While there are many things to dislike about trolls, perhaps the most infuriating is the inability to respond to them in any meaningful way: they draw power from acknowledgement and pleasure from evidence that their attacks are upsetting the victim, and also clearly have much more time than ordinary folks to spend taunting random strangers on the Internet, so getting into ad hominem insult wars with them is completely futile.
The more you fight back, the worse it gets.
But there may be alternative means of retaliation, for those who are creative enough.
Take the example of the wonderfully named Chiara Nasti, a 19-year-old Italian fashion blogger, who has taken the abusive comments received on her Instagram account and printed them on toilet paper, then posted photos of the unique sanitary product online, with the caption (in Italian) “clean yourself decently.” Needless to say there’s a poo emoji, too.
Some typical insults printed on the toilet paper include comments like: “Am I the only one who thinks every photo of Chiara Nasti is vulgar? Even wearing high fashion clothes, she has no elegance.”
Another insightful observer calls her an “ignorant cretin.” In a show of class which her critics manifestly lack, Nasti has considerately blacked out their profile names on the toilet paper, so only their thoughts, such as they are, remain visible.
The post, which has received more than 23,000 likes on Instagram, is brilliant for a couple reasons.
First of all, it severs the Gordian knot of responding to trolls – the inevitable, endless tit-for-tat exchange of insults which must ensue – by addressing all of them collectively, so as not to acknowledge any one in particular, something they crave; instead, it seems to say: “I wipe my ass with ALL of you.”
Second, although the post with the image will doubtless receive hateful and derisive comments, by creating a real object that is under her sole control, Nasti has produced a space that is beyond the reach of the trolls, a physical insult that admits no rebuttal: no matter how much they insult her on Instagram, that roll of toilet paper itself will always be there, symbolizing her opinion of them.Third, and perhaps most importantly, the response takes the exchange of insults from the rhetorical to the practical.
While trolls are basically confined to text and images, Nasti has brought actual bodily functions into play, giving vital form and meaning to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s most famous put-down, expressed in various settings: “[That’s great]… for me to poop on!”