I was bullied when I was a child and a teenager. This isn’t unique to me, of course – I doubt there’s just about anyone around these days who has never been bullied. And, if someone hasn’t, then they likely were one of the bullies when they were younger.
I’ve grown up since, and moved past a lot of the pain these incidents caused…or, at least, I thought I had. Every now and then, something happens that brings the old wounds into stark relief and I find that I haven’t moved on quite as much as I thought I had. I’m speaking of modern bullies – internet trolls.
I used to think about the fact that I’d never had my art stolen as kind of an insult – that it wasn’t good enough to steal. Once people did start stealing it, requiring me to put large watermarks on all my pieces in the future, I found that the frustration of it having been stolen didn’t equal the satisfaction I gained from knowing I was “good enough” to be stolen from. What does this have to do with internet trolls?
I had much the same opinion regarding internet trolls. I saw many others in the communities I’m a part of attacked over the years, but no one ever came after me personally – despite my open and vocal participation in the communities. Did that mean I wasn’t interesting enough? That I didn’t actually catch the attention of the trolls? Or was I simply too articulate and they couldn’t find anything to attack? I genuinely don’t know which of these two (or perhaps a completely different reason) caused me to fly under the troll radar for so long.
However, recently, as I’ve begun expanding my brand and posting regularly and advertising, I suddenly find that I’m no longer under the troll’s radar anymore. I was attacked once recently on Twitter, and again on an art site I frequent. Both of these incidents happened within a month of each other, and made me once again realize that there are down sides to popularity and reaching a larger audience.
However, I find that the best approach to internet trolls is actually the same approach I employed back when I was being personally bullied growing up. That approach is…be nice. Don’t respond to their antagonistic statements in kind – don’t respond with anger, if you respond at all. Sometimes simply ignoring them can make them go away, but as with physical bullies that isn’t always the case.
In the situation of the Twitter troll I dealt with recently, I was so nice and polite to him over the course of our conversation as he belittled, attacked, and made fun of everything from my weight to my artistic ability, that he eventually got frustrated and blocked me to stop me from responding to him. I logged out and checked his account, and sure enough he had dropped the topic. When you’re nice to a bully, it confuses them. He didn’t know what else to do, so he left me alone.
So while I admit, I have suffered lasting damage at the hands of a bully in the past – don’t let the old adage fool you; words can be just as painful as sticks and stones – I think I’ve finally moved beyond where they can effect me long-term. So I honestly must thank that cyber-bully for bringing up some old wounds and helping me look at them again. Hopefully my experience can help others.
And if he reads this – sir, thank you. You’ve helped me move forward in my own life, and you’ve made a difference. Undoubtedly not the one you were intending to make, but it’s made all the same. So thank you, and I do hope you have a wonderful life and find something fulfilling to do with it.