Sunday, August 28, 2016

So Many Trolls, So Little Time

This weekend, I attended a rather spectacular conference (Women's Fitness Summit-- check it out).  An interesting question was raised that struck a particular chord with me, and I thought it was worth writing about.  The question was this:

How do you deal with internet trolls?

Let's face it-- anything you put out there to the public is subject to armchair critics.  No one who puts content online is safe from people who want to drag you down.  And a lot of them are good-- really, really good-- at what they set out to do.  The comments they leave can be really painful if they strike the right nerve.  But you can beat them, and you can do it any way that suits you.

The first thing that is important to realize is that trolls will strike anywhere, anytime, for any reason.  For example, here is a compilation of cute kitten videos.  It has 1,185 "thumbs down" ratings.  IT IS A COMPILATION OF CUTE KITTEN VIDEOS.


I think we can all pretty much agree that anyone who "thumbs down" cute kitten videos is probably a bubbling cauldron of misery.  And there are clearly a large number of misery cauldrons out there.  So if almost 1200 people have serious cute kitten video hatred (or at least have any interest in trying to bring down the awesomeness of cute kittens), it'd be pretty easy for them to try to bring down pretty much everything else good in the world.

My point is, the computer-concealed venom of misery cauldrons has very little bearing on anyone's opinion of you who means anything.  And, truly, the only opinion of you that really matters is your own.  You put content out there because you had something to share that you thought was worth sharing.  When it comes down to it, that is the most important thing, and the people who really matter will appreciate what you have to share.  

That being said, the sting of troll venom can be powerful.  So what can be done to neutralize it?  

1)  Delete and block.  This is probably the easiest, most common, and most effective way to deal with trolls.  Your space is your space, and you can choose who to allow into it.  If someone is spitting toxic goo at you, you have the right to take away their mark and their ability to ever do it again.  No one needs that kind of energy, really.  If you don't have it in you to address the trolls yourself, you can always get a friend or hire someone to do it for you.  Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.  

2)  If the comment is directed to you personally via message, document it and report it.  Any threatening messages can and should be reported to whoever manages the site (most have a "report abuse" button or something similar).  

3)  Don't feed the trolls.  When it comes down to it, they are looking for acknowledgement.  Don't give it to them.  In addition, when one troll posts, others will often want to jump on the bandwagon.  Deleting and blocking can help stop a trollpocalypse.

4)  Take care of yourself.  Several years ago, I did a series of exercise videos for a company.  I've had a lot of pretty nasty comments aimed at me before, but I'd have to say the one that has stuck with me throughout the years, for whatever reason-- and let's keep in mind that this was an EXERCISE VIDEO-- is:

"She's ugly, but I'd fuck her anyway."

First I scoffed, and then I was in disbelief, and then I just tried to ignore it.  Because I did not own the video, there wasn't much I could do to remove it myself, so there it stayed until the powers that be would do something about it.  And I have to say, just knowing that was out there made me feel dirty and a little bit ashamed of myself.  For publishing an exercise video.  Designed to help people.  

And then I realized:  

I am not the problem.

The problem resides deep within the person trying to bring me down.  This is really the case with bullies of all kinds (and as someone who has been bullied for a good portion of her life, I do understand how difficult it can be to wrap your head around that sometimes).  A bully, or a troll, or anyone who tries to bring you down, is someone who has something very dark inside them.  And as hard as it can be to believe it sometimes, that darkness has absolutely nothing to do with cute kittens, and nothing to do with you.  

That being said, it can be really, really difficult sometimes to just let it go.  So take care of yourself. Surround yourself with people that lift you up.  Treat yourself well, and know you deserve to be treated well.  Try to keep things in perspective.  But most importantly, don't let your voice be silenced.  There will always be people who want to drag you into their darkness.  

Keep your face in the sun.

And just in case you need it, watch some kitten videos.


How do you deal with internet trolls?  Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!