The Troll: Between the Mythological and the Digital

A colorful illustration of a bug-like troll figure, with cars and bugs and a cityscape in the background. The city is black, and the sky is turquoise, with a large green vine and pastel-colored bugs.
Header Image by Thais.

Audio Transcription:

Not so long ago I met a troll for the first time. Or I think I did. I’ve probably met others, but since they usually work in the shadows, their identity is anonymous. Trolls never show they are trolls. But this time we were living together. I decided they were a troll when I noticed that our daily interactions were calm and cheerful, but as soon as we weren’t in the house at the same time, everything seemed the opposite. Out of the blue, and through digital channels, the troll would bombard me with messages ordering me around, insulting me, and hating me. Then, face-to-face, it was as if nothing had happened.
The definition of trolls that I am going to make below is neither a lie nor truth. It is made out of my own experiences, legends, and fictional portrayals. A troll is a mythological creature that lives in forests or swamps. It plots from its dark, green, sticky cave, hidden from all civilization, planning either to take revenge on humans (and how exciting when it does!) or just to annoy us, sometimes only to pass the time. The most charming thing about a troll, in my opinion, is that they tend to lack decency. They are neither good nor evil. They are trolls and can be amazing creatures… or not.
The first and foremost thing to understand about trolls is that they play at falsifying their personality. They are able to pretend to share common interests and concerns. They can act as if they want the exact same thing you want. Total agreement. And then the show begins. All of a sudden they are harassing you with messages or triggering endless discussions in forums. Their presence on networks can be absolutely exhausting. They will use everything in their power. They will fall on you with the weight of morality, fascism, or even political correctness and good intentions. You will have no choice but to back down or set yourself on fire. The troll feeds on your weaknesses, smells your fear. It doesn’t let you sleep. It doesn’t let you think. The troll may want something in particular or it may just want to torment you. Above all, it wants you to react.
As I said, I shared an apartment with a troll for a few months. At home it was business as usual. Trolls are manipulators par excellence. We shared deep long conversations, wine, and joints, dancing and karaoke. We couldn’t say we were friends but we were working on living together, building an ok WG (never an easy task). The conflict came when they went on a trip. Once there were no more gatherings in the common space and our interaction took place solely through the networks, there was no way out of the operation. Trolls plan specific procedures to generate confusion and manipulate chaos, meddle, disguise themselves, join the anonymity of the masses. And in this case, it seemed to me I was dealing with two different personalities. One accepted we were living together, the other one wanted chaos.
I had no choice but to step back. I preferred not to, as Bartleby the Scrivener. I decided to look for a new home even though they never asked me to move. If there is one thing I understood, it was to not feed the troll. Even if you think you know their weaknesses, even if you know they fear thunderstorms, don’t engage. Dodge the troll. If ignored long enough, it may disintegrate and become an advertisement or chumbox.
I lived with a troll and maybe one day I will become one. Because in this swamp where we find ourselves, monsters are undefined beings. They are mutated, fungal, mosses, cockroaches that survive the storms and human catastrophes that transform, metamorphosize to continue existing. They inhabit that world that is coming or that has already arrived.
Words and Video by Mericrisma
Header Image by Thais

Mericrisma is a sporadic writer, quasi communicator, wannabe carpenter, and poly hater.
Thais is a carpenter and illustrator from Perú.