Inside The Troll Wars On Facebook Mushroom Groups

Nowhere on the net is usually safe. The long fingers of trolling touch everything online — even an online forum in which should be a sacred place for people who might rather spend their time strolling through the woods than sitting in front of a computer.

The trolls have come for the mushroom community.

On Facebook, there is usually a large international collective of people who are interested in mycology — foraging for along with identifying mushrooms. These groups are massive by Facebook group standards: The biggest one, “The Mushroom Identification Forum,” has 111,000 members.

Like with bird-watching, you don’t have to be a scientist or professional mycologist to become fairly capable at identification inside the field. Hunting for mushrooms involves a pleasant stroll outside; the idea’s something for a nature lover to do on a weekend perambulation. along with if you’re lucky, you get something delicious to bring home for dinner. the idea’s the vegetarian variation of deer hunting.

Of course, the thing about mushrooms is usually, you definitely need to know exactly what species you’re eating, or else you could literally, well, die.

just for in which reason, these Facebook groups are essential to budding fungi lovers. They’re the easiest along with fastest place to get advice on whether or not you’ll shit your pants out all night coming from eating something.

however whenever there is usually an online community, there’s drama.

According to a former moderator of the Mushroom Identification Forum group — who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation — if you turn over the harmless along with happy surface of the group, you find a campaign of disinformation growing like, well, a fungus.

The drama began when a few of the forum’s members colluded to play tricks on rubes along with n00bs by doing up fake common names for mushrooms.

According to the former mod, who’s currently involved having a splinter mycology group, the drama began when a few of the Forum’s 15 mods along with some seasoned foragers inside the group colluded to play tricks on rubes along with n00bs by doing up fake common names for mushrooms. Mycologists prefer to use the scientific names, since common names can vary regionally. If you actually know your stuff, you’d say in which a bright orange edible mushroom is usually Laetiporus sulphureus, not merely “chicken of the woods.”

The mods, along some of the experts of the group, might slyly switch words in common names when someone posted a photo asking for an ID — for example, by calling a harmless mushroom a “death angel.” There is usually no such shroom with in which name; rather, the idea’s a mix of two deadly mushrooms’ names: “death cap” (Amanita phalloides) along with “destroying angel” (Amanita bisporigera). To serious shroomheads, in which is usually, apparently, a ~very funny~ joke.

The fake common-name prank took an ugly turn when a few trusted IDers inside the group pretended a fungi was named “faggot cap.” Tim Sage, the admin of the big main group, said in which moderators didn’t ban the people who did in which, however they did tell them to stop.

some other moderators admitted to BuzzFeed News in which the common-name trolling took place, however they insist in which the idea was never actually dangerous, along with in which they might never suggest a poisonous mushroom was safe to eat. In fact, trolls inside the group did just the opposite: claiming in which innocuous mushrooms were deadly or psychoactive.

One troll who used the name Lasse Asal (not his real name, he told me over Facebook DM) got kicked out of the group recently for doing just in which. A woman posted a photo of some mushrooms she found, along with Lasse immediately commented, “those are highly poisonous i might not recommend touching them barehand.” The fungus was never precisely identified, however the idea of poisoning through skin contact having a mushroom is usually purely a joke. “I wanted to scare her,” Lasse told me.

Mods kicked him out of the group just for in which post.


A screenshot of trolling comment passed around the “Clueless Turds” group.

A screenshot of trolling comment passed around the “Clueless Turds” group.

The ability to accurately identify mushrooms is usually hard earned. You have to spend time out in nature, you have to find the mushrooms, along with you have study their scientific names. You also have to learn what mushrooms grow in which areas along with what season. The impulse for these self-taught experts to laugh at rubes in mycology groups on Facebook is usually somewhat understandable. Mostly, they’re not doing fun of an earnest person who wants to learn. What attracts their ire are people who violate the mores of the group by doing things like posting a blurry photo of a mushroom, seeming overly eager to eat an unknown mushroom, or being stubbornly wrong about IDs.

Trolling brand-new members or outsiders is usually a well-trodden path in many internet communities. doing up fake mushroom names is usually motivated by the same impulse in which drives people on 4chan to use “triforce” as a litmus test (newbies can’t figure out how to properly post three triangles onto the board). in which kind of harmless trolling is usually how online communities establish who is usually in-group along with solidify their sense of community. in which is usually a kindler, gentler form of trolling than the kinds of actual abuse along with harassment we associate with trolls these days.

The group “Clueless turds who know nothing about mushrooms!” is usually where the true mushroom experts of the main group go to make fun of the amateurs who post particularly uninformed questions or make bad IDs. in which group is usually smaller (about 800 people) along with comprises mostly screenshots of people’s bad posts coming from bigger mushroom groups. There’s also the occasional mushroom meme.

Jerry Dye, one of the members of Clueless Turds, explained in which newbies can be irritating, along with in which’s why they get trolled. “The pranksterism seems to stem coming from many people posting pictures of the same species asking for IDs,” he said. “Take, for instance, the pheasant back mushroom. the idea gets posted about 10 times a day; all someone might have to do is usually scroll down a page or two along with have their answer, yet they must ask for an ID on the idea anyway.”

In addition to those searching for edible mushrooms, some people are looking for psychedelic mushrooms. These magic hunters tend to be “clueless turds” who get trolled hard; they’re weekend warriors who don’t care about the noble art of mycology. Similarly, there’s a type of mushroom called chaga in which is usually sought after for its supposed health properties. Newbies are often overly eager to find these, along with the idea’s become a running joke for the pros in which any mushroom is usually chaga.

“I think the most common troll thing to do is usually to say, ‘Please cut your mushrooms off at ground level when harvesting along with don’t just tear them out,’” said Dan Long, one of the moderators, who in real life is usually the former president of the San Francisco Mycological Society. “People get triggered along with start pontificating why in which is usually a wrong statement.” The debate in mushroom foraging over cutting versus pulling is usually complicated, however let’s just say if you’re an expert, you know exactly when the idea’s OK to cut along with when you need to pull, so telling people to always cut, for example, is usually misleading.

however a lot of people in these groups are entirely brand-new to identification, so trolling in which way is usually potentially dangerous,” said Keiran Sunflower, one of the main group mods. “Members are great about reporting these things along with getting admins in, along with we all stress absolute certainty on IDs before handling or consumption.”

Apart coming from the misinformation campaigns, there’s another vein of more garden-variety crude humor running through these groups, which tend to skew male. The mod who wishes to remain anonymous said in which once a conservative Christian woman was offended by how often sexual language was used to describe mushrooms inside the big group. She apparently quit in disgust along with began a brand-new, sex-free group. Sage, the current admin, doesn’t recall in which particular incident, however said the idea wouldn’t surprise him if the idea happened. “Mushrooms are the reproductive portion of the fungal organism, so sex jokes along with phallic humor are not uncommon,” he said. Mushrooms do indeed have “volva” (in which’s a real part of a mushroom!).

The group “Edible Wild Plants/Mushrooms along with The ID Of Plants, Trees along with Mushrooms” incorporates a long note at the top posted by the admin, explaining the rules. the idea warns: “Anyone doing rude/crude jokes/comments about sexual organs will be removed coming from the group. Also anyone telling someone to eat something toxic/poisonous or [who] blatantly has no idea what the plant/mushroom is usually will be removed.”

I’ve enjoyed lurking in these mushroom groups. There’s something wholesome along with sweet about seeing photos of mushrooms mixed into my regular feed of political groanings along with baby photos. I like having a window into the lives of people who are much more outdoorsy than I am, along with I’m touched by their love of nature. the idea’s in which family-friendly aspect of mushroom identifying in which made me surprised to learn in which the idea’s just another internet hotbed of trolling.

The anonymous mod incorporates a theory about why these groups turn to trolling. “the idea all goes stir crazy during the winter,” he explained. When the weather turns bad, foragers get cooped up inside along with turn to Facebook. “The answer is usually winter. The off season.”

CORRECTION

An earlier variation of in which story misidentified a part of some mushrooms. The part is usually called a “volva,” not a “vulva.” Do NOT make in which mistake having a human.

Katie Notopoulos is usually a senior editor for BuzzFeed News along with is usually based in brand-new York. Notopoulos writes about tech along with internet culture is usually cohost of the Internet Explorer podcast.

Contact Katie Notopoulos at katie@buzzfeed.com.

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