"Being Privileged Is Not A Choice, So Stop Hating Me For It", which made the rounds today, is the perfect Thought Catalog post. As Tyler Coates at Flavorwire put it, it's "The most Thought Catalog post to ever Thought Catalog." The headline says it all — "I’m sick of feeling ashamed for being privileged," wrote the author, running a hand through her professionally highlighted hair, probably while she looked out the window of her high-rise apartment as all the jealous poor folk walked by. "What do you suggest I do about it?" she wondered. No, really, that's the first line.
It's self-centered in the way we sometimes assume millennials are. It taps into one of the buzziest buzz words in liberal urban circles — privilege, as in check yours. And, it managed to piss off a whole lot of people who tweeted and linked to it, just like Kate Menendez probably planned when she wrote it. Jared Keller at Al Jazeera America tweeted a link, along with "ban Thought Catalog, ban it and burn it."
"'Thought Catalog' should change its name to 'Giving 19-Year-Olds Enough Rope Catalog,'" suggested Lindy West at Jezebel (again, with a link). There's also a link to the story in this article, so good for you Thought Catalog. You've got the hate-linking mastered.
You never know if a good Thought Catalog troll is truly meant to be tongue in cheek or the person is just kind of oblivious. Like a bad Onion article it's not clever enough to say something meaningful, but it's also too outlandish be a real person's genuine opinion.
A well crafted troll is one of the surest ways to get published on Thought Catalog, second to a millennial-specific wisdom listicle (ex. 22 Things I Wish I'd Known When I was 22, Now That I'm 23). Based off our observations, this is the formula for the Thought Catalog troll, in a list.
1. Craft an excellent headline
This is a universal rule, but it's especially important for trolling. If the reader can't tell they'll be offended/annoyed by the headline then you've failed. Some prime examples:
- "The 5 Best Compliments My Dick Has Ever Gotten" — Not offensive, but you just sort of hope you never run into him at a house party, where he'd probably be the guy double fisting PBR telling anyone who'll listen about compliments 6-10.
- "Dear Girls, Please Shave Your Pubic Hair" — Bonus points for using "girls" to refer to the presumably adult women you want to sleep with, and for not using your last name. Also not horribly offensive, but it did make people mad.
- "I Got Yelled At By An Inner City Kid At A YMCA Camp" — This is actually an interesting story about a nice girl who got yelled at by one of her playmates at camp. Starting off with "I never went to public school ... I did, however, go to summer camp with the inner city kids" is the troll factor. You're pretty sure you know what she means by inner city kids and that you won't like it.
- "The 10 Most Horribly Racist Ads That Aren’t Even Remotely Racist" — Hint: #10 is Everything. Everything racist isn't even remotely racist, so get over yourself.
2. Choose your target demographic to anger
"Being Privileged Is Not A Choice, So Stop Hating Me For It" works so well because it offends anyone who thinks privilege — whether based on social class, race, gender or sexuality — by implying that all "unprivileged people" are jealous haters who need to stop raining Menendez' J. Crew sponsored parade. She understands being poor "blows," so why are you still mad?
And in "Your Privilege Isn’t The Problem, You Are The Problem", a swift response to Menendez posted today, Nico Lang's target demographic is everyone who kind of agreed with the original post on privilege. "I don’t hate Kate Menendez because she chose to be rich. I hate her because she chose to be an asshole," Lang writes. Which, yep. Can't argue with that. But Lang's a Thought Catalog producer. Did he not think Menendez was an "asshole" when it went up?
3. Almost have a point, and fail miserably at making it
"Being Privileged Is Not A Choice, So Stop Hating Me For It", actually has a point, kinda. If your parents did well and are able to provide for you, then you shouldn't be ashamed of that. But when Menendez says "privilege," she actually means "wealthy." She doesn't seem to actually understand what privilege, as its commonly used now, means.
4. Understand your audience
People who want to read tongue in cheek, satirical, insightful and usually funny commentary on social issues read The Onion. People who want to read egocentric personal essays on the plight of urban millennials trying to find themselves after college read Thought Catalog. You can't have your cake and eat it too, especially if you're shopping at J. Crew.