Please, Don't Feed the Trolls - Part 1
Trolls. And I don’t mean the little nudists with cotton candy hair. I mean the evil lurkers of the internet, who find something dark and awful to say about a news story where a baby saves a kitten from a burning building, and then spew it into the comments section completely sans filter.
Now, relax. I’m not some old technophobe complaining about how the “interwebs” are evil. I’m saying that the internet (and texting, emailing, etc. etc.) allows us to act in an evil way. And makes it damn convenient too. So why is the internet helping us be jerks?
The first reason is that typing a comment after an article, or even a post on Facebook, is incredibly immediate. You can say things as they pop into your head, without much need for self-editing. But, what’s not immediate is the way it’s received. You’re not staring into the face of the person reading your comments, which helps to create a “distance” between sender and recipient that doesn’t exist elsewhere in daily life - perhaps with the exception of sending hand-written letters, which I’m sure you do allllll the time. (You’ll notice we’ve not included a comments section on this page, so please feel free to email any complaints about how you do, in fact, write letters all the time to email@example.com. Better yet, write us a letter).
So if there’s this “space” between us that’s allowing our inner trolls to run wild, what do we do about it? You’re probably expecting me to say you need to visualize a real live human receiving your messages or some other hippy wisdom… But I’m not. Empathy is great, but we can’t just conjure it out of nowhere. I think we should all start smaller. A lot smaller: ask “why?”
A sense of curiosity will cure most every urge to be a jerk - online or otherwise. Instead of ranting that someone is the dumbest person alive, maybe we ask “Why don’t I see this the same way they do? What’s different in our perspectives? And why?”