I suppose it had to happen eventually. When you write things and post them on the internet, you are making yourself vulnerable. That is part of what being an artist is in the first place. Whether you sing on stage, act, paint, write, or otherwise create, you have to make yourself vulnerable, to criticism, indifference, rejection, and sometimes obnoxious bullying. You must realize that some people out there just like to cause trouble, say nasty stuff, and stir things up in a non-helpful manner. The internet has a special name for these people. We call them trolls.
Trolls are not to be taken seriously. That is the first thing you must realize when dealing with one. The trick is to spot them early, before they make you too upset. Their sole purpose is to be as horrible as possible, under the protection of internet anonymity, just for the sake of being horrible. Whether any of those things they are saying are true or not doesn’t matter. Trolls are like the devil’s advocate played by the devil himself. Contrarians, annoying, mean, and word-twisting, and I got one myself on this very blog.
As Tenor Dad continues to slowly grow in popularity, it goes without saying that new and different kinds of people are paying attention to it. Trolls are a rite of passage, albeit not a very fun one. I was surfing the internet the other night when my computer informed me that someone had left a comment on one of my posts. Naturally I was very excited, because no one ever leaves comments on my posts. Not that I don’t get feedback, but it is normally via Facebook.
Well, I read the comment, and it was pretty horrible. In fact, it was downright upsetting. The things they said about me, and my family, were quite hurtful, and I re-read the post in question, wondering if they were right. That was when the second comment appeared. This comment was even worse (and much longer) than the first, on a different post, and used foul language to insult everyone from me to my dead great-grandmother. That was when I knew I had a troll.
Someone had discovered my blog and was going post to post saying monstrous things about me and the people I loved. Ahhhhh, problem solved. I no longer had to take what they were saying seriously. Even if they really did think I was a terrible parent, it didn’t matter. The troll was not trying to engage me in productive debate, or even trying to offer any constructive criticism. No, the goal of the troll is to be an a-hole. Mission accomplished, my anonymously posting buddy.
I quickly went through and deleted the evil comments, and every time a new one was posted I would immediately take it down. Eventually they got bored and went away. It’s been a few days now and they haven’t been back, so I think I was just a momentary late-night distraction for them and not some holy crusade (thank goodness).
What the incident really did for me was to reaffirm my desire to be the best parent I can be. Someone once told me, and I have held it as true ever since, that when someone insults you, it really only hurts when it was something you were upset about anyway. If you are happy with your life and with who you are, you don’t have to be upset when someone calls you names. You can laugh it off, because you know they are just being a jerk. No, it only hurts if it was hurting anyway. If you get good grades and feel confident in your general problem solving abilities, you are only slightly annoyed and offended when someone calls you stupid, but if you have been struggling with your weight and feeling unattractive and they call you fat, well, that just cuts too deep.
The only times in my life when I have been truly hurt by other people’s comments are when they have really hit home and touched on things in my life that I wish were different. That’s why when the troll told me in that first comment that my wife should divorce me because I was always traveling and never there for my kids, it made me sad. Because I do worry about how my being gone for weeks at a time will affect my family. And all I can do is work hard to make sure that they know that I love them and that I am there for them. So thanks troll, for reminding me that I love my family. And thanks for not saying that I am fat. I am a little sensitive about my weight.