You don’t have to respond to everything that happens to you or that you see online. Sometimes it’s OK to just let it go and move along without saying anything in response. This doesn’t mean you agree or disagree with what you saw; it just means you chose not to take the bait. One of the most important things I’ve learned is that you can’t decide what you feel, but you can most certainly choose how to react.
We all intuitively know a troll when we see one, but it isn’t always so easy to spot due to the nature of our reactions. “Trolling behaviors typically include deliberately posting inflammatory comments and argumentative messages in an attempt to provoke, disrupt and upset others.”
There are actual people whose work is to troll others to create confusion and push an agenda. Facebook and other social media platforms are having a bit of a hard time removing content that’s professionally made to troll others. These people’s job consists of posting all kinds of comments and posts to elicit strong emotional reactions from others.
However, not everyone is doing it for work. Many of us have engaged in trolling behavior at some point on social media.
The line between trolls and online bullying is easily crossed.
Imagine this: you are scrolling through your social media of choice when you see something you feel strongly about. You immediately read the comments to see the overall sentiment; if the comments are to your liking, you may just like some of them and move along, but if they are not, you may start voicing your own opinion.
Someone may call you “dumb” or easily “brainwashed” (or likely something much worse).
Things then escalate.
Instead of letting it go, you feel the need to defend yourself, so you start insulting the other person (or troll) back. Pretty soon, you are not in it to voice your opinion but to prove the point that the other person is, indeed, an idiot, and you are not.
How the interaction ends is irrelevant most of the time. You have just spent a significant amount of emotions on something that didn’t really matter. You didn’t change anyone and only ended up working up yourself over nothing. Proving our points to people who are not interested in listening (that may also include you) is fruitless work.
One time, I posted something on social media that was controversial. I’m a big believer in transparency; thus, I acted accordingly. I got some information from reliable sources and posted the news to my community.
Some people lost their minds.
It was regarding COVID-19. As you are aware, this is a big divide in America. COVID-19 seems to be one of the topics on which Americans diverge.
While my post was informative, a few people felt the need to insult me and call me names. They are people from the community I live in but who don’t know me personally.
I was a little upset because I’m not the kind of person that likes to get in trouble, and it felt like I had done something wrong at the time and was, in fact, in trouble.
But luckily for me, I have been working on handling my reactions for a few years now. I couldn’t stop feeling a bit guilty but reminded myself why I did what I did. I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do. With that in mind, I choose to not engage with those that were calling me names.
Their comments were not a reflection of me but a reflection of them.
I ended up not reading the comments myself because they didn’t matter. Many of the mean commenters were just letting out their anger and frustration on me, and because it was from the safe haven of their own homes, they felt that it was OK.
While I was not personally engaged, my family did come out to support me. It was hard for my sister to watch what was being posted without wanting to defend me.
The urge to defend ourselves is natural. Online trolls can seem like they are constantly attacking us or some of the ideals we believe in. This is why they elicit such strong reactions in us, but we don’t need to react to what they say or post.
It is not necessary to engage for you to stay true to your beliefs or convictions. By giving someone else what they want, a strong reaction out of you, you are giving a bit of your power away.
You don’t have to. It's your choice.