Spend any time saying anything on any social media platform and you’re going to find yourself the target of trolls at some point. It’s part of the job, it comes with the territory and while I never condone unkindness, bitchiness or the dissemination of untruths, I’ve come to realise that they have the right to say what they feel they need to say.
I’ve been the subject of some pretty nasty trolling over the years. I’m not going to go into the specifics but suffice to say that days spent crying at breakfast, over things people I’d never met were saying about me on the internet, have been a reality for me. I say this not to elicit sympathy but to convey that even the most thick-skinned of us can be affected by the power of words.
I’m also not talking about those people who tell me that they disagree with what I’m saying but do it in a way that’s constructive and allows either for us to converse without it descending into bullying or for us to politely agree to disagree and move on. Most don’t even feel the need to express their dissent – they simply scroll on by or unfollow. All of the above are perfectly acceptable ways of interacting with someone online. As I’ve said time and time again, you can do and say what you like, as long as you’re not a dick about it. Thankfully, these people are by far the majority.
What I am talking about are, for want of a better word (and I really wish there was one), trolls. Trolls are people that go out of their way to find people to decimate online. It may because of the way they look, the things they say, the house they live in. It may be because of the names they’ve given their kids, the way they talk and the job they do. It may be because of the money they earn (and yes, they’ll do what they can to look that stuff up) or it may be because they made a mistake and there’s nothing that trolls like more than a trial by forum fire to right a wrong.
Whatever the reason, if you find yourself the subject of this kind of trolling, it’s easy to have a knee jerk reaction. It’s easy to read the discussion and feel every word slam you in the gut. It’s easy to want to come out fighting and to do what you can to prove to them how unjustified their words or their arguments are. But here’s what I’ve realised…that’s not possible. These are people who simply disagree with something you said or did, these are people who simply love the fight and I get it. It’s alluring and powerful to have a platform to say whatever the hell you like with little to no repercussion.
As a blogger/influencer (again, let’s come up with some better terminology) we don’t have the same privilege. We are held accountable time and time again either by our followers (who absolutely have the right to do so..again, just don’t be a dick about it) or by the ASA or the social platforms themselves. How wonderful it would be to be able to post, say, do whatever we like without any consequence? As it is, for those of us that make a buck or two on social media (the rights and wrongs of that are for another blog), we have to toe the line and for that reason, there’s absolutely nothing to be gained by going head to head with trolls.
So, here’s what I’ve come to realise. Trolls have a right to say what they want to say. It is a free world after all and just because we don’t like the bitching and moaning and mud-slinging doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be able to do it if that’s what they want to do. Just as we encourage those who don’t like what we say to unfollow, the same can be said for us. We don’t have to read those forum discussions and we certainly don’t have to shine a light on them. I’m sure I have some personal friends that occasionally get together and bitch and moan about me over a bottle of wine if I happen to have done something to piss them off. I don’t like the thought of it and I hope it doesn’t happen too often (!) but if that’s what they need to do then who am I to deny them that? We’ve all been those friends bitching and moaning over a bottle of wine, haven’t we? Perhaps these forums are just that – a chance for those frustrated with watching us grow and thrive to vent and feel better about themselves? I get it.
So, let them go nuts. Let them chat about whatever they want to chat about. At the end of the day, you do you and let them do them. We put ourselves out there and there will always be a small minority of people that get a kick out of trying to take us down piece by piece. As I sit here in my office, typing away, I am confident in my own ongoing efforts to be a good person. I don’t always get it right but I do nothing with malicious intent and I always try to own my mistakes. If people don’t like it, that’s ok with me. I don’t want to get in the way of the one thing that gives them pleasure, even if that is spouting vitriolic stuff about people they’ve never met.
It’s part of the job but it’s not a part that I have to engage with, recognise or acknowledge. Thank you to everyone who lets me know when my name comes up in these discussions – I really appreciate it – but I’m genuinely not interested in hearing about it.