Most writers dream of having an article become viral on the internet. It has been on my bucket list for a long time. I've submitted humorous posts to dozens of websites, and although they were shared on social media, none ever made it to viral status.
On a hunch, I submitted an older, poignant piece I'd written about my son to The Huffington Post (you can read it here). Within 24 hours, the post went viral. Was I elated? Yes. But I was also naive about the backlash it would create.
At first, the support I received on the article was encouraging and compassionate. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for the internet trolls to come out to play. They circled like hungry sharks, and when the meat of my post was dropped into their tank, they went into a feeding frenzy. My stomach was soon in knots--- I had to close my laptop and walk away. There were hundreds of comments on the site, but I stopped reading them after the first handful of cruel remarks were posted.
This experience, on many levels, has been successful…. but it has also baffled me. Who are these trolls and why do they feel the need to bash writers? I was accused of being a horrid mother raising a demon seed, and told that I deserve what I get with my teenage son. I had to assume these remarks came from Stepford parents who had perfect children. I was also labeled as a "whiner" (surely they meant "winer" since I have a fondness for pinot grigio) and a person lacking any skills in writing (check back with me on that one after my book is published in a few months). The overwhelming, snarky responses had me wondering if there was a full moon out or the possibility that somewhere in the world, a group of people on a compound drank too much grape-flavored Kool-Aid.
I fully support freedom of speech, but I was also raised with the old adage, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Have I read material that I thought was garbage? Of course. But I never felt the need to attack the writer by challenging his or her position. What these trolls fail to understand is that there are ways to debate issues and share personal opinions without sinking to belittling and name calling. Spewing venomous remarks on a writer's post tells me that this person has yet to outgrow the bullying tactics they learned from their days on the elementary school playground.
I've come to the conclusion that this brand of nastiness is derived from insecurities and unhappiness, driving these people to spread their misery to others. They're well aware of their insufficiencies and are transferring their frustrations onto everyone else in order to build themselves up. The same can be said about trolls in the workplace and in extended families. Rather than feed into their anger by becoming defensive, I've learned to shrug them off. I pity them more than anything; they have yet to grasp the concept of confidence and true happiness.
Ironically, the people who attack writers are actually helping them to succeed. The drama and controversy they create drives more traffic to the writer's site, enabling it to become viral. For that, I am grateful….but don't expect a thank you note from me anytime soon.
Here's my suggestion to all the internet trolls who thrive on tearing others down: If you have time to write long, sarcastic diatribes on an author's article, then you have far too much time on your hands. I suggest that you put that extra time and energy into something more productive, such as volunteer work in your community. Perhaps THEN you'll discover manners, humility and grace.
Have you been attacked by internet trolls? Let's hear it!
***Want more Menopausal Mother? I've been hopping around a lot this week! You can read my featured posts on Huffington Post, Midlife Boulevard and In The Powder Room. Read them here: