“Yeah, it’s a thankless job but someone has to do it, right?”
–Nevin Sharma, Professional Thread Killer
You wouldn’t volunteer for it. No one would. If asked, most people would gleefully delete their profiles rather than suffer the torture of even one full day on the job. Yet, for the man WIRED has dubbed “The Yawn of the Internet,” there is no other option. Nevin Sharma is the Internet’s Premier Thread Killer.
We’ve all been there. Playfully monitoring a thread on social media. Comments from our friends, colleagues, acquintances filling up new comment boxes with political opinions, jokes and after-work schedules. Then in a burst of confidence we decide to chime in and… It’s over. Done. You refresh the thread. Nothing. A cold dread settles in. Realization that no one is going to comment after you. Abandoned. Desolate. Devastated.
“Poetically, I say I’m a sponge for existential sorrow. But practically, I’m a professional buzzkill.“
He looks more friendly than you think he would look. He’s more sociable than you think he would be. He’s much more charming than his job title would lead you to believe. So why then, does a man with seemingly adequate social skills seek to be “that guy” who always kills comment threads?
It’s because he understands the pain.
“I was never good at engaging in conversation over the Internet. I’m better in person where you can ride real emotions and dynamics, rather than emoji momentum.”
As a result of this birth defect, Nevin has never had a long conversation online. Ever. He’s never engaged in a back and forth. He’s had both back and forth individually, but never together.
As a result, his particular gift is watching comment threads unfold and knowing the exact moment when the next comment would bring the conversation to a halt. That’s when he strikes. That’s his playground. That’s the job.
He doesn’t shy away from the term “Thread Killer,” either.
“Look, you could call it ’Thread Ender’ if you want, or whatever, but thats just a sugarcoat. I know what I do. I’m fine with it.”
I watch him on a typical afternoon during peak social media traffic hours and it’s hard to believe what is unfolding. Monitoring as many threads as his iPhone notifications can keep up with, Sharma has an innate sense when it comes to an online thread’s natural duration. When I ask him to put it into words he’s humble, he chuckles:
“Usually, whenever I feel like commenting that’s when I know a thread is over.”
He quickly gets back to monitoring his threads, but the slow dissolve of the chuckle into his stoic work glare is telling. This type of work takes its toll on a person. Imagine screaming into the Grand Canyon and hearing no echo. That void. That level of invisibility. It weighs on a man’s fundamental existence. It has to.
“Have you ever been wrong?”
I know immediately that I’ve stepped over a line. He doesn’t look at me but I can feel his face tighten.
“No. I have a 100% kill rate…”
He hesitates, his face blank.
“It’s why I get paid big bucks.”
When the news broke that Facebook would be making him part of their staff, complete with a one million dollar retainer, the Internet predictably pounced. Who does this guy think think he is? That’s not a skill! What a loser!
“Oddly, it was the first time anyone was actually engaging with me in conversation. I wasn’t sure how to handle it.”
But, it’s this reaction to his talent that intrigued Facebook in the first place. He’s at his best when no one else recognizes what has happened. When everyone else moves on from the party, he shows up. Shutting things down, cleaning things up. When I attempted to track down some of the beneficiaries of his work no one wanted to comment. Not because they didn’t want to be on record, but no one could even remember being helped by him. They had moved on. He was a ghost.
Yet, he can’t be everywhere. For anyone that knows the feeling of being the person that kills a comment thread his job performance, ability and now salary, are laughable.
“People will email me threads they were responsible for killing, and their messages to me are just angry, filthy, vile, stuff asking why I didn’t step in, help them out. Normally I just dash off a quick apology and ask if they want to get a coffee and talk about it.”
Nevin sips his coffee, alone, and looks off out a window.
“No one ever responds. Another thread killed.”
He takes in the anguish of being the last comment on the thread. Swooping in time and again, to save the now penultimate commentator. A person who then turns around and gives no thought to the fact that their basic sense of self-worth was just saved from humiliation.
And it is he and he alone that absorbs that sorrow. He refuses to hire a staff. For this, he doesn’t give a reason, saying simply he can keep up with demand. (A cursory Internet search shows that at one point he had posted a help wanted ad. The applicants we reached for comment said simply that his responses to their inquiry emails didn’t seem to warrant a response from them.)
“Look, I don’t consider what I do to be that important. I happen to have a skill at killing threads. Not talking to me, happens to help other people. If it’s something that ends up killing me, so be it. Eventually, everyone is the last commenter on their own thread.”
He flashes a dazzlingly bright smile. A smile made brighter knowing that it contains multitudes of despair. It’s brightness less a gauge of light as much as a gauge of the darkness necessary to be overcome in order for the smile register at all.
“I’m just trying to delay that time for others.”
Original reporting by Dalphin Molloy
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