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Dealing with Internet Trolls

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Guest blogger Lisa Frame: Losing a child is quite possibly the hardest thing in the world a parent will ever go through. When they lose that child and are then subjected to bullying, it's even worse. This past week, the child of someone who goes by the Twitter name fierceandfiesty left this world at 7 weeks old. If I had my druthers, I would not discuss the cause of death in this post. I don't know fierceandfiesty and didn't follow her on Twitter. However, as I was sipping my morning coffee, a tweet came across my stream, asking for prayers for this family. So, after a quick prayer, I went back to sipping. Then the tweets really started rolling out -- including one that caused me to become incensed.

dealing with internet trolls
The cause of this child's death is not important. What concerns me, as well as so many others in the social-media community and world at large, is the bullying that this mother is now experiencing via social-media channels. People are telling her that because she chose for her son to have a standard (but optional) hospital procedure while he was under sedation for a different procedure, the extra step killed her son. Instead of being supported, she has been damned. What could have been a chance to offer open arms of support and tell her story in a form of advocacy has been destroyed.

I talked with someone I consider an expert at dealing with cyberbullies, Cecily Kellogg from Uppercase Woman. Bullied after losing her twins at nearly six months' gestation to severe preeclampsia, and almost losing her own life, Cecily has experienced the online wrath of many. I wondered what she would advise fierceandfiesty about coping with the backlash. "I would tell her it isn't personal, that people are evil and she should ignore it," said Cecily. "Then I'd hug her and let her cry because that never works. It IS personal, it HURTS and you cannot possibly ignore it. It's ... all you think about because it is distracting you from the pain and agony and grief. It's much easier to burn with a hot blue flame of anger than be drenched in grief."

I also wondered, does an experience like this change you as a blogger? What do you do when the people you share your life with come out against you, when you need their support more than ever before? "It made me both braver and more scared," said Cecily. "I'm alternately defiant, at peace, sobbing in a corner or flagellating myself because I worry if the people saying nasty things are right. I'm dealing with bullying now, on a non-grief front [about money], and it makes me crazy how much I let it get to me."

I just haven't known quite how to approach the topic of Internet bullying and pondered all weekend about how to do it tactfully. However, it is a topic that needs covering. There are bullies in blogging and social media, just like the ones you heard about -- or were harassed by -- during your school years. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small bullies trying to get their names out there. Others are big bullies using their blogs and social-media connections to make you feel like you are irrelevant and they are larger, and therefore better, than you. Either way, they do everything they can to belittle you and knock down your self-esteem. It's either going to anger or hurt you. Generally, it does both. Words spoken are eventually forgotten most of the time, and if you are more Zen in mindset, they're let go of easily. Funnel those same words into a blog or various social media, and those words are there permanently.

Internet bullies always go after the ones they perceive weakness in, damning them in a medium that no eraser can remove. We use our blogs and Twitter as platforms for our voices. Sure, it's a little narcissistic; however, we all have something to say and should be allowed to express our freedom of speech without people trying to quash us with their dislike. People no longer want conversation or even debate; they want conflict. In the online world, the ease of typing up a comment and hitting "send" doesn't allow us the opportunity to actually think. There is a consequence for every action, whether immediate or delayed. People might want to say, "Well, you are attacking people by writing about this matter." Actually, I'm not. What this is about is bringing attention to my fellow bloggers about the increase in online bullies.

Believe me, I have stories that go back a long way. I've been doing this since 2002, and it's all the same. People want their 15 minutes of fame and will trample over whomever to get there. They are still just as relevant. However, when that time comes, instead of attacking, maybe they should take a look at their blogs. Have they lost readers? Do they find themselves increasingly bitter? Are their social-media platforms a tool they are using to build relationships and community, or are they an outlet to "x" number of people to find sympathy or seek validity? I don't know. However, there are some things that are important to remember before you bully:

1) Social-media moms stick together, take up for each other and come to each others' defense.
2) Your followers are going to feel like you are starring in "Mean Girls." We all know what has happened to Lindsay Lohan ....
3) Conference planners, PR professionals and companies are going to stop calling you. That is not the attitude they want representing their brand.
4) Karma: The total effect of a person's actions and conduct during the successive phases of the person's existence, regarded as determining the person's destiny. It will also bite you faster than a hungry doberman.
5) Eventually, all the negativity is going to affect you personally. Once you get trapped, it's difficult to get out. Not only does it become detrimental to your brand, but to you personally. 6) Bullies are generally perceived as people with lack of impulse control.

What should you do if you encounter a bully? I would love to say that you take them out at the kneecaps, but using their tactics is just going to make you look like a bigger bully. Here are a few simple steps that many have told me they found helpful:

1) Follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
2) Kill them with kindness. It's hard; you want to fight back. Don't.
3) Ignorance is bliss. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If you ignore something long enough, it will eventually go away. It's a dating tactic that has worked for years. Remember the guy hitting on you that you wished would go away?
4) Love yourself. Just because someone else dares to say something, do not take it personally. Hold your head up high and stick to your chosen path.
5) Don't lose sight of your goal. It's easy to displace your vision, voice and focus when consumed and distracted by negative emotion.
6) Laugh at yourself. This lifestyle is a public one, and with it comes issues that are quite serious. Make a nutty vlog, podcast or write an ode. My most recent one was to my fan. It was silly, but lightened my mood immediately.
7) Have a confidante, someone who is not going to turn into a bully for you, but who will talk you off of the proverbial ledge and help you regain your sense of humor. I will never name mine, but they are there when I need them and help me stay sane.

Bullies can learn to change their behavior by watching others treat people fairly and with respect. If they learn to use their power in positive ways, bullies can change. In the end, whether bullies decide to change their ways is up to them. Some bullies turn into great people, while some never learn.

My final question to Cecily was to ask her, "Has your perception of social media changed?" "It's so heavily positive -- I mean, for every negative comment I get, there are 500 positive ones -- that I cannot imagine thinking it would change it all for me," she said. "There is only one time I thought about taking all my marbles and going home, and it wasn't a troll or griefer attack [griefers are trolls who are obsessed with making one particular person's life miserable], but another blogger I loved and respected. Luckily, a blogger I loved and respected even more talked me off the ledge. In general, I get so much from my online life I wouldn't dream of giving it up."

Lisa Frame lives on the outskirts of Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and 10-year-old son. She is a social-media-consulting, blog-branding, picture-book-writing, cupcake-connoisseuring, lip-gloss-wearing, retro-loving wine enthusiast. An avid reader, photographer and coffee addict, Lisa also has a knack for coming up with fun ideas for moms and kids, cooking memorable meals (some for the wrong reasons), living as green as possible and blogging about whatever comes to mind over at A Daily Pinch and Mommyality.

*This blog post was referred to momlogic by: Baby Clothes Boutique

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