Don't feed the trolls

Sunset rendering

Sunset rendering

Living and dying by social media

I like Facebook. I check in with friends from all the periods of my life, sending mazletov to my old bandmate who just got married in Brooklyn, sending happy Diwali messages to my friends in India. Birthdays are great now, both giving and receiving. I can learn facts about dear friends that I may not otherwise know, like their losing a parent or recovering from cancer.

What I don't find so charming about Facebook are political posts. They can be divisive and insular. I may gravitate to those whose views I already agree with. This is counterproductive to a loving, inclusive Vedic worldview.

And then there are the trolls.

I let my guard down and posted a response to a news story. The tone of my post was less than friendly. It generated an almost instant response of astonishing vitriol and anger from those who apparently disagreed. The tone of these responses was so toxic and insulting that I laughed. It seemed like an atom bomb explosion in retaliation to a peashooter. I posted a single response: "Whee!"

I did a little research and discovered that trolls lie in wait, using key words in search engines. This includes publicly shared content on social media. The key words or phrases they are searching for identify the user as being from a target demographic. That demographic identifies the target as liberal, feminist, animal rights defender, or environmentalist, or any combination thereof. When the troll gets a hit, they go to work, unleashing a torrent of abuse on comments pages. This serves to discourage free expression by people they disagree with, and gives them a chance to vent anger and get attention (albeit negative) from an audience.

Sometimes these trolls are paid by partisan idealogues and corporations with a "culture war" axe to grind. In my instance, I was lucky. Facebook has excellent blocking options. Also my one word response dampened the enthusiasm of the trolls. The torrent stopped immediately. I didn't engage them the way they wanted, which was to offer a counter-argument. I went about my day, suffering very little from the negative energies on display, and I learned a valuable lesson.

A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.
Proverbs, New American Standard Bible

“Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker's game because they almost always turn out to be—or to be indistinguishable from—self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.” 
― Neal Stephenson, 
Cryptonomicon