Review: Dylan Marron finds common ground with the enemy

March 29, 2022 GMT
This cover image released by Atria shows "Conversations with People Who Hate Me: 12 Things I Learned from Talking to Internet Strangers" by Dylan Marron. (Atria via AP)
This cover image released by Atria shows "Conversations with People Who Hate Me: 12 Things I Learned from Talking to Internet Strangers" by Dylan Marron. (Atria via AP)
This cover image released by Atria shows "Conversations with People Who Hate Me: 12 Things I Learned from Talking to Internet Strangers" by Dylan Marron. (Atria via AP)
This cover image released by Atria shows "Conversations with People Who Hate Me: 12 Things I Learned from Talking to Internet Strangers" by Dylan Marron. (Atria via AP)
This cover image released by Atria shows "Conversations with People Who Hate Me: 12 Things I Learned from Talking to Internet Strangers" by Dylan Marron. (Atria via AP)

“Conversations with People Who Hate Me,” by Dylan Marron (Atria)

Digital content producer Dylan Marron had always focused his career on shining a light on oppression. From his web series Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People to his series Every Single Word about diversity in Hollywood, he became known for his direct and poignant takes on crucial issues facing marginalized communities.

But putting himself out there every day had its costs, and led to the inevitable consequence of a strong Internet presence — trolls. Marron began to receive so many hateful comments that he decided to keep a file on them all. One day, he decided to dig deeper into the life of one of his trolls, and what he found sent him on a journey he never imagined.

Marron launched a podcast, Conversations with People Who Hate Me, in which he engaged in phone conversations with the very people who told him he was an awful, disgusting human being. His book by the same name chronicles his experience developing this show as he wrestles with how best to facilitate productive conversations with people whose views can often be dangerous.

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Inevitably, as Marron connects with his guests, he begins to empathize with them and recognize their humanity — so much so that he stops being able to stomach calling them trolls at all. At the same time, he wrestles with how much empathy to extend to those with hateful opinions, and as the podcast becomes more popular, he begins to ask himself what these conversations are really accomplishing.

“Conversations with People Who Hate Me” is a fascinating meditation on human connection and on finding common ground with people you never thought possible. It’s about shared humanity, but also the sheer mental stamina it takes to have challenging conversations with those with whom you vehemently disagree. It’s about finding that line between when doing so is important and when it’s fruitless. It’s about extending compassion to others while still holding them accountable.

Throughout the book, Marron continues to challenge himself to toe that line, which is what makes the book far more interesting than if it merely showed him bonding with his trolls. The book shows that connecting with the “other side” is endlessly complex, a constant push and pull that requires significant work and emotional sacrifice. At the same time, he shows that doing so can be powerful, important, and in some cases, can actually change minds.

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Read more about Molly Sprayregen at https://www.mollyspray.com.