I imagined that within a few short weeks of starting a blog, I'd maybe make some friends. Then, in a year or so, I'd achieve international super stardom when my blog was deemed the best blog ever. While the verdict on being the best blog ever is a matter of debate, I'm not an international super star. At least, I don't think I am. It's possible that the hope of being given expensive Italian shoes and French designer clothes for free is limiting my definition of success.
Along with dreams of super stardom, there was another naive assumption in that I thought everybody was going to behave online as they do in the real world. By this, I mean that I thought if someone didn't agree with you, there was a 99% chance they'd just move on to another forum where the people they did agree with congregated.
Confessions of Matured Blogger
Four years later, I'm having a very difficult time not laughing hysterically at my naive assumptions. While there's definitely beauty, laughter and friendship on the Internet, levels of cruelty exist in this space that are unsurpassed when compared with the non-virtual life.
The upside of the virtual life, though, is that it offers you the opportunity to face cruelty in a controlled environment. In real life, if someone says something cruel to you, you may react the way I do. I usually start off with doubt.
"Did they really just say that?"
Then, shock. "They really DID just say that."
Doubt again. "Did you just say what I think you said?"
Anger. "Are you KIDDING? What the hell is wrong with you?"
Regret. "I should have just let that go."
All of the above occurs in less than five minutes which, of course, makes me feel even more looney toons.
You Got This
The Internet gives you an opportunity to ... (is it possible?!) stop and think before you express and, importantly, before anyone even knows you're upset. It's a modern day miracle.
For the most part, Internet trolls, known in non-virtual terms as a-holes, jerks, or bigfatSTUPIDS, are mostly unaware of the disadvantages they have in the online space. The funny thing about new bloggers is that they, too, are unaware of some of the distinct advantages they have in the online space.
Emotional distance. When someone's in your face, there's a natural instinct to react immediately. Furthermore, your face can give away a myriad of emotions that you'd rather not have your "aggressor" see. In the online space, you have time to construct a response that is value based instead of "get the hell out of my face" based. Meaning, you can react in the classiest way possible.
Blocking. How nice would it be if, in the non-virtual world, you could physically block someone as soon as garbage comes out of their mouth? I envision a large box just falling from the sky and trapping them inside long enough for me to move away from them. Don't be afraid to block people from your blog, Twitter account or Facebook account if they're being obnoxious. And don't let anyone tell you how much obnoxious you have to tolerate before you do that.
Engagement. Sometimes, it's possible that a troll isn't really a troll. More than a few times, I've come across people who are simply unaware of online etiquette. If this is the case, I may politely point out that I understand their overall point, but I don't like the way they're saying it. If it's someone I know, I might e-mail them separately. Being online gives you the advantage of conscientious construction. As opposed to, "Just shut up already, you're a moron."
La, La, La, I Can't Hear You. My absolute favorite way of dealing with a troll is pretending they don't exist. I had a friend who was being harassed by a troll and her approach was to simply skip that comment while replying to others. It was terrific. I think the worst thing you can do to a troll is act like they don't exist.
Always Be You. The Best, Kindest, Most Awesome Version of You.
I'm sure there are more strategies and advantages that can be shared in the comments here, and I invite everyone to share how they deal with trolls - whether they appear on Facebook, Twitter, on blogs or under bridges. I do want to leave you with this, though: the manner in which you react in both virtual and non-virtual situations is always up to you. Your reaction is ultimately a statement of internal beliefs and values. Don't let some troll tell you who you are.
Unless who you are is someone who is getting free designer Italian shoes. Which would be awesome.
Speaking of dialogue (wait, what?), we've resumed recording Hey! That's My Hummus!. This week, we discussed that six year old kid that got suspended for singing LMFAO and the concept of "brown" face. If you're not subscribed on iTunes, you can stream the audio directly from our site.