I have been taught all of my life to love people. My parents demonstrated it and God commands it. But some of you out there make it very difficult, especially some of you on Facebook. Social media has made it really easy for people to say things to other human beings without any regard for human compassion or care.
I recently made the mistake of clicking on the comments that were posted under a news report from our area about a very unfortunate accident. I was shocked and extremely saddened by the heartless, cruel comments made by seemingly public enemies of the person who was being reported on. Things like “I hope you burn in hell” or “he should rot in jail for the rest of his life.” Name-calling, character assassination, rush to judgment from people who are complete strangers and know nothing about the person or the situation.
I am aware that some of those comments on social media are perpetrated by what are known as “trolls.”
Internet trolls are people who intentionally post comments with the sole purpose of causing fights and to provoke readers into displaying emotional responses as a way to distract people away from the original topic. Some internet trolls get paid to stir things up, but the ones that I saw recently are local people who do it for free. I can’t quite figure out the motive, unless it is simply to hurt others.
When I think of a troll, I remember a book from my childhood, “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” in which the three Billy goats try to cross a bridge to get to a field for fresh grass. Unfortunately, they are stopped and bullied by a hideous troll who lives under the bridge. That troll was so ugly (probably more in my imagination than how he was illustrated in the book), covered in warts and wrinkles, with unruly hair and torn clothes. I imagined his voice to be brusque and loud as he threatened and intimidated the goats as they tried to travel on their way.
I always wondered why that troll was so mean to those poor little goats and wouldn’t just let them cross the bridge to get to their destination. It didn’t make sense to me. For one, it wasn’t costing that troll a thing to let those goats use that bridge. Second, why did he even care? For some reason, that childhood book always disturbed me; not because of the story, but because the troll was so cruel. The idea of bullying someone, no matter the reason, always seemed foreign to me.
Yet, here I am as an adult, still wondering why the trolls are still bothering people who are just minding their own business. Because mental and behavioral health is my profession, I study people and help them to figure out why they do the things they do. Why are people so rude and heartless to other people? Why is it so easy to say cruel things and to wish pain and suffering on others? Is it easier now because they can say these things behind the safety and security of a keyboard and screen? The only logical reason I can come up with is that those “trolls” must be miserable people themselves and want others to feel the same.
To you “trolls” who may be reading this column, I offer you this advice: Be careful the judgment that you pass on to others, for it may soon return back to you. We are all one simple mistake or misfortune away from facing the same fate. We all sometimes say or do things that we don’t mean, or are misunderstood in certain situations. You think that you would react differently, but you never know that until you are faced with the same set of circumstances. I see people every day who are struggling with regrets and mistakes that they have made in their life, and I promise, most people would like a do-over.
We are all human, with different life experiences and education, and we do not all make the same life decisions. Just because you would handle something in a different way does not give you the right to hurt someone intentionally.
Instead of blasting each other online, why don’t you try to make a positive impact on humankind? If you are really so passionate about whatever injustice you feel has been committed, get out there and spread kindness and love to make it better. If a horrible crime has been committed, let the justice system take care of it. Do what you can to ease the burden on the victims. Become an advocate to make a change in the laws. Your evil words are not accomplishing anything but to fan the flames of hate. Hate will never lead to anything good. Ever. Love covers a multitude of sins.
Have you ever heard the old saying, “You catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar”? There is a lot of truth to that statement. We can get more positive results by being nice than spewing venom at one another. Words hurt. They leave stinging scars that are very difficult to heal. If someone crosses you or offends you in some way, go to that person in love and kindness (even if you don’t feel it) and 9 times out of 10 that is what will be returned to you.
Kindness is a gift. We all want to be loved. If you say you don’t need it, you are lying. Human beings were created to be social creatures and we need each other. You never know when you may need a little extra kindness and mercy shown to you. Think twice, maybe even three times before you post that hateful comment on Facebook. Once it is there, people will see your true character.
Are you a troll? Or would you rather be known for your compassion and love? Don’t be a troll — they are very, very ugly.
Dr. Rhonda Smith is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at South Central Regional Medical Center. Email her at email@example.com.