With great power comes great responsibility.
Do you remember that quote in Spiderman that Uncle Ben says to Spiderman?
I don’t know why but it has always stuck with me.
We live in a time where the every day person has tremendous opportunity to wield incredible power and no more is this true than for the blogger. Within any given niche there are those that lead the pack, who post prolifically, who have interesting things to say, who inspire us, who have gained a massive, extremely loyal following.
It is this loyal following that brands bank on and that have made some bloggers quite wealthy.
It is also the reason we need to be thinking really carefully about what it is we want to be putting out into the world, and how we want to influence the following we have.
When people listen to what we have to say, when they like us enough to follow us, en masse, we need to take great care.
No more is this true than today in the world of the troll. A troll is a person who will comment with something negative on a blog, or social media page, that is solely aimed to aggravate and illicit a response from the person who owns the page. They are counter culture to the blog. They are agitators and are usually very good at what they do.
Online trolls are pervasive and prolific. The anonymity that the internet provides means that trolls are increasing. They are cyber bullies whose sole aim is to create mayhem.
We know this. We are aware of this. The best thing to do is to delete the comment, block the troll and get on with your life. They are seeking the spotlight and the best and most effective strategy is not to give it to them.
Yet some bloggers insist on engaging them. Which of course is their choice.
But it is what follows that worries me greatly.
The vitriol espoused by their following is nothing short of shocking. Their behaviour is often a lot worse than the troll, calling them names, attacking their character, attacking who they are, their intelligence, their ethnicity, their appearance, their names, the list goes on. This of course is all in support of the offended blogger, I get that. But it doesn’t make it right.
But they deserve it, I hear you cry.
How does attacking them in the way that they attacked, not you, but a blogger you probably have never met make this situation any better? Answer: It doesn’t. It makes it worse. It gives them the spotlight they crave thereby spurring them on, reaffirms the fact that they are horrible people which is probably what led them to be a troll in the first place, and more importantly it sends even more negativity out into the world that we simply do not need. And, frankly, it doesn’t put you in a very good light at all. Indignant or not, you have a choice to just not say anything.
Yumi Stynes said it beautifully when she was criticised recently for taking her beautiful baby, Mercy, to a red carpet event dressed only in her nappy. Derryn Hench, a man whose sole aim is to antagonise, and agitate, and stir up toxicity, criticised her choice in a brutally cruel way. A couple of other men chose to follow suit. Yumi chose not to respond initially and then a few days later explained why.
If you ever feel outrage at something you see online, I suggest you look twice. You’re usually being played. And watch how far that outrage goes: sometimes the behavior of the outraged is far worse than that which provoked it.
We abhor the trolls. We wish they weren’t there. But they are. Part of the human condition is that there will be people who will say and do horrible things just to get a rise out of us. Their lives are small and this behaviour makes them feel big and important in some twisted way. People like this have existed forever.
But as bloggers, with a following, we have a choice. We have a choice not to give them air to breathe. We have a choice to use our words for good rather than to whip up a frenzy of vitriol. We have a choice to act with dignity and encourage our readers to do the same. We have a choice to choose not to become as bad as the troll themselves. We have a choice to offer the world kindness instead of hate. We always have a choice.
Until next time,