Crossing the Line: Why Feeding the Trolls Can Turn You Into Something Even Worse

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 3.17.21 PMThe Internet is abuzz with conversation today about an article published in The Guardian yesterday by young adult author Kathleen Hale entitled “‘Am I being catfished?’ An author confronts her number one online critic.”   The article, which is the story of how Hale attempted to confront in person the author of an extremely negative review of her debut novel No One Else Can Have You, is a surprisingly gripping read, and I’m not surprised that it’s spurred the amount of debate (on Twitter and elsewhere) that it has.

At its heart the debate is merely one of choosing sides: who was the greater sinner, here–Hale, or the person behind the Internet persona/catfish who identified herself as “Blythe Harris” (a faker sounding name, I’ve never heard, incidentally)?

Immediately after finishing the article, my sympathies were, for the most part, for Ms. Hale: while I don’t approve of her decision to confront the woman in the way that she did, I do understand, as a writer, the desire to do so.  Ms. “Harris” posted a review on a popular, powerful review website (Goodreads) that was both aggressively negative and, from Hale’s perspective, also inaccurate.  Stepping back from the situation though, I realized that my own biases as an author were probably getting in the way of recognizing the fundamentally immature and inappropriate nature of her response to the situation.  Looking on Twitter to find many people supporting the catfish over the author, I found my own internal compass jerking sharply from one side to another before landing, uncomfortably, in the middle.

Continue reading