In crime shows, it's fun to see the computer mastermind exposed. Usually the perpetrator is a lonely youngster, ignored by the popular girls, and he can pretend to be whatever he wants as he slouches over the keyboard.
Trolls. I am happy to report that my comment feed has been violated only rarely by such sad, sad people. For that is how I see them: Sad, sad people.
It is simply cowardice. While trolling, there is no accountability. If admired peers were present, trolls wouldn't type like that. It's a cheap attempt to boost oneself by bringing others down.
But even as they mindlessly fling out insults to alleviate their own feelings of misery and powerlessness, those off-the-cuff remarks can do damage.
Stephanie Rosenbloom's "Dealing With Digital Cruelty" cites professional advice for how to navigate internet nastiness.
One way to become proactive is to ask yourself if those barbs you can’t seem to shrug off have an element of truth. (Glaringly malicious posts can be dismissed.) If the answer is yes, Professor Suler has some advice:
Let your critics be your gurus.
“You can treat them as an opportunity,” he said. Ask yourself why you’re ruminating on a comment. “Why does it bother you?” Professor Suler said. “What insecurities are being activated in you?”
I was not particularly taken with this counsel, since I would be spending way more time agonizing than the few seconds it took for a complete stranger to post an insult. Then I would dwell more on my perceived failings than actually progressing.
Yet even when a person is alone, humor can be effective. Try reading nasty comments aloud in a goofy voice, Professor Pawelski advised, so that when your mind automatically plays back the comment it sounds absurd, or at the very least loses a bit of its bite.
Ah, Daffy Duck voice. Or Yoda voice! "Suck, you do."
In the quest to quell the cruel, we often fail to savor the good. And there is, despite the meanies, much good whirring around cyberspace. Some 70 percent of Internet users said they “had been treated kindly or generously by others online,” according to a Pew report early this year.
Rather than scrolling past a dozen positive comments and lingering on the sole exception, what if you did the opposite? And what if you shared a couple of the good ones with friends instead of sharing the one that hurt you? Research shows that it takes more time for positive experiences to become lodged in our long-term memory, so it’s not just pleasurable to dwell on a compliment — it’s shrewd.
In general, we focus more on the bad than the good. Being grateful doesn't just happen; one has to be aware.
That reminded me of a story I heard from Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twersky; he was being evaluated, and received scores of positive feedback, except for one in the negative. That single bad review amongst all that glowing compliments really got to him.
Don't let the gremlins get you.