In 2010, just as I was getting into San Diego State sports, I posted a video of the Aztecs taking the field on YouTube.
To my surprise it got a lot of traffic. Like, there were maybe 3,000 people in the stands for this game and 1,000 people watched my video in 24 hours on YouTube. And when I poked around to see where all the traffic was coming from, most of it pointed to a thread on an online forum, AztecMesa.
So I created an account and claimed the video as mine. From there I’ve been an occasional poster, mostly lurking, but sometimes jumping in and even starting conversation.
At AztecMesa I’ve met a couple new friends. But, quite frankly, I also met too many 1990s era internet trolls.
I’m no rookie to online forums. After all, from 2005-2008 I helped lead YMX, a forum with thousands of members who created hundreds of thousands of posts. And for 9-10 years prior to that I’d been actively part of many, many only forums.
Kingdom of the Trolls
It only took me a couple of days of poking around at AztecMesa to see that they had a troll problem.
What’s a troll? Wikipedia offers a good enough definition:
is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topicmessages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement.
AztecMesa topics consistently either started off negative or quickly turn to the negative.
In fairness, it’s not just that San Diego State fans tend to troll their own fans… it’s that San Diego sports fans, in general– even in real life— tend to troll their own teams. I’ve attended sporting events my entire life and I’ve never seen people who will pay good money to go to a sporting event just to complain. But that’s fairly common here.
When I first started engaging with folks at AztecMesa I was determined to help people see the positives. And there were a few fellow fans who seemed interested in the same thing, so it was fun.
You see, really, truly, and factually… San Diego State is undergoing an epic turnaround as a university. A school once known as a doormat on the athletic field now competes, sometimes dominates the conference in many sports. (except football) While hundreds of thousands of alumni remember State as a fallback commuter school, State has become much more residential and hard to get in to. It’s no longer a fallback school. In fact, it’s a pretty cool place to live near.
But, alas, I’m giving up on AztecMesa.
From time to time I experienced successes. I could help people see the positive. But, in the end, the trolls there are simply too powerful. It doesn’t help that moderators often participate in the negative bent unchecked and uncheckable.
Since it’s gotten to the point that I actually find myself less enthusiastic about attending SDSU games because of the trolls at AztecMesa… it’s time to walk away.
You know it’s bad when the local newspaper calls out a fan forum:
Chat boards had threads titled things like “SDSU football is stuck in coaching purgatory” and “The program has regressed under Long.”
Were moderators embarrassed that the unchecked stuff they allow on their forums got picked up in the local newspaper? Nope. They probably thought it was good publicity.
I’m not walking away from cheering for SDSU. I just am leaving that negative space to itself.
What Does This Have to Do With You?
99.9% of my daily readers are not Aztec fans or care about any of this, and so you may be wondering why I’m writing about this on my blog?
I’m sharing it because it’s relevant to all of us.
I believe in engagement. I believe that we are called to bring Good News to the Neighborhood.
And with that in mind we sometimes we allow ourselves to step into negative space in hopes that we can be a change agent. Maybe we can be the voice or the person who makes an impact?
But you don’t always get to win.
Sometimes you need to give up!
You might “be the change” all day but you don’t always get to see the change you want to see.
That’s ultimately not your choice.
And so you have to decide… at what point are you willing to walk away? At what point is enough enough?
- Enough is enough when you no longer find joy in it.
- Enough is enough when you find yourself alone in it.
- Enough is enough when you feel the vortex of what you’re up against pulling you in.
It’s one thing to be a change agent. It’s another thing altogether to get that negativity on you, literally feeling dirty with it, and see no real change for a significant period of time.
Quitting doesn’t make you a quitter. Sometimes quitting is necessary.
Farewell, Kingdom of the Trolls.
Hello, fellow Aztec fans.