Sometimes, it just makes you feel gruff. Seriously, the internet should be the G.O.A.T. invention.

It should be a place to connect with friends and share laughs, a safe place to go when you want to be yourself. It should be a place to tell your story, free of danger and full of truth. Nobody should butt heads online, or be a victim of a bully goat. Instead, as in "Conversations with People Who Hate Me" by Dylan Marron, we gotta deal with the trolls.

The fact that Marron had a "HATE FOLDER" in his email should speak volumes.

As a gay man and a writer-performer, he expected a certain amount of negativity online; that's the nature of the internet. But as a creative employee of Seriously.TV, the emailed hate, death threats, and homophobia just got to be too much.

Before his job at Seriously.TV, he'd acted, reported, waited tables, and cultivated a "prompt" that served him well. "What am I going to do about it?" is what he asked himself every time he was faced with something that bothered him and this time, the answer was a series of conversations with haters who'd commented.

He began to mine the HATE FOLDER for people to talk with.

The first was a guy Marron calls "Josh," a decent guy who was a lot like Marron. Their conversation, done remotely, was a hit with fans and it gained Marron a lot of "points." In a small way, it gained him a friend, since he and Josh came to an understanding. Marron was happy with that, and with subsequent "Conversations..."

But after he quit his job at Seriously.TV to go it alone, he found himself at an impasse.

The old way of doing his conversations needed to expand to include a wider angle and different guests. Marron imagined himself bringing together hater and target on bigger subjects. He'd learn more about people – and in the process, he'd learn more about himself.

The lesson was underscored a few Sundays ago: something huge happens, something loud, and everybody's got an opinion. "Conversations with People Who Hate Me" helps show that we can talk civilly about issues without insults.

But will haters – the people who presumably need this book – be willing to read it?

Surprisingly, on one side of this book, author Dylan Marron shows that that's entirely possible: once he approached his interviewees, many people who hid behind the 'net rued their actions and words. Granted, the haters he hosted were highly, carefully curated, but Marron's approach shows hope.

The other side of the book is the one that teaches tolerance and a sort of Zen approach when you're the target of a troll. Haters gonna hate, as they say... but with enormous grace and thoughtfulness, Marron offers better ways to perceive it.

Readers looking for another way to invite open dialogue, and those who are aghast at spewing commenters on social media will love this book. If you want to do better, "Conversations with People Who Hate Me" could help make happy bridges.


"Conversations with People Who Hate Me: 12 Things I Learned From Talking to Internet Strangers" by Dylan Marron

c.2022, Atria $27 272 pages


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