How Was Your Day … Internet Troll?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.
By Leslie Nguyen-Okwu
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
World Wide Web
My day was unusual because I spent it planning for my wedding. Six more weeks of this. It’s a lot to juggle; I can’t even handle more than four tasks at work. Most days, I sit at home and I write. I’m very lucky to be sort of “Internet famous,” but it’s a weird thing to be known as the world’s greatest Internet troll.
I’m a copywriter for Comedy Central, but I’m known more widely by my alter ego — “Ken M, professional dirtpig” — whom I would characterize as a good-hearted, sweet geriatric moron. Sometimes I do a hyper-pretentious academic type. Sometimes I do this irrationally angry Tea Party right-winger. I’ve been doing this for five years, with about 900 comments. I’m not innocent, I know what I’m doing is annoying as hell. But I’m just making jokes. That’s it.
Yahoo, Huffington Post, Reddit — it’s a sad, depressing wasteland in these comment sections, like cliquish, humorless, angry wasp nests.
I don’t spend all day doing this in my mother’s basement. I do have a life. Trolling used to be a freelance gig for CollegeHumor. Now I do it in my spare time when I feel like it, as a hobby. I look at a story on Yahoo News or a brand on Facebook and I try to come up with the most absurd yet still believable point of view. I love it when people take the conversation off the rails. I have to rely on pretzel logic to keep defending this point of view. It’s a cartoonish absurdity. To me, that sums up the spirit of what I try to do — the idea of bringing a banana to a gunfight. You’ve got all these strangely angry and aggressive people and you show up with this dopey innocence.
Yahoo, Huffington Post, Reddit — it’s a sad, depressing wasteland in these comment sections, like cliquish, humorless, angry wasp nests. People treat each other as punching bags for the adrenaline rush, and that’s really disheartening. People can be petty. It’s a bad idea to respond.
I created Ken M as a reaction to the unnecessary darkness — this dichotomy between a sweet moron and angry assholes. My Internet antics are more about creating bizarre interactions that rouse a laugh. It’s about taking this ugly energy and using it as raw material for something whimsical and lighthearted. My lack of malice is refreshing. I’m not saying there’s any substance to what I write. I’m not helping anybody, but at least I’m not hurting anybody.
Some of my earlier stuff was a bit crude. I was more bitey, with less sense of responsibility or consequence for the people I was chatting with. I was a bit meaner back then because I hated George Bush and wanted everybody to be abused for it — I’m a hard-core progressive. The only thing I feel bad about now is this one comment thread with Bush’s [Baked] Beans on Facebook. It went on for two days and 20 comments. I felt awful. I used to be on the other side when I worked in advertising; it’s not worth it to feel guilty for the sake of a joke.
Trolling is the only thing I’ll ever be known for. I have an MFA — I was going to be playwright. But I have a ton of stillborn bad plays and musicals that I’ve written. When I post something that’s longform, there’s a muted response compared with my trolling responses. I like wordplay, I like creating characters. I love bizarre, silly humor. I’m drawn to unself-aware characters because they’re sadly comical or comically sad. It’s my personal creative identity.
My advice? Don’t read the comment sections.