I remember a few years ago when Facebook was young, people used to play a manipulative game where they’d write on their status updates something like, “I’ve been a Democrat/Republican for 50 years, but after what ____ did yesterday, I’ve never been more outraged in my life and I’ve decided that I quit. I’m going over to the other side. ” I never really followed closely enough to see if the same person melodramatically quit the same political party with a public Facebook status update more than once. It seems like it would be hard to write something like that only once, especially if nobody responded. If you walk out and slam the door and nobody chases after you, do you go back and try slamming the door again just a little harder? Well the latest game that people are playing on Facebook is something I’ve decided to call “exit-trolling.” The way it works is you join a facebook group for people with opposite politics than you have and then, after as little as three minutes of being in the group (this happened literally today!), you put up a post saying something like, “I thought this was going to be an open-minded place but boy was I wrong. I’ve never seen such intolerance in all my life. I’m sorry but I just can’t take it anymore. I’m leaving.”
I imagine there are some people who aren’t being undercover psy op special agents when they exit-troll a Facebook group, and that they’re actually genuinely upset. I’ve gotten irrationally upset over things in social media before and I couldn’t turn it off even though I was thinking the whole time how ridiculous it was that I was blowing off people I was hanging out with in real life because I was stewing over a stupid theological debate on twitter. Bottom line is I really think with regard to how we understand online drama, we need the right paradigm for understanding who we’re really at war with. Because it isn’t those judgmental, self-righteous conservatives or those hypocritically intolerant progressives. It’s Satan, the one true enemy whose goal is always to make us into each other’s enemies.
There are two words for the devil in the Bible. Satan, the Hebrew word, means “the accuser” or “the heckler.” Diabolos, the Greek word, is a compound word combining ballo (“to throw”) and dia (“in the midst of”), so basically it means “pot-stirrer.” Knowing the meaning of these two words, I generally assume that any and all unnecessary drama is of Satan (whether Satan is an actual being or an anthropomorphic label for a kind of phenomenon). Online interactions are a place where Satan thrives and proliferates like an evil flesh-eating bacteria because it’s so easy to diabolate and satan each other when we’re typing words on a screen instead of reading the body language of other people in live conversation that’s 90% of communication. Satan is reigning over our conversation whenever our purpose is to dehumanize and categorically discredit the other person instead of engaging what they’re saying directly. And it’s so easy for Satan to spread his seeds so that soon everybody is dehumanizing and discrediting each other.
In any case, if you’re somebody who likes to give a big old melodramatic exit speech every time you leave a Facebook group for being too contentious and intolerant of different opinions and trollish, please recognize that you’re perpetuating the problem and stop it. If you need to have some diva fun, perhaps you could exit-troll this blog post in the comments section. Maybe we should have a contest and see who can come up with the most melodramatic, flabbergasted speech about how intolerant and hateful I’ve become and how you really believed in me once but things have just changed so utterly it’s like I’m not even the same person anymore, etc, etc. Only don’t actually leave after you post your exit-troll speech. Because then you won’t ever be able to use that manipulative tactic on me again. I promise I’ll beg you to come back!