I got home just past sunset Monday evening. I took Lucy out into the back yard and she ran around a bit. Then she ran over to me and looked up with this sweet expression. I had the camera with me, so I fired off about five shots. It was almost completely dark, so I didn’t expect to get much.
One of the shots was in focus, even though the shutter speed was a sixth of a second. She had stayed still for that instant and I had miraculously held the camera steady enough, so I got a good shot in the dim light. I’d gotten lucky.
After cropping and editing the picture as usual, I posted it to Facebook, Instagram and Reddit. Although it’s nowhere close to the best picture I’ve seen of Lucy — even lately — it was well-received, especially on Reddit.
But then the trolls started on Reddit. Although the vast majority of people loved the photo — and it had received more than 17,000 upvotes by 3 a.m. — there were a few bizarre people who were attacking me over the picture. Why? I still have no idea.
It seems as though some people saw the reflected blue light in her eyes and concluded that somehow the picture wasn’t what I claimed. I’m still completely baffled about what the point of this alleged deception would have been.
There were people who said the reflections in her eyes indicated that it was blue skies and white clouds, presumably meaning they thought I shot it during the daytime instead of when I did. In reality, the reflection is the last blue in the sky plus the trees over us. Again, I’m completely confused about what the purpose of such deception would have been.
None of it made any sense.
I can ignore these trolls, of course. This isn’t anything that matters. It won’t affect me in the long run. But I can’t figure out why this happens — because it happens to me every time I have a photo on a public site that becomes popular.
When a lot of people like something, a minority will show up to attack me for the most bizarre things. And it never makes any sense.
How miserable does a person’s life have to be for him to decide it’s fun or worthwhile to become an anonymous troll just randomly attacking people on public social media sites? I have no idea what turns a person into that sort of banal monster. I’ll never understand it.
This isn’t just about this picture. It’s not just about me.
It’s about social media in general. And it’s about what human beings are at our core.
Why does social media make these sorts of attacks possible so easily? Why are certain sorts of people so likely to jump on the bandwagon of an attack, even when there is no possible motive for the deception they are making up? Why are they so eager to tear people down?
Why are humans so likely to hate anyone who does something which is praised? Why do people look for reasons to hate any innocent thing — even a cute picture of a dog — instead of just moving on to something else they might prefer?
What makes us invest our time in attacking and destroying — in big ways and tiny ways — when it’s so much easier to just let others live their lives?
I don’t have an answer. I don’t pretend to understand it. But my gut tells me that this is part of an irrational hatred inside the human race. I suspect there’s at least a little bit of this inside all of us — and I think it comes out in irrational ways that we try to justify to ourselves as reasonable.
I don’t understand how the human race has survived this long. I don’t understand how we’ve stopped ourselves from killing each other off
The experience reminded me of a recent chilling episode of the public radio show This American Life which looked at the online conspiracy theorists who invented bizarre explanations about why the Sandy Hook elementary school murders never happened. I don’t mean that me being attacked over a dog photo is the same as parents having their lives turned upside down by insane people, but the mechanisms involved seem disturbingly similar. (I strongly urge you to listen to that show.)
Online trolls might usually seem inconsequential, but I suspect they are indicative of far deeper issues embedded in human DNA — and I suspect all of us are just a little bit insane in ways we don’t understand.
Most of us manage to keep our insanity under control most of the time — at least enough to allow society to function — but I fear these online trolls hint at the ways in which human society remains hopelessly enmeshed in hidden forces which still threaten to destroy us. I hope I’m wrong.