Troll Outbreak: Another Pandemic, Online and in Our Personal Lives

Troll Outbreak: Another Pandemic, Online and in Our Personal Lives

I encountered a few trolls this week regarding an article I had written about possession, which I guess is appropriate in light of the subject matter. I wasn’t exactly expecting it because it was something I had written several weeks back, and when I saw the notifications it really did take me by surprise, and for a second it gave me that “uh oh” feeling in my chest, which of course is their aim. –but I shook it off, and it ultimately got me thinking about trolls in general. 

“Trolls” are people who either out of anger, hatred or sport post insulting, offensive, sarcastic or derogatory comments on the internet and social media in order to deliberately upset someone, cause trouble, harass or directly attack another individual, group or business in order to damage their reputation under the guise of voicing opinions and free speech. Sometimes referred to as “Haters,”  these people are keyboard bullies who many times are also looking for attention at the expense of others. A growing number of these types of individuals even create multiple fake accounts, turning trolling into their hobby, and this malicious mindset is becoming more and more prevalent and normalized in our society day-by-day.  

Personally, I do not care for the term “trolls.” I like to think most of these individuals are not necessarily bad people, but are simply bored, poor communicators who tend to let their negative-ego do the typing. It may sound silly, but the image that “trolls” invokes is extremely derogatory to me, even though it usually is very much inline with the energy these individuals are expressing. –but nonetheless, this is how they are referred to by society. 

It seems to me that there are two categories of trolls. Those that know exactly what they are doing (aware), and those who are simply reactionary people with poor impulse control (unaware).

My trolls were of course vicious and insulting while displaying an air of superiority, but they also tried twisting my words to suit their agenda in order to discredit the content of my message, and this tactic seems to be typical across the board. While it is not the first time I’ve encountered these types of personalities when working on controversial campaigns or projects, it was the first time that this kind of visceral online-hatred and demeaning sarcasm was directed specifically and solely towards me on a personal level. 

What was I going to do? How was I going to handle this? I was never under the delusion that everyone should agree with my point of view, but I had never actually thought about how I would deal with trolls before. Do I delete their comments? –or just ignore them? What should I do?

After a few moments of pondering my best course of action, I knew that in this instance I had to face them, and not cower, or ignore the messages. In my specific case, I decided to respectfully stand my ground, and be kind while doing so in order to set an example that although we may have differences of opinion, which is perfectly fine, we should never be disrespectful or mean, even when dealing with people who do not extend us the same courtesy or civility. 

So I did, and that was that. I went on about my day, and got my work done without letting it bug me. Later, I revisited the encounter, thinking about the characteristics of troll behavior, and began reflecting on how I may have been guilty of this in the past, too. You see, trolls don’t only exist online, they also exist in our personal lives. –and although I’ve never been a troll to strangers on social media, or attacked people just to get a laugh or dopamine hit, I have certainly had extremely negative reactions to others when I found myself in emotionally fearful situations or disagreements where I was triggered, and felt personally threatened or betrayed. From time to time, I was an unaware troll. 

Before my experience with Nutritional Exorcism, and learning that negative reactions stem from fear, if I perceived myself as being attacked or double-crossed by another person my automatic reaction would sometimes admittedly be verbally vicious or sarcastic as a means of self-defense. It was a terrible feeling when it happened, and it's not pleasant to think back on now, but the truth is there were many times that I did not know how to process or identify the feelings of fear and anger, and I would go on the attack in an attempt to make the person who I felt had wronged or challenged me back down, and never “come at me” ever again. I may have seemed cut-throat or ruthless to the other person involved, but in actuality I was simply scared, felt threatened or was heartbroken, and I didn’t know how to communicate what I was feeling in a rational or calm manner at that time.

The truth is most of us are not taught how to deal with fear and anger, let alone communicate it, and when we or our beliefs are threatened many of us automatically attack, just like I used to sometimes do. Living this way is not fun, and it can lead to years and years of unresolved guilt, self-shaming, resentment and anger for all parties involved after the interaction is over if left unresolved. –but the good news is that it is possible to learn how to properly deal with fear and anger by becoming more aware of our thoughts, and working to eliminate our reactionary tendencies which improves our overall ability to communicate.

Every thought we think, every word we say and every action we take can be boiled down to Love or Hate. –and Hate or Hatefulness is a product of fear. Whether it's fear of losing something or someone, or fear of being wrong, fear is pretty simple, but it has a lot of symptoms. These symptoms can be anger, jealousy, envy, greed, hostility, and so on. All negative emotions one way or another stem from fear.

Understandably, many of us are afraid to feel our fears because it clearly doesn’t feel good. –but we must learn to allow ourselves to feel these unpleasant feelings in order to neutralize them, and prevent them from turning us into a troll, and negatively affecting our lives and the lives of those around us. We can first begin to do this through self-reflection, and identifying past events where fearful behavior reared its ugly head. When we think about a past interaction or disagreement that got out of hand, we tend to relive the same feelings we felt in the moment, but the goal here is to look at these instances with fresh eyes, and neutrally observe them from all perspectives. As we process these past events, it is important to ask why this interaction triggered fear and sparked anger within us. Whether the answer is that you ultimately felt betrayed, used, abandoned, disregarded, or that your intellect or belief system was being questioned or challenged, when we can correctly pinpoint the negative emotion that was egging on our anger we can begin to heal these triggers, and apply forgiveness to ourselves and others in order to reconcile the situation, and the pain it may have caused. As we work through identifying why we were feeling fear during these specific encounters of the past, as fears or anger arises in the present moment, we can more easily recognize what is happening as it's happening, and we become better equipped to keep calm and properly communicate our feelings and perspective while remaining respectful to the other person or group involved. This is the difference between reacting and responding. 

By learning to respond instead of react impulsively, we can monitor and identify our fears and feelings in real time. This is inline with the phrase “think before you speak.” As we become able to do this, we can ask ourselves things like “--am I being mean?”  or “--am I being emotionally harmful or insulting?” in order to prevent ourselves from acting in the role of the troll.

As our self-awareness strengthens, and we become unafraid of feeling our fears, we cease in allowing reactionary thoughts and actions to sour our daily dealings and relationships, and we in turn become more effective communicators who are able to cope with disagreements and disappointments without letting anger overtake us. This leads to increased peacefulness for ourselves, and those around us even when we do not see eye to eye.

It's also important to not let people tempt or trick you into being triggered. Staying calm is key. Trolls and bullies are everywhere, they are a huge part of The Gotcha Game, online and in real life, but they only have power when we let them knock us off kilter, and allow them to get under our skin. We can regain our power, and eliminate fear of these personalities by understanding and recognizing exactly what they are, and what they aim to do. 

Whether heckling or harassing someone in person, making comments online or through mail and email, sometimes, these people can actually be hired guns. Trolls are used by businesses, social movements, political organizations and even governments against individuals and organizations who are doing good work.  Trolls are utilized to harass, scare or demoralize productive people from their personal missions by overwhelming and bombarding them with negativity and hatred in order to distract them, and deplete their energy. 

Hired or not, all trolls thrive on getting a rise out of their target, and in many situations are looking to bait a person into saying something that can then be used against them. Aware or unaware, coaxing out your negative-ego is the troll's ultimate goal. So, the only way to overcome this is to not take the bait. Although sometimes easier said than done, remaining as neutral as possible, and staying out of an angry or fearful mindset is crucial. Whatever you do, nothing can be gained by stooping to their level. Do not feed the Troll. 

Depending on the specific situation, whether you decide to respond, ignore or block trolls completely, it helps to try as best as possible to not take their actions and comments personally, and we should find a way to be forgiving of their transgressions. 

Whether dealing with online trolls or people in your personal life, we should not willingly allow or accept abuse, or harmful energies and actions that are directed towards us from individuals that are sociopathic, and do not feel remorse or honor respectful boundaries. –but it is possible to forgive a person who exhibits these types of Dark behaviors, and to be completely neutral towards them while also knowing that for your own health and wellness you may need to set proper boundaries, or distance yourself from them completely (block them).

In all situations, extending forgiveness to others is the process by which a victim undergoes a change in feeling, and attitude regarding an offense, and voluntarily lets go of negative emotions, such as harboring vengefulness or ill-will in favor of neutrality, and instead chooses to wish the offender well. To forgive others or circumstances is the most generous thing we can do for ourselves. When we forgive others for transgressions it frees us from negative emotional entanglements that encourage judgment, resentment, bitterness, anger, and hatred to harbor inside of our hearts and minds. 

We should also remember to grant ourselves forgiveness for any past or present actions we have committed that were fueled by fear or anger, like trolling. Forgiving ourselves is a necessary part of emotional healing that alleviates guilt, shame and self judgment. Bestowing grace onto ourselves allows peacefulness in to soothe our soul, and inspires emotional growth as we forge ahead toward better temperament and emotional wellness.

We can not sit back, and allow troll behavior to be further normalized. If we instead lead by example by making a dedicated effort through our own actions to show more respect and kindness to each other, and stop using hateful words and sarcasm as weapons in moments where we are triggered or do not agree, we can help make our world a more pleasant place. –but until the trolls cease to exist, remember, you’re calm is your superpower.

-Mallory


References:

Life and "Gotcha Game Theory"
https://mallorykennedy.com/blogs/nutritional-exorcism/life-and-gotcha-game-theory

Forgiveness
https://ascensionglossary.com/index.php/Forgiveness

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