By Owen Henry
I saw Emma Watson.
Not here in Oberlin, mind you. I saw her at the St. Giles Fair in Oxford in 2007. I was walking through the streets with a group of my fellow newly arrived Americans, when one of them started freaking out and yelling “THAT’S HERMOINE.” I feared him deranged, but soon discovered the truth of his words. She was very polite and her stern bodyguard, a man even taller than myself, threatened to rip every bone from my flesh with a twitch of his eyes. Overall it was very pleasant.
But now, she’s apparently in Oberlin, and I can only pray she didn’t bring her security detachment with her.
I say apparently because I have not witnessed her divine presence with mine own eyes. Nor, apparently, has anyone else I’ve talked to, though the rumor goes that she was in Aladdin’s for some time. I have seen no photographic evidence of her position (in this day and age of camera phones, no less), and at this point I am prepared to make a bet:
She’s not here.
She never was here.
She will NEVER be here, purely for the fact that her agent has Googled the location of every real-life, honest to God Quidditch team in existence and has marked them on a map for Watson, Radcliffe, Grint, and all other Harry Potter actors to avoid at all times. Yes, that’s right Quidditch, you ruined it for all of us.
I am fully prepared to admit I am wrong, but I don’t believe I’ll have to because Oberlin has a long, storied history of trolls. These trolls don’t merely exist in the fringes of Oberlin society; we have enshrined them in a large gilded cage in Tappan Square. And that cage is oft frequented by some unascertainable percentage of campus.
The cage’s name, in case you haven’t figured it out by this point, is Obietalk.
No, no, don’t try and cop that innocent look. You’ve been on it, I know you have, even if it was just once for 10 seconds to Google yourself. But that is the trap of the site. Like formspring and other ill-concieved ventures, the site gives you access to the things people think about you and your peers. It gives you the perverse pleasure of somehow being “in the know.” You are the voyeur of Oberlin, the fly on everyone’s wall, and only the darkest secrets seem capable of escaping your reach.
What’s worse is that the site also gives you the perception that you can take statements made at face value. Of course, some things are obviously false, but there is a lot of random honest noise as well. Short stories, posts about personal problems, questions about the availability of this or that person, etc, all have a home there.
But beneath that gilded veneer lurk the trolls. They wait for you, with your belief in the fundamental goodness and honesty of humanity, filled with your ideals and self-confidence. They lurk, like pedophiles outside a preschool, waiting for you to show them so much as a hint of your belief in Obietalk.
And that is when the trap springs shut, and you find a thread about yourself. And it might say something like this:
“Owen Henry is the scum of the earth. Case closed.”
Wait, that’s not fair. What did I ever do to-
“Owen Henry is gross”
What are you basing this on? That day I came to class without showering? Okay, it was more like two or three days but it was exam week and-
“You are possibly the most disgusting human being on the planet Earth.”
Oh, I get it now, it’s a moral repugnance as opposed-
“He’s a creep, an emotionally manipulating asshole, a highly insecure person, and he has preyed upon every girl he’s been in a relationship with.”
You assholes are checking into my REFERENCES now? Oh God, oh God they know, they know my secrets! They know every girl I’ve ever dated! THEY KNOW ABOUT THAT TIME I KISSED SUZY SIMMONS IN THE 5th GRADE!!!!!! COMMENCE PAAAAAAAAANIIIIIIIIIIC.
“Owen henry… you are awful. If I ever got into bed with you (which I never would, because I am a decent human being)… I would light myself on fire before ever being penetrated by your disgusting, diseased, pitiful excuse for a cock.”
I give you points for your use of evocative language and posing yourself as some kind of virtuous martyr, as so many self-immolaters before you. However, your capitalization is rusty, and no matter what the rumor may be, I make it a point not to sleep with people carrying gasoline and matches.
These are all actual Obietalk posts in reference to myself. People on this campus, people who likely see me every day, have said these things about me. It’s possible that they were even posted by people I’m friendly with who magically managed to morph into terrible trolls while I wasn’t looking. And they aren’t just saying these things about me. They’re saying them about you, too.
Not these specific things, mind you. The people trolling me are less kind than most. But the point is the same: there are a lot of things that are said on Obietalk. There are references to Emma Watson, to College staff, to professors, to your peers, even to you. There is racism, hate speech, bigotry of all kinds as well. But there is 0 value in listening to any of it or giving it an ounce of credence because the second you start believing in Obietalk, you also start believing in the horrible, awful things people say there about you and your friends. And that second leads you on a downward spiral to a very unhappy place.
In summation, whether or not an actress was here is irrelevant. But you cannot – I repeat, cannot - believe an anonymous forum of trolls. All they want is to see you react, to manipulate you and make you dance on their strings. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
With that lesson imparted, you’ll have to excuse me. I need to go find Ms. Watson.
Editor’s Note: Emma Watson was, indeed, spotted by an F+L editor at the ‘Sco at 11pm on April 24, 2012, (although that’s not really what this blog was about anyway).