By virtue of the fact that you're reading this blog, you almost certainly know what trolling is. For those of you that don't, it's when people with absolutely no penis (and whatever the female equivalent is) leave nasty comments on blogs, online articles and social media, just because they're safe behind a computer screen and will never have to deal with the actual living, breathing person face to face.
Because you can bet your bottom dollar that if they did actually have to deal with them face to face, there's no way in hell they'd make the comment.
The world of online publishing and the blogosphere is a funny thing. By and large, I'm very happy tapping away at my keyboard to produce my weekly blogs for Creativepool. But there have been times when, after reading a particularly ill-informed or belligerent comment, I just sit there with a giant cartoon question mark wobbling above my head, wondering how someone can think that their thoughts and comments are appropriate for the world to read. There's a certain sense of convenient anonymity behind a computer screen that seems to bring out the worst in some people – where manners, etiquette and good taste seem to vanish into thin virtual ether.
To draw a parallel, it's like driving a car. If you're even a little bit prone to road rage, and someone cuts you up or DARES to pull into your lane without indicating, you may well shout a range of expletives at the gormless, half-witted numb-nut in a tirade that could turn the air blue. Such is the security of a car and the knowledge that neither of you is very likely to pull into the next lay-by and repeat those words to the other person while they're stationary. This is proved by the fact that if the same person walked out in front of you on the pavement, even if you are a maniacal shouter of expletives behind the wheel, you would almost certainly let a momentary and silent huff suffice and be on your way.
It's the same with the online world, which apparently allows the shouty commenter's overall sense of social etiquette to be cast aside and resort to name-calling, verbal abuse and bullying. There are endless examples of famous people and regular Joes being bullied online – sometimes quite literally to death, in the event of some vulnerable teenagers...
..and that is as tragic as it is abhorrent and disgusting.
As for me, I'm not saying I don't want to people to disagree with me, nor am I saying I mind a bit of intelligent satire, well-thought-out contradiction or gentle ribbing. But honestly, what does “Get over yourself!” or “f*** you, Ashley!” (both of which I received on one particular blog post) actually achieve? If you can't formulate an argument or put across a reasonable point of view, the only person who is showing themselves up to be a sociopathic buffoon is the author of that type of pathetic half-arsed attempt at a put-down.
So I say to you, oh offensive commenters: if you wouldn't say it to someone's face, or you wouldn't want your comments published in the newspaper along with your name, don't say it. However, I actively encourage you to disagree with me and comment on my blog as long as you have the verbal wherewithal to make a valid point, or the humour to make a witty jibe.
Ashley is a copywriter, blogger and editor