With every word we say and write we need to ask a simple question, “What affect will my words have on the person hearing or reading them?” Unfortunately the Internet has been trending toward a world inhabited with trolls. Yahbutts, dart throwers, spear chuckers, and horse puckey peddlers abound in cyberspace. How do you deal with these discouraging encounters? How do you know if you are one? Read on.
Before I define some of the trolls I mentioned above. please understand that most of these are not evil people.
We can be trolls without even knowing it. That’s why it is so important to know the power words have to discourage. Also know that I have two attributes that make me emotionally vulnerable to even inadvertent seemingly harmless trolls.
1. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Translation: I stick my neck out by sharing my feelings and what I believe.
2. I have thin skin. Translation: I am easily hurt or offended by the words of others.
Actually, my thin skin is a weakness not an attribute. I have to constantly remind myself that being on the Internet invites people to a conversation, a place they can weigh in with a differing opinion. When we join an Internet community, we are welcoming people to disagree with us.
But in my opinion, sometimes they weigh in at inappropriate places and in inappropriate ways. At the conclusion of this post I am going to ask you to weigh in and I will welcome your thoughts. No reasonable response will be considered trolling. Here goes.
A Yahbutt is a troll who reads something heartfelt that you have posted and manages to find a way to diminish it. Most of these are well meaning people.
You write, “I love my wife more than anyone I know. ” The Yahbutt responses, “Yeah, but shouldn’t you love God more?”
I got several interesting responses to a picture I posted of my wife sitting at 12,000 ft overlooking a magnificent valley. It was a snapshot of God’s creation in all it’s glory. I put this caption on the picture: “Mega Church.”
The positive response was overwhelming. One person felt compelled to remind me that without more people to encourage you it’s really not a church. Regardless of the intent of the comment it didn’t feel very encouraging, It took some of the joy out of sharing the picture.
It felt like…..“Bad caption, theologically incorrect person! You should have titled it, “Inadequate Church,” until you add a mega congregation.”
I might have tried the congregation idea, but I don’t think I could get more than a handful of people to climb that high. The idea was to communicate how the awesome mega beauty of creation inspired us to worship that day.
Dart throwers are people who leave snarky comments designed to sting.
“I visited your site, you’re funny but you don’t mention God enough. I am leaving. I’ll pray for you.”
These remarks seemed intentionally designed to hurt and too often it works on me. When a person disagrees and suggests an alternate way of thinking, I enjoy the opportunity to engage and enter a conversation. I am willing to listen and learn. But I am also learning to thicken my skin and will show you how to do the same in my next post. By the way, “I will pray for you.” tagged on the end of a dart doesn’t mitigate the pain of the dart.
Spear throwers aim to kill. They are the people who try to defame you or destroy your spirit. They leave vile comments on videos you have posted or post things on your pages designed to intentionally cause pain. I have never experienced this, but any teenager who uses Facebook will tell of the Spear Throwers that haunt the Internet spewing venom designed to destroy. Spear throwers can also be…..
Horse Puckey Peddlers. These are people who post and re-post untruths. Some of it is political. Some of it is sensational. Some of it is personal. Again, your children and grandchildren are experiencing this in ever increasing volume and with ever increasing viciousness. Ask any successful blogger who posts ideas on controversial subjects.
On several occasions I have tried to engage trolls, tried to explain my real intentions, tried to win them over to a conversation instead of a sniping contest. With one or two exceptions I have NEVER received a response.
I also confess that on several occasions I have responded with my own troll like, snarky, nasty darts. Not exactly a mature way to handle trolls.
In my next post I am going to tell you what my friends and my heart are teaching me about how to handle Internet trolls. AND how to make sure I am not being one myself. Remember, most trolls are not all bad people with mean intentions; they just don’t know the power of their words.
But NOW I am INVITING you to interact. I welcome your opinions even if they disagree with mine. Be honest. Be real. But please be gentle. (-: I will not accuse you of being a troll.
Have you faced trolls?
How does it affect you?
How do you respond?
Have you ever found yourself throwing darts or spears or the horsey stuff?
Your comments will be invaluable as I shape my next post.
The Internet gives a person some anonymity, to hide behind
and to say things that they wouldn’t have the courage to say face to face. ie
The spear thrower and horse puckey peddler. It also gives an avenue for people
to make their opinion known, but lash out if you don’t agree (possibly thinned
skin). My wife and I are trying to find ways to deal with this issue with our
kids, they always seem to need to have the last word in a conversation that
usually turns into an argument and snarky remarks that they don’t really mean.
I am looking forward to your advice on how to deal with trolls.
I have come across some of what you might assign the title of troll to. Usually this is when I post something that refers to my Biblical beliefs about marriage. I used to get quite offended and would want to respond with a bunch of scripture to defend my beliefs. I didn’t do it for fear of getting in a pointless argument. Like being sucked into quicksand.
The last time a negative comment was made (which basically was saying that what I posted was hateful) I simply responded that they could have their opinion but I was going to follow God and what He says. They did not respond further and the parent of that person gave an apology to me(which I didn’t think I needed). I realize that when I post things about marriage that there will be differing views in this mixed up world. We will be persecuted for what we believe. I know I take a risk everytime I post something that to me is God’s black & white but to some is controversial.
What helps me to not be so easily offended is that I know that God is the winner and I’m on His side!
Thanks Ken for your insight into this subject. I have not always responded the way I should to trolls. Experience is a great teacher!
Thanks for this post. It’s a very timely reminder to me! Sometimes I’m on the receiving end, but sometimes I’m an unintentional troll. As an ISFJ on the Myers Briggs, I’m a legalist. Sometimes I correct people, just trying to be helpful, but they don’t take it that way. When they shoot back a nasty or snarky remark, I get my feelings hurt. It’s not something I’m proud of, and I’m working on changing. Thanks for being an example of speaking the truth in love! By the way, I always stay in my car a few extra minutes in the morning so I can hear your “Lighten Up And Live” messages on Moody Radio.
Trolls are certainly a buzz kill and boy do I want to fight back. According to Tolkein though trolls can’t abide sunlight so I have a three step approach to dealing with them:
1. Pity them, but do not express it as pity straight away. Start with being sorry that they “feel that way”
2. Ask questions. They typically don’t answer OR they contradict themselves
Those are the sunlight steps. If it goes beyond that…
3. Choose an option. In the third step I either delete them…satisfying in itself, or eviscerate them.
Back in the day when I did radio we had trolls too. People who would call into that station with some snark or other in every one of the categories you mention. BIG mistake on their part. I had the microphone, an audience, and four hours on the air, they didn’t.
Looking forward to your next post my friend. I need healing.
I’m with you Curtis – my first reaction is always to fight back.
Let’s see, does being called an Agent of Satan, a candidate for being the Anti-Christ, or the Spawn of Satan count???? All because I am in the minority (though not as small minority as it once was) on particular views/beliefs? This is why I stopped interacting with strangers who I do not know to discuss theological and spiritual topics. It is not worth the effort because all that happens is people start bashing me over the head with their Bibles, on how THEIR interpretation is the only one that can be correct, and if I don’t agree, I am not with Christ. I will keep this brief because this really stirs the pot in my mind because though I am sure they mean well, and they might be truly sincere in that they believe they are serving God, they are doing so in a very troll-like manner.
Ken, thanks very much for this post. I am a full-time pro-life advocate, so as you can imagine, talking most of the day every day and writing articles on this controversial topic leads to many encounters with trolls. And like you, I am very thin-skinned, and while I, too, am willing to engage with people who disagree with me and learn from people who think differently than I do, I tend to respond in kind if someone is snarky or unkind. I am definitely looking forward to your next article about thickening your skin.
Keep up the good work, Ken. We all need to “lighten up” a bit. Yes, words can and do hurt a lot. But you are doing great in helping us get a good chuckle and ease up some. I’m sure sometimes you just want to say, “get a life”. Often we take life too seriously. And picking on each other is not God’s intention. And I believe God wants us to laugh. I have friends who post so many political things or pass them on without checking it out first. Wah, wah. ha, ha. So keep them coming. We need it. God’s blessings to you.
Thank you, Mr Davis, for sharing your life’s experiences. It means a lot to me, as an ordinary (well, extra-ordinary because of Jesus!) person. You are an encouragement as you share the every day events that happens in your life. I so appreciate the “Lighten up and Live” moments. God bless you loads and loads…. jOe in Cape Town, South Africa
Yep…I confess that this very problem has kept me from putting myself out there on the internet as often as I would have liked. My skin is thin, and I will look forward to your next post on learning to deal with it. Thanks for all you do!
Ken, I find it interesting that you are thin-skinned. Perhaps it is because of this attribute/weakness that I find you a wonderfully uplifting person. The few times you have been with me or my family becomes absolutely memorable. Not because you are perpetually funny, but you show an interest in them and what they are doing. My kids don’t look at you as a comedian, so much as a person who makes them feel good when you are around. Thanks for that,
Not a fan of trolls. I usually avoid posting to keep my blood pressure from exploding/causing death. P.S. Got your DVD the other day: Together Again for the First Time. It was very funny! You even won over my skeptical daughter and she wanted to download the video to her ipod. I would call that a great success.
Thanks very much!
Thanks so much for sharing this! I have to admit this is something that is REALLY getting on our nerves. We’ve been running our website for 15 yrs. and our skin is MUCH thicker than when we started but it is still amazing how just plain rude people are and how it never ends! I am having a very hard time holding my tongue to be honest. 🙂 Anyway, thanks for sharing. BTW, we found you by watching Fully Alive on Netflix and LOVED IT!!! We are going to try and go to your conference in Colo. Springs this Nov. and hopefully will see you there!!
Thanks for the interesting post. The comment about the mega church brought back an old memory. Seems this visiting preacher was being shown a local farm operation that belonged to a church member. As they walked over the farm the preacher kept making comments about how God had made such a wonderful place out of the farm— you know— God did this and God did that, etc., etc. and it sort of got under the old boys skin. Finally he told the preacher “you ought to have seen this place when God had it by Himself!”
Thanks Ken, you are so right on the trolls. I have not experienced it first hand, but know of friends who have. I actually read parts of these conversations on FB, and wonder why people would say some things that they do on the internet. I look forward to hearing what you learned from family and friends!
Ken, I think you are amazing. You always make me smile and always bless me, so I thank you for your posts, they’re a welcome read in a hurtful world.
I’m a coward when it comes to posting or responding to a post if I have a controversial opinion, I don’t handle hurt very well at all and tend to shut myself away in a happy little world of my own making, with my gorgeous husband, and enjoy Gods creation away from those that could hurt me. This, inevitably, creates problems when promoting my books; I don’t sell many because I’m too scared of people; daft aren’t I?
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I love this Ken, thank you for sharing. Like you, I too have thin skin and wear my heart on my sleeve. I also have a rather dry sense of humor so I’m sure there are times where I’ve inadvertently fallen into the troll category without meaning to. As a blogger, you bet I get the gamut from Jesus Jukes to downright nastiness on occasion. It even happens on FB. I’ve had to block people. The computer screen gives a false sense of security and bravery. People will type things they’d never dream of saying in person. I saw two funny memes I try to remember. 1. Don’t feed the trolls. 2. I tried to share a joke on FB and everyone argued in the comments. If nothing else they make me giggle and lighten up a little. — I do also try to keep in mind my relationship with whomever I’m engaged with when online. That helps me choose my words better. Again, great post. Thanks.
Ken, great article. I just recently became familiar with the term Jesus Juking. I’ve been the victim and I’ve also been guilty but I’m working on it. Prior to retirement, my company had acronyms for everything. That’s when I invented the PICOD. This is the Person In Charge Of Disagreeing. These folks have to disagree. Also known as LWS (Last Word Syndrome). Example: sure was cold this morning. The PICOD says “it wasn’t as cold as it was two weeks ago.” We didn’t say it was the coldest day in recordable history or request historical weather data, we just made a statement. A simple yep or head nod is all that is required. Thanks for the article as we are all a WIP (Work In Progress) on this.