Friday, November 16, 2018

It's Not Trolling When it's True

There's an adage that goes something like:

The fastest way to make money as a writer is to write, and sell books to other people about how to become a writer.

The same, I think, goes for a lot of other fields as well, particularly in the area of coaching ... Or coaching coaches, that is.  And so we see, as we certainly have in recent years, an uptick in self-proclaimed experts (whether they actually are, or not) guiding people who seek change in their lives, and financial circumstances through becoming, themselves, skilled (or skilled-looking) enough in their chosen enterprises to lead others.  What can become disconcerting in this sort of food-chain of "experts" engaging in a hefty amount of fake-it-'til-you-make-it hustling is how adept they become at marketing themselves (if they haven't devoured each other first), and their goods or services when one, the other, and sometimes all of the above are undeserving of such successful campaigns.  I am mostly bothered by the amount of flowery, and sometimes pseudo-spiritual language being learned, and applied in the creatrix-entrepreneur niche that is masking abusive, and manipulative people, and behavior. 

Through the year, I've written a little bit about being cautious of modern-day snake oil salesmen, and shared a few of my own experiences with people who were a little too eager to lead others, and were in a position to dupe followers, and toy with their emotional well-being, and even reviewed a program that I had bought into, and participated in where certain folks were mistreated, and "safe spaces" were a hotbed of hostility.  The most common thread between them all was the disturbing knack of shrugging off feedback as trolling. 

Trolling, by definition, is targeted, and oftentimes continued or persistent online harassment, sometimes including, but not limited to, highly personal attacks, typically centered on falsehoods, and designed to incite a negative reaction.  In extreme cases stalking, doxxing, and even SWATting can be involved.

Critique ≠ Trolling

Moreover, it's definitely not trolling when it's true, which all critiques, and reviews need to be, otherwise, we're dealing with a problem much larger than I'm qualified to unpack here on a blog.  I will say, however, it is my strongly held opinion that anyone willing to lie in a review deserves to run into their fair share of shills, and hucksters along the way, but I digress.

Part of my formal education included the process of articulating (on paper, and vocally) honest, impartial, well-informed, and constructive criticism.  The ability to effectively analyze a person's work without needlessly assailing them or what they've produced was considered paramount to the creative process.  Another integral part was cultivating the competence, and confidence to stand there, and not only take it, but be able to thoughtfully rebut the claims made against you, your motivation, or your creation, and enter into further discussion.  This practice left me with the skills required to defend my work from the ground up, and right back down again when necessary, and not make any excuses for it, or for another person's displeasure with it.  There was no fingers-in-ears-foot-stomping option available.   Now, when I see anyone resorting to that kind of behavior regarding their work or products, and reducing critique to trolling, I find it very telling.

A company needs to be able to do more than label its reviewers "trolls," and  trot out seemingly impressive sales figures, and apparent popularity to prove that a product or service is legitimately worthwhile.  Sexy ledgers may be enchanting to some, but we only have to look at the ShamWow, or the enduring novelty of Chia Pets, or really any fad at any point in time that has hit cult-like status and managed to turn a profit, to know that not all that glitters is ... well, anything worth spending money on.  Consumers also can not always trust the financial aspect as a good indicator for good business practices, or mistake it for a good person at the helm.  There will always be subpar products that sell well, and people with questionable motives, and methods who profit from them.

A lot of bad people make good money.

With a season of gift giving nearly upon us, and the time many of us roll out our New Year's resolutions just around the corner from that, there will be a lot of money spent on coaching services, retreats, organizational aids and tools, and any number of self-help accoutrements, and all any of us can do is heed the call, "buyer beware" and always be willing to do the necessary research to protect ourselves from literal, and energetic thieves.