by Monkee, HSM guest contributor
When I was a teenager, I was rebellious. My mother tried many things to get me to reform my behavior. I got in trouble in school; I fought with her constantly, and got in trouble a lot. I was acting out, I think it was because of many reasons, but mostly because of my parents getting divorced. It was a tough time. Going through something like that changes how you see people, and how you see your parents and family. Things – for a long time – make no sense.
I remember when I was in high school once; they almost threatened to kick me out of school. The only solution was an anger management class. It was therapy that included my mother and I participating in various exercises. One of those exercises was an active listening class. You engage the subject; in that case it was me. You listen, and without agreeing or disagreeing with what the subject tells you, you acknowledge it. With parents, it is difficult because sometimes they can’t help show disapproval of what they hear at times.
I like Pier Park; it is one of my favorite hangout spots. One day when I was there, I saw a kid trolling some of the girls. Normally, I just ignore trolls, they just aren’t worth my time. For some reason this time I could tell the kid was angry. His attitude was hostile, and from what he was saying – when it wasn’t censored – it was pretty evident he was frustrated. I thought back on those classes I took with my mom. For some reason, I wanted to help this kid and understand him. I think on some level, I did. I went up to him, and this is basically how it went.
It took a while to get through to him; when I tried talking with him he always went into attack mode. He called me noob and other names and didn’t want to talk. I tried being friendly with him and didn’t let the name calling get to me. I asked him if he wanted to play certain games or just hang out and he accused me of being a pedobear. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but Googled it later and I was shocked, but at the same time had to laugh, because it was so ridiculous.
After a while of taking his attacks, I noticed that he would push but didn’t leave or just walk away. He liked getting the attention, and I was giving it to him. I asked him why he hated the people he was harassing. In his own words he said:
“They’re a bunch of stuck up noobs who think they are so popular in this boring game.”
I asked him why he was on Home if he thought it was boring. He said his friends weren’t on to play Modern Warfare with. I offered to play a session with him, but he declined. He said he only liked playing with his friends.
Then I asked him why he thought the people he was trolling were stuck up. He said they liked showing off their “stupid” clothes and things as if they were real. I noted a hint of jealousy in what he said. I noticed, too, that he was wearing free clothes. I asked him if he had any cool apartments. He mentioned what he had, and all were free spaces. I told him about the Aurora game and how you could earn a lot of free stuff in that game. He complained it took too long and he doesn’t have the apartment that lets you earn more points. I invited him to the island to let him earn points for the day. He accepted.
On the island after he played the game, he noticed I have the Clusterpuck game. He wanted to play it to earn the rewards. After he earned what he could, he asked me if I had any other space where he could earn rewards. I took him to ten spaces I own where he could get rewards or I could gift him. He seemed to want to get as much free stuff as possible, and that made him trust me a little more. He became friendlier with me.
Once he was done earning as much stuff as he could, he seemed to just want to hang out. He looked at the things I had and asked me about them. He seemed annoyed anytime I told him something I had I bought or got for buying a space. I asked him if he ever spends money in Home. He mentioned he can’t because he doesn’t have a credit card. I asked him his age, and I learned he’s only fourteen.
I got him to talk a little about himself. I asked him how he does in school, because from my own experience, that’s the place you act out the most when life at home isn’t so good. He admitted he was somewhat of an outcast, doesn’t make many friends, and the friends he has he can’t hang out with outside of school because in his district, they live far away. I learned he lives in a rural area of Ohio, where it is a very small town-type of atmosphere. I asked about his real home life. He got quiet and called his parents “stupid.” Typical teenage attitude, but he went on mostly without being asked. He seemed to want to talk and I didn’t have to do anything but listen.
What I learned from him is that he has a hard relationship with his parents. They don’t get along with each other, and he sees that and gets the spillover of that bad relationship. He goes to a school where he doesn’t fit in because he isn’t a jock. He isn’t a high achiever, and so he falls into that middle ground of coasting. There is a lot of frustration for him. His friend’s currently play between Uncharted 3, Madden, or Xbox games, which he doesn’t have. He has a small group of friends he plays Modern Warfare with, and the other games he owns are older PlayStation games his friends don’t play anymore.
His circle of friends is small, and made even smaller by the limited games he has available. He was part of a family on Home, but they dissolved and friends he had in Home have stopped playing. The few he has play No Man’s Land, but he can’t buy guns for that, so he feels too limited to play with them.
There is a money issue for him; he can’t afford to participate with his friends and this makes him feel like an outcast. He is frustrated by that, and frustrated by real home life, and frustrated by school. So all those frustrations make him respond negatively in Home with people, where they can’t do anything but try to ignore him. Arguing and back and forth banter give him an outlet for his frustration, and no one – until I came along – bothered to just listen. It seemed to calm him to have someone to talk to and he seems to consider me a friend now. He hangs out and talks, and I’ve gotten to learn a lot about him and his frustration.
I feel for him because I was there when I was his age, and I wish I could help him, but I can’t. All I can do is just be an ear to listen to his frustration. I don’t think all trolls are like that, because some of them spend a lot of money to show off and be obnoxious, but that was one reason at least for this kid, and I think trolls do troll for different reasons. There’s a deeper reason than just for the sake of being trolls.
When I see people troll now, I just wonder to myself what emotional damage they are facing to make them react that way. After getting to know this kid, I don’t approve of what he does, but I don’t think of him as a troll anymore. The good thing is that when I am around, he doesn’t troll, because he has a friend to hang out with.