What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger...
I love the Internet. Really, I do. I meet new people, learn new things, and discover new hobbies and events with just a few keystrokes. My self-confidence and ability to interact offline have improved because of all those nights during college, where I'd spend hours on MOOs and chatrooms talking to people from around the world.
Many I developed friendships with, so many more I still keep in touch with today.
|I was drunk at a frat party... don't judge me, dangit!|
But there's always the inevitable downside to the Internet: social media trolls. If you go on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Reddit, or even a news website's article comments section, you can find them easier than STDs at a Charlie Sheen sex party. They're relentless, they're brainless, and they're more vicious than a high school female cheerleader clique.
They're also some of the best teachers on learning patience, and how to wisely pick your battles. Here's the 5 best lessons I learned from the worst, most disgusting personalities to ever lurk the World Wide Web.
Lesson #1: They Have No Power Unless You Let Them
Trolls, by their very nature, love to gain power over others. Emotional abuse and personal attacks are their stock and trade, because they have the power of anonymity. They can claim to be anyone, they can claim to be anything, and they can claim to hurt you.
As long as you believe they can, they control you. But their greatest strength is their greatest weakness, and you can't use it against them in a frontal assault of facts and figures. You won't even scratch them by using anger and emotion to fight back, it only gives them power from the satisfaction of knowing they hit you hard.
|Well THAT escalated rather quickly...|
If you want to take down a troll, and make them rue the day they got a computer... watch YouTube videos of comedians destroying hecklers during standup routines. Develop your skills in sarcasm, slapstick humor, and tact. Practice regularly and often. And don't hold back at playing head games, when you respond to the trolls by turning their statements into puns, double-entendres, and subtle backhanded compliments.
Just don't swear, when you deliver the blows. Trolls know they're hurting you if you reply by cussing and calling them names... but they get rather pissed when you keep your language PG-13 at the very most.
Show them nothing, because nothing is what they are and nothing is all they're worth.
Lesson #2: Focus On The Targets Before Deploying The Final Blow
In the previous lesson, I mentioned the need to not use foul or vulgar language when fighting with trolls. This is very, very important, because once you start swearing at them you've already lost the battle. It's only a matter of time before the troll does what trolls always do to good people and Communities: report them to the website for violations. Every single social media website has a rule stipulating that you cannot use abusive language or initiate in personal attacks (although Facebook generally bans you for reporting the trolls that break the rule. Thanks, Zuckhead.)
|That moment when doing the right thing screws you over...|
That's their final blow. That's how they think they can destroy anyone, to prove they've beaten and dominated you... but it's also your Doomsday Weapon. Trolls are aware of this, somewhere deep in their fragile little minds that fears getting bitchslapped by karma. They know you can use it against them, and they know that if you do they can just wait out the ban or set up another account within a half hour.
There may be times where several trolls gang up on you. Keep in mind who crosses that line, and who doesn't. Your Notifications tab is essential, because there may be one or two that decide to take things personal and grab your profile pic in a socially unacceptable attempt to humiliate you.
Only report the trolls that cross the line. Leave the others alone, as a warning that next time... there won't be a next time. Do it often enough, and they'll know to stay the hell away from you.
Lesson #3: Trolls Don't Exist, But People Do
This is a critical lesson in learning to pick what's worth fighting for and who's worth fighting at all. The online world is a magnified version of the offline world; as I mentioned before, the anonymity is what gives us all the equal footing and equal power. You can be a 14-year-old girl or a 54-year-old CEO, and as the saying goes...
|...except if you're a Neko.|
It's easy to lose track of where the online world of fantasy ends and the real world ends, especially if social media is a large part of your work and life. When that border blurs, you start losing your definition of reality and yourself. You start becoming the online persona even when you shut off the computer.
Trolls don't exist, but people do.
Trolls are only the realm of the Internet, the world of fantasy. Cyber-Sidhe. Bogeymen and nightmares, who disappear at dawn. They only have power in the darkness that anonymity brings, because they can say whatever they want without getting fired or thrown in jail. (Not always, though. It's starting to bite a bunch of them in the ass when it comes to job applications.)
In essence, trolls are nothing more than an arrangement of patterned dots of light on your phone's screen. That's it. They can't escape your laptop, they can't jump out of your XBox, they can't hide under your couch to leave you presents. They're dots of light, powered by a machine that you control. All you have to do is press a button, and they altogether cease to exist.
But people do exist in the real world. They're you, they're me, they're our parents and kids, our neighbors and coworkers, everyone from the janitor to the President of the United States, we all exist and we all matter. We all have our hopes, dreams, joys, and failures.
We're all people. And if you treat people the way you want to be treated, you might prevent a person from becoming a troll. Never underestimate the power of a random act of kindness; as you grow stronger in confidence by defeating trolls online, you become more confident in the offline world. And it turns out that it's not your imagination, you'll start wanting to walk away from living online, too.
Trolls are only a persona of a hurting soul. Forgive yourself first, then bury the hatchet with others.
Lesson #4: They Don't Pay Your Bills
Don't get me wrong, I rely on interacting with others on social media for traffic to my YouTube channels, my blogs, and my company website (which is why I cannot stress it enough -- keep it clean, folks!) I know that SEO isn't as simple as hashtags, metadata, and crosslinks; people have to feel they can trust you before they place the first order.
|I'd trust this guy, there's nothing up his sleeve!|
The Internet never forgets... and it's even less forgiving. If you have online business ventures, that's what decides whether you eat steak or you eat franks and beans.
Trolls are useful in their own way, because if you can get a good handle on how to destroy them without getting into trouble or being reported, you grow credibility in how you handle disruptive customers and coworkers. On the other hand, you can't spend every minute of your day fighting trolls, because while it is fun at first... there comes a point where you realize that every moment you spend on trolls is another moment you don't spend on clients.
Time management is going to be your best friend, along with prioritizing. I love a good fight, but even growing up on the streets of Miami you learn quickly that some fights ain't worth the trouble.
Lesson #5: It's Not About You
I mentioned in the third lesson that the online world is only a magnification of the offline world. It's actually been proven in research projects since the mid-1990's. The key to the filter going bye-bye as soon as you go wi-fi is the freedom of anonymity. You can say anything you want, and there are a lot of places where you can say things that most sane, law-abiding people don't consider appropriate.
|I find your lack of civility... disturbing...|
I also mentioned that trolls exist only in the fantasy world of the Internet, because in the real world people don't have anywhere near the freedom from consequences in what they say and do. Most people don't feel they have any power at all in their lives. They wake up, go to work, come home, go to sleep, that's it. Every two weeks, they get a paycheck that reminds them that they're failures in life. They turn on the tv to escape the hellish reality they've created, only to be indoctrinated by the belief that if they use this product or follow this pop star, they'll have everything they ever wanted in life.
Trolls are just the online version of people who have nothing to stand by, that always try to tear down people who have everything to stand for. They're weak, they're powerless, but it's a choice they made to become the sheep.
Just as by you choosing to pursue the goals in life that motivate and inspire others, and earning your success and reputation as a leader among men, it's a choice you make to become a wolf. And as that saying goes...
|Focus on the people who matter.|
So understand that if you come across a troll, it really isn't about you. You didn't cause the troll's life to be pathetic. You didn't cause the troll to not pursue his or her dreams of success. You had no control over anything that's happened in their lives so far... and whatever happens to them in the future is of no consequence to you.
I've gone up against a lot of different types of trolls since I first joined the Internet in 1995. Teabaggers, RWNJs, Fundies, Preppers, HillBots, BushBots, SexBots, Swifties, Hasbara, Vegans, stolen valor, folks who might qualify for a visit by the FBI... I've met them and I've learned so much about how to be the better person I am because of everything they're not. Their worst mistakes were my best teachers.
And to the people that play those trolls... as long as you have breath, you still have a chance to achieve your dreams. Make something better of your life, where you are now is not the fate of great men. Time is money, and you're worth it too.
Stay awesome and always keep it classy.
-- Nick Moore aka Tougher Than Wolverine
I'd love to hear your questions and thoughts on this topic in the comments section below, or by emailing me at ProjectAsylumMagazine@Gmail.com. If you like Tougher Than Wolverine and want to share it with others, by all means do so (and give credit where credit is due, please!)
© 2016 Nick Moore / Project Asylum Books all rights reserved.