Internet Trolls and Nasty Comments

Way back when I started in journalism for a small local paper, I learned that not everyone was going to agree with every piece I wrote, even if I thought it was balanced and objective. A journalist really has to have a hard shell exterior to take the abuse that is sometimes thrown, and I never really had that. I am too much of a people pleaser and mush-ball to become a hardened reporter. I care what people think of me and my writing. This is not the best way to be if you write and have a presence on the Internet.

When I began blogging, of course, most of my pieces became more personal. Forget about balanced and objective, most of these blogs published are just my own humble opinion. And guess what, if you do not agree, you can write that, and tell me why. I love dialoguing with my readers.

I get a good number of regular subscribing readers, and others who frequently visit, and I have to thank my start of Hot Flashes blog to the Houston Chronicle, where I developed a readership that stayed with me when I switched to my own site. Then again, I was published and featured regularly in the Huffington Post, and each piece gave this -my regular blog address, and I gained tons of readers (internationally!!) from that wonderful run. I stopped Huff Post when they sold to AOL and I did not have an editor anymore to advocate for and feature my pieces. But thankfully many readers stayed with me. All of that is to explain that I get a fair amount of mail. I get mail through the blog and mail to my personal email address that is easily found. Not all of it makes its way to comments, as some things are too personal to post publicly, and I understand that.

Whether it is a question, fan mail, someone sharing a story similar to something I wrote, someone telling me why something I wrote resonated with them, or whether it is hate mail, I read them all. For all of my years writing, I have gotten the most hate mail about a blog I wrote in a humorous way – IN JEST- about a possum in our backyard. Now understand, I am an animal lover, an animal advocate, a dog whisperer, and a mush-ball. Yet the level of viciousness that arose from that post bordered on insane. I had to pull the entire blog after posting about 50 hateful comments on the possum incident – yes, I let them stay on the blog; when someone actually threatened my life. If you can believe that someone would say they would like to kill you for maligning a marsupial, it not only happened, but it made me realize it was time to take the blog down. Obviously, they did not catch the humor.

Other than that extreme, if someone takes the time to comment on a blog, and it is not always the most recent blogs either — many find a topic of interest on Pinterest, or through Google, I always allow the comment to post, whether it is agreeing with me or not, flattering or unflattering. Freedom of speech reigns on my blog, for me and for my readers. EXCEPT…..

EXCEPT: I block comments by “anonymous” readers. If a person cannot leave a URL, email, or name, I toss the comment. These commenters are called trolls in the world of the Internet and there are many trolls that like to hide behind Internet anonymity and make cruel comments. This happened so viciously when a piece I wrote on four local lovely girls for the Huff Post went internationally viral. So many trolls, mostly anonymous, wrote in their opinion on every aspect of each girl. It was cruel, and mean spirited, and I considered every anonymous poster on that particular blog to be a coward. Yet there is a psychological explanation. These people are so angry and frustrated and unhappy with their own lives and selves, that they derive pleasure from putting other people down. Huff Post, along with most online publications, allows trolls who register with them to use fake names or nicknames to make ridiculous comments. And that keeps them anonymous and just entitles them to spew hatred.

The one great thing about Facebook, except for the fake profiles, is that people commenting have to do so with their real names. I much prefer to read comments, even opposing ones, if I know someone is not hiding behind anonymity. I have posted loads of critical comments, and even some nasty ones because they were not anonymous. I also like to converse and dialogue with anyone with an opinion, either the same or different, because that kind of discourse should take place. I have avoided highly charged topics (though I have much to say) because my blog is supposed to be lighthearted, and my purpose is never to divide people.

With that said, freedom of speech is only extended to people with an actual identity on my blog, not an anonymous troll that wants to get off by offending or shaming, or whatever. If you want to post your hateful comment, you will have to identify yourself, so we can all see who is behind that nastiness. It’s my blog and my rules. And yes, this blog was prompted by a troll trying to leave a comment on my last blog.

With all the hatred in the world coming to the attention of all of us in the recent past, I refuse to be a part of it on the little portion of the Internet that I can control. Your opinion does not have to match mine, but if you are a troll, find another forum because you are not welcomed here. And PS, remember when trolls were those cute dolls with plastic squatty bodies and wild colorful tufts of hair? ( As pictured above.) Sigh.

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