People are so ugly sometimes and nothing brings out that ugliness like seeing someone else who has found happiness. And so just as I’m on the cusp of releasing the book and finally pushing into where I want to be after years and years in the wilderness, the haters come out in force.
As if on cue, the nasty remarks and personal attacks bubble to the surface – the timing is quite exquisite. This post is not an exercise in woe-is-me; I’m just fine and have already been through a decade of living hell – this web shit is child’s play compared to trying to save a failing business that’s not my own and being nearly broke while expecting a second child.
But I think I have something interesting to say about the relationship between web trolls and content creators.
A brief history of this blog before I make my point:
I started out as the guy who was going to tell the truth and demolish the lies no matter what it cost me – long-time readers know my story and in the beginning I had nothing to lose anyway.
90% of what I do on the blog to this day is still the same as what I began by doing three years ago – calling out the BS as I see it and praising/linking to the work of others every chance I get. The brand is not “I know everything” – the brand is and has always been “Wow, I just read something that really made me think, here’s a link so you can read it too!” If I ever lose that vibe, then I’ll just shut TRB down.
People who know me personally know that I view myself as a 34-year-old guy who’s made a million mistakes in his career and still feels every one of them acutely. Everything you could screw up in this business I’ve screwed up twice – but never thrice! I’m pretty self-deprecating here on the site and even more so in real life.
But none of that matters now. I guess I’m a target for misanthropes and those with too much time/anger on their hands. And it doesn’t feel good.
In the past few weeks I’ve been assaulted online three times, having instigated none of it:
1. Some piker broker from Upstate New York shouted out that I’m fat and need to go to the gym on Twitter (which is true, and I am, but thanks for the reminder). I had never heard of this kid and was shocked that he did this using his real name which was connected to a LinkedIn account. What a complete moron, he’s lucky I’m busy right now. I’d shout him out by name but it turns out I know his boss. Also, he’s a kid and I’m embarrassed for him, I’m not going to mess his career up just because of a drunken tweet he sent.
2. On a post where I mention a Friday afternoon Bloomberg Radio appearance at 3:30, I get this in the comment section: “You must be full of shit, the market is still open at that time.” OK, so in other words, anyone who isn’t trading every single 30-minute interval that the market is open is full of shit? Can I go on vacation ever or to the hospital while my wife gives birth – or would that make me “full of shit” too? The gentleman used the handle “Hater” and a fake email address with two swear words in it to register that comment. Must be a real winner.
3. A gentleman by the name of Todd Johnson, also on Twitter, randomly said “You’re a fraud” late one night for no apparent reason I could discern. I clicked the link in his profile and it took me to his site, “Dividend Lab”. I emailed him to ask what it was I had done that had angered him so much (you’ll notice this trend, for some reason my first instinct is always to reach out and see why I’ve upset people). I emailed him that question and here is what he sent back, verbatim: “You are all bullshit. 100% broker. You are all talk. Give some fucking ideas”. Um, first, I am not a broker at all, feel free to see if I’m a registered Series 7. Second, I make a TV appearance a week talking about the ideas I like, some work out and some fail and some do nothing – hard for me to see how I could be giving “some fucking ideas” to this guy any more than I already do. And I charge zero for my insights while Todd is selling a newsletter for $29.95 a month.
I don’t know why he lashed out at me, but I’m kind of surprised there was no apology once I reached out. Oh well. Todd, it turns out, is in fact a true gentlemen. He has apologized to me via email and I believe him to be genuine, we all have bad days and sometimes take them out on others. It takes a man to admit it and seek to make amends. Thank you, Todd.
The curious thing here is that I really haven’t had a lot of trolls and people sniping at me in the last three years of blogging out in the open. Plenty of people have disagreed with my opinions – but that’s the point! How else do you learn and grow unless you’re constantly being challenged by others? But the personal stuff is just starting to happen now.
I had always thought that the lack of hate toward me was because of my integrity or something. Ha! That turned out to be nonsense. The truth is that once a certain amount of people are aware of you, it is a guarantee that some of them are going to be villains, misery-seeking-company or just plain old fashioned assholes. That’s just life, I guess.
Seth Godin has a great post on this concept of not being able to avoid a certain amount of unwarranted hatred:
Now you are a celebrity
That means that… There are people who don’t know you… and who don’t like you.
Specifically, there are people who don’t know your work, who haven’t taken the time to understand your point of view, who nonetheless have had to draw a conclusion about who you are and what you do.
“I don’t like Angelina Jolie.”
“Which movie didn’t you like?”
“Oh, I’ve never seen any of her movies. I just don’t like her.”
More positively, celebrity, particularly social media celebrity (which more and more of us have every day) earns you trust and access and an audience. Your twitter followers or friends of friends on Facebook are more likely to cut you slack because you’re not a stranger.
But it’s unreasonable to expect only the upside. There are now people in the world who don’t know you and who don’t like you. Sorry.
Seth nails it here (as he does everywhere). I’m guilty of this kind of thing to some extent too, most of us are at some time or another.
So the way I see it, there’s a good chance this kind of anger will continue to be directed toward me. I figure I have three choices now:
1. Give up and go away. Yeah right.
2. Expect the Trolls to give up and go away. Also, yeah right.
3. Grow a thicker skin and learn to let it roll off.
So choice 3 seems the only viable one and that’s what I suppose I’ll run with. Because I can’t change human nature and I certainly can’t throw in the towel after how hard I’ve worked to do…whatever the hell it is I think I’ve done.
And it’s not like I can rent a bus and just do a tour around the country beating the shit out of everyone who tweets nasty things at me. I mean I could but my wife probably wouldn’t be into it and I have a practice to manage that comes before everything, rage included.
So I’m sticking around and playing it cool – I’ll be way less interested in understanding or attempting to placate those who spout ugly things to me. As James Altucher reminds us from time to time – that kind of verbal assault is much more about the person saying it than it is about the person they’re saying it to.
And the haters? The haters can go fucking kill themselves. I know I would.