The Tragic Lives of Trolls

Gabriel Nathan
10 min readDec 3, 2023
No; not these trolls but, come to think of it, actually this one in particular is sort of who I’m talking about. (Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash)

“My, wasn’t life awful — and wonderful?”

That’s what Mrs. Soames, a character in Thornton Wilder’s 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Our Town” muses, after she’s died, to her fellow decedents in the Grover’s Corners graveyard in Act III of the play.

While good ol’ TW probably couldn’t have conceived of social media, even in his wild, bespectacled dreams, I imagine that’s what he’d have a character say about it were he alive and kicking and writing today. As a mental health and suicide awareness advocate, I am constantly assaulted with headlines in this publication or that decrying social media’s deleterious impact on us, particularly on young people. I see Instagram and TikTok, in particular, vilified with unsubstantiated fear-mongering, I see stories about politicians (almost always conservative ones) suing, or gearing up to sue, social media companies for allegedly fueling a “teen mental health crisis” in America. I have yet to see anybody define what, exactly, this “crisis” is, how it’s quantified or qualified or who makes the determination about how and when something like this is a crisis, or if it’s just, if enough people say it enough times, then it is, de-facto, true.

However, I feel like Thornton Wilder would probably take a more nuanced, skeptical, thoughtful view of social media, most likely treating it the way he, in “Our Town” treats life itself, through the voice of the deceased, and therefore somewhat detached, Mrs. Soames:

Awful — and wonderful.

Admittedly, as concerns social media, I’m a little biased. I’ve had some very lovely things happen to me because of it: I met my fiancé on social media, as well as some extraordinary human beings who have become very firm and warm #irl friends. Social media has become a very important, visible, and accessible way for me to advocate for greater suicide prevention/awareness-raising: I reach people all over the world, in some places where pervasive myths and stigma still exist, where people aren’t talking about this, where hope and help are needed. I have seen, first-hand, how social media can help young people who are struggling with things like their mental health, their sexuality, their gender identity immensely by showing them people all over the globe working through things like this, and giving them love and support…

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Gabriel Nathan

Gabe is Editor in Chief of OC87 Recovery Diaries, a mental health publication. He is a suicide awareness advocate and is attracted to toxic car relationships.