About a year I ago I started blogging and coming up with content to put on the internet. I figured with the rise in social media, being out in the public eye would be an excellent way for me to spread the hopeful message of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). It felt terrific not only being of service to people in my community but to others from all around the world. Most people I came in contact with who learned about what I do for a living and the power of REBT seemed to get almost as excited about it as I was! It wasn’t until recently that I began experiencing what many of us on social media may already come in contact with— I started getting trolled. Some people whom I’ve never met and who knew nothing about REBT or my message targeted me and did so in a public fashion.
So why do people troll? The question can’t be answered with a one-worded response but rather by a collection of different hypotheses that speak to how someone would get incentives to act this way. When you think back to the days before the internet (if old enough to remember) if you wanted to offend someone you generally had to do it to their face. Most of us aren’t sociopathic, so seeing someone in front of us hurt by a destructive comment would cause many of us to cut back on the insults. This interaction may dissuade the bully from continuing to patronize the person after facing the repercussions of their actions. We don’t immediately see other’s reactions when trolling online.
Often people who troll are going through a lot of personal turmoil themselves. When happy it’s not in our nature to look for others to prey upon. People who troll frequently suffer from depression and or anger issues of which they feel the need to attack others to feel better about themselves. Bullies don’t tend to be content with themselves and their identity in the world and therefore find short term happiness in making others feel inferior to them. In so doing they give permission to like themselves again. Unfortunately, this self-acceptance only lasts for a brief amount of time until the cycle of bullying continues in order to regain that short spark of personal satisfaction again. It’s easier to bully online when you can hide behind a computer monitor and can virtually do it from anywhere at any time. You no longer have to wait to go back to school the next day to pick on the nerdy kid on the playground, you can bully right from the comfort of your own home.
Trolling is usually just a symptom of a bigger problem. I know it’s hard to have compassion for those who have transgressed against us, but we cannot put out a fire with fire. Even if someone trolls us it’s important to remember not to troll them right back. It’s easier to blame the person for starting it without taking personal responsibility of not stooping down to their level. Their misbehavior is just a part of who they are but does not define their entirety. Let’s dislike opinions not people, and disapprove of actions instead of individuals. We can defend ourselves without using aggression. We can express a conflicting viewpoint addressing the discrepancy in someone’s argument without condemning the whole person for it. It may sound pollyanna, but those who have the most hatred in their hearts need the most amount of love.