Today let’s talk about Internet Trolls. Specifically, those people who, while hiding behind their magical curtains of anonymity, are _____________ (fill in the blank… jerks, bullies, douche bags). You know who I’m talking about. If you don’t, buckle up because you will.
For some reason, the Internet makes a few people feel completely comfortable being colossal jerks to those around them. People take “courage” behind a keyboard where in real life they might be somebody else altogether.
To me, it’s a lot like road rage. For some reason on the road, some people think it’s okay to be rude, offer less than friendly gestures, or scream at others. Some go absolutely ballistic.
The other day I was driving a few miles from my home. Another car and I pulled up to the intersection simultaneously, and both of us started pulling into the intersection at the same time (it was my fault). The driver of the other car laid on the horn, started smashing his fists against the wheel, and flipped me off. It all happened in less than three seconds.
Then… we both realized it at the same time… We were friends. Neighbors. We talk to each other often. We… liked each other. He immediately melted into his seat, horrified. I shot him a friendly wave and a big smile. He melted even further and gave me a half-wave, half-smile in return. I could tell he was feeling really stupid about his outburst. I ushered him through, waved again, and that was that. I laughed for the next two minutes.
Whether driving or surfing the net, some people feel safe letting their aggression, pessimism, and anger unleash on others. Their comfort comes in anonymity. Yet you take away that anonymity and they often shut up or chill out completely.
If you’re a blogger you might have seen some of this. I know I have seen enough to last me three lifetimes.
When Single Dad Laughing got big in a hurry, an entire army of trolls started coming after me. I got hate mail you wouldn’t believe. They left comments that not only attacked me but attacked my readers. Certain of them posted attacking and hateful things in discussion forums all over the web. I was called names that I wouldn’t repeat to a sailor. I was made to feel little, and dishonest, and small.
And… it worked. The trolls sucked the excitement and the life right out of me. What was the most fun I’d been having in a long time turned into a fear to login to my computer at all. At the peak of when my blog was finding uber-success, I wanted to shut it down.
But then, I realized something… I found a key on my keyboard that magically made it all go away. It looked like this:
I discovered that if I pushed it, whatever was on my screen at the moment would disappear. Vanish. Gone. Kaput. Hasta la pasta…
It was amazing.
I started learning to do a quick, unemotional pass-over of each email and comment I received looking for any harsh or horrible words. If it was from a troll, I wouldn’t even read it. I’d hit that button. As I stopped seeing these things, my energy also changed, and I started loving blogging again.
Learning to not let the trolls affect you is difficult, especially since most of us are blogging to be “liked” by others, to make a difference for others, and to find people of similar interests and mindsets. It’s kind of like taking an axe to our feet when people find us who…. [gulp]… hate us.
The bigger your blog gets, the more trolls there are going to be. What you need to do is 1) recognize them, and 2) use that delete key. Don’t give them power to affect your awesome day. It’s your blog. It’s your playground. Not theirs.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
PS. Have any of you had experience with trolls yet? How has it affected you? Is it hard for you to delete emails or comments? If so, why?