The Advice Troll
If you make content and put it on the internet, you will get criticism. I divide critics into three categories:
- Good faith critics: They are polite, and constructive dialog is possible.
- Ideological critics: They are rude and aggressive. Constructive dialog is not possible. They typically insult and run away.
- Advice trolls: They are explicitly polite but implicitly insulting, or, in other words, passive aggressive. Constructive dialog is not possible. They attach like parasites and drain your time and energy.
This essay is about the advice troll.
The advice troll poses as someone offering constructive criticism, but really he is just larping as an authority figure. He thinks of himself as an intellectual, but he is too lazy, stupid, and/or cowardly to create content of his own. Instead, he criticizes the work of others. This is a way for him to assert authority. The act of criticizing presupposes that the critic has superior knowledge or intelligence, so by criticizing your work he is implicitly claiming superiority over you.
Publishing your own content is risky. Criticizing other people’s content is safe. If you reject the advice troll’s criticism, he can portray you as arrogant or close-minded. On the other hand, if you accept his criticism, then you validate his superiority over you. Either way, he wins.
The advice troll usually affiliates himself with a recognized authority, such as the academy in general, a popular thinker, or a popular ideology. That way, even if he is wrong, he can’t be blamed for the error. The authority was wrong, not him. He is not bothered by his failures, because he accepts no responsibility for being right. If one criticism fails, he will simply try another.
The advice troll is an ego parasite who tries to derive status from the work of others. If you seem like a suitable host for this parasite, he will start hanging out in your space and commenting on your work. This might seem flattering at first, but he isn’t really interested in your work. He is only using your content as a platform for his ego. His initial comments are often very friendly, but over time he becomes more and more critical, as a way of asserting his superiority. If you rebut his criticisms he will get snarky, but still maintain a veneer of politeness (which is part of his air of superiority).
The advice troll is polite, but disrespectful. His disrespect manifests as ignoring what you say, presuming to educate you, presuming that his opinions/tastes/intuitions are de facto correct, perpetual babbling or quibbling over terms (to avoid being rebutted and losing face), making petty criticisms, delivering “educational” non sequiturs, and the complete inability to fathom that he could be wrong. He will often begin a comment by praising you for almost attaining his level of understanding. Then he will deliver a little turd of fake wisdom.
I find advice trolls very annoying, especially when they:
- Presume to educate me about something, when I know much more about it than they do.
- Presume to be interesting deep thinkers, even though they produce no original content and have no original ideas.
- Pretend to be interested in my work, even though they have made no effort to understand it (and often haven’t even listened to it or read it).
- Derail discussions with non-sequiturs and shit-tier takes that are supposed to be profound.
- Use a space that I created as their litter-box.
Advice trolls must be tolerated up to a point, because they can be confused with good faith critics. I don’t want to appear hostile to critics, so even when I recognize an advice troll for what he is, I have to put up with him to some extent. However, if he gets too annoying, I eventually tell him to fuck off.