An offline troll
I arrived home from holidays to find a hand-addressed letter in the letter box. The contents weren’t so nice, though:
The anonymous writer clearly took great offence at my opinion piece in Aftenposten a couple of weeks ago, where I argued that we should be more tolerant of people sharing their joys and griefs on Facebook. One of my examples was that of a grieving mother who posted a photograph of her stillborn child, and the anonymous writer is very upset that I thought we should accept that.
This letter isn’t threatening or sexist like the many awful attacks on women who write in public online. It’s just an angry, disturbed person. Anonymous letters in my home letter box are not fun, though. When I flipped the envelope to see where it was postmarked, I saw the writer had put sticky tape over the stamps so that the postmark smeared and the placename couldn’t be read. Nasty.
Just a troll, really. But an offline troll with handwritten envelopes sent to my home has a different level of creepy to a nasty comment in my blog, which can easily be deleted. I used to think the best thing to do with trolls was to ignore them. Don’t engage. Don’t feed the trolls.
But your classic troll wants to be seen by everyone. On the other hand, an anonymous letter printed out and mailed in a hand-addressed envelope only wants to be seen by one person. The same goes for anonymous phone calls and SMSes I assume. I suppose the phone calls and the SMSes (which I fortunately haven’t received) want a response, though, whereas the anonymous letter makes it impossible to respond. Unless, of course, you have a blog and write about it as I’m doing here, or happen to post a photo of the stupid letter to Facebook, which may or may not lead to the anonymous writer reading my response to their anonymous letter. Perhaps it’s stupid to put this online. But I don’t like the idea of just shutting up and putting up with bullying.
The letter is of course also another example of the strength of our cultural taboo about speaking of, and certainly showing images of, miscarriage and stillbirth. Long before social media, photos of deceased loved ones were common though I don’t know how widely the photos were shared. More recently, parents of stillborn children have been recommended to keep photographs of their children to help remember and grieve, but they probably haven’t shared these photos beyond their closest friends and family. With social media this changes. People keep blogs and special memorial websites commemorating their lost loved ones, and they share photos of miscarried babies shown with true love and care. Having had three miscarriages myself, I know how difficult they are, and the lack of openness about miscarriage certainly made the experience harder for me. If a grieving mother wants to share a photograph of her stillborn child I will wholeheartedly support her right to do so. That doesn’t mean everyone, or even most of us, would want to share such a photograph. And it doesn’t mean you have to like it or that you have to look at it. Feel free to block the mother on Facebook. But life isn’t all easy, and part of being human and living with other humans is accepting each others reality, grief, joy and mess.