"She's beautiful, but she's very skinny": Are you a concern troll?
"Concern trolls are not always self-aware; they may even view themselves as potential allies"
Have you ever found yourself thinking, saying or typing any of the following about someone online?
"I support the body positivity movement, I'm just worried about the long-term health effects of being bigger"
"I think it's great that she wears whatever she wants, but if she wants respect as a business woman, she won't get it dressed like that."
"Women should be able to do what they want with their own bodies, but are you not worried that an OnlyFans account might embarrass your family?"
"I think she's right to do things her own way, I just worry about the impact it's having on her kids."
"I'm all for equal rights, but men will never change if you act like a feminazzi."
"She's so beautiful, but she's very skinny. I'm a bit worried about her, to be honest."
Any of this sound familiar? You might just be a concern troll.
The big sister of the backhanded compliment, concern trolling is straight-up trolling, wrapped in care's clothing.
Once you're tuned into it, you recognise it in each and every comment section online. You read it in your Whatsapp groups, when a concern troll is testing the water to see how others feel about a topic, while simultaneously protecting their 'nice girl/guy' image. You'll even hear it in conversation with friends: "She lost weight so quickly after the baby. Do you think she's eating?"
It's not just fat-shaming, disguised as health concerns, it's mocking mental health by expressing worry about someone's wellbeing, because they don't act they way you think they should.
It's putting your parenting expectations on someone, by "just asking" a loaded question about their children.
It's subtly implying that there's a problem with someone else's relationship by expressing concern for the poor, dumb and obviously weak woman involved.
It's condescension in motion, and it needs to stop.
Asking ourselves if we've ever partaken in a spot of mild concern trolling is an important thing to do, because concern trolls are generally not self-identifying, as the The Geek Feminism Wikia notes: "Concern trolls are not always self-aware; they may even view themselves as potential allies. Concern trolls don't always know that they actually are concern trolls."
Whatever endorphin rush or cathartic release regular trolls get from taking a strip off someone online, concern trolling performs the same function, but without the associated guilt.
This, to me, somehow makes it worse; if you're going to be a bitch, at least say it with your whole damn chest.
One of the finest examples comes from serial concern troll and faux-feminist Jameela Jamil, whose pastimes include pretending to care about everyone else's problems, even if she made the problem up for them. Case in point, her tweet about Khloe Kardashian after she spoke about her weight concerns a few years ago:
“This makes me sad. I hope my daughter grows up wanting more than this. I want more than this. Sending love to this poor woman. This industry did this to her. The media did it to her. They fat-shamed her into a prison of self-critique.”
Respectfully Jameela, and with no real or fake concern, get in the sea.
Of course, after recent events, we need a whole other article about Khloe, but let's stick a pin in that one for today.
At this point, we've all hopefully swallowed some humble pie and are reckoning with our own problematic ways, but what do we do when on the receiving end of a Concern Troll Carla?
The internet, of course, would tell you to 'just ignore them, hun'. This is possibly the second worst internet phenomenon after concern trolling. It says, 'hey, you know that thing you're upset about? Swallow those feelings and don't ask anybody else to acknowledge them either.'
In short, deal with intrusion any way you see fit. Call them out, if you need to. Ignore them, if you need to.
If I were a petty individual I'd suggest playing them at their own game. Ask them if they're ok and maybe even share some links where they can get some help with their concern-trolling troubles.
...But I'd never do that.