However, the microblogging site is also the platform for stories that no one will let you tell. It is a platform for the counter narrative.

How can a writer resist that? I have learnt along the way to erase myself and focus on the story, it is a discipline I have had to inculcate, aided by the fact that I worked in hotels, where people abuse you to your face, with little concern for your feelings or dignity.

Sublimating the self is a way to survive on Twitter, it is difficult because it is such an individualistic medium. It is not the only solution but it is my way.

And most importantly, it is a medium to amplify, not my voice, but of those that mainstream media has little space for.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Last updated: July 13, 2016 | 11:24
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