There will be trolls, bullies, and stalkers


When you’re new to social media, the prospect of dealing with trolls, bullies, and stalkers might be intimidating or even discouraging. Don’t be discouraged. Be prepared.

You’ll escalate a problem or an attack with a knee-jerk response online. Devise a plan of action, and then stick to it.

Take a screenshot of the abusive comment. You might need it later, if the comment is deleted.

Your emotions will cloud your judgment. Know so in advance. Before you do anything in response to a problem that isn’t criminal or threatening, ask a neutral third party whose opinion you value to assess the situation. Another person’s perspective can give you insight that on a normal day you’d have for yourself.

Slow down. Sleep on it, if possible. It takes time for a flood of emotions to subside.

The best advice you’ll ever receive is, “Don’t feed the trolls.” Trolls, bullies, and stalkers bask in others’ reactions. If you react, you’ve giving them exactly what they desire. If you don’t respond, there will be nothing to keep them coming back. Frustrated, they’ll search for prey elsewhere.

You absolutely don’t need to have the last word. Why not let the abusive comment speak for itself? Readers recognize comments written by trolls. Once in a while, they even come to the defense of the person who’s being harassed.

If you’re a victim of cyberstalking or have received an online threat that makes you fearful, contact the police and ask to make a report of the incident.

Bookmark these, so they’ll be handy if you need them

Stalking Resource Center
A Program of the National Center for Victims of Crime

10 Tips for Handling Twitter Trolls
by Alex York, Sprout Social

Brave New Bullying: Goodreads Gangs, Amazon Attacks—What Are Writers to Do?
by Kristen Lamb

Lessons from Amy’s Baking Company:
Six Things You Should Never Do on Social Media

by Kelly Clay, Forbes

There’s Only One Thing To Do When The Internet Calls You Fat
by Jessica Plautz

5 Ways Writers Kill Their Credibility Online
by Lucy V. Hay, Bang2Write

Trolls just want to have fun
“trolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism”
by Erin E. Buckelsa, Paul D. Trapnellb, and Delroy L. Paulhus, Personality and Individual Differences

Suffering Fools
by J.A. Konrath

You’ve Got Hate Mail: How to Deal with (Annoying) Critics
by L.L. Barkat

Souls of the dead

scarecrowDepending on your background, this week you could be celebrating All Souls Day or Día de Muertos, or Halloween on the eve of All Hallows’ Day. The now-obscure idea is to honor the souls of dead family members and loved ones, so benefits will accrue to the departed, the living, or both.

The catch? Mere months of family history research have made it obvious that some or even most of my ancestors were dishonorable. Their obvious motives for migrating to the North American colonies in the 1600s were to obtain cheap land by displacing indigenous people, to be permitted to own enslaved human beings, and to practice new religions that authorized and encouraged all of the plunder and called it manifest destiny.

Let’s not forget the witch burnings inspired by the sweeping frenzy of self-righteousness. In Connecticut in 1653, one of my tenth great-grandfathers was a clergyman present during the hanging of an accused witch. His influence in the community could have spared her life, but maintaining an illusion of moral superiority must have been far more important to him.

Forget honoring their souls. What should I do to redeem the souls of horribly misguided dead people I’ve discovered?

Those of my ancestors who were foolish, selfish, and ignorant—the majority, I suppose—were enticed into wrongdoing by the propaganda they swallowed. Propaganda was spread by their church leaders, by government officials who underwrote the conquest of the new world, and by the colonial era’s version of greedy multinational business owners and real estate developers. If my ancestors weren’t searching for Eldorado, then they were gauging what crops could bring the highest prices, learning how to grab cropland for next to nothing, and going to battle to ensure they could own their farm laborers rather than paying wages. They were misguided, certainly, but that doesn’t explain their fundamental immorality.

Some of the departed souls achieved wealth, for a generation or two. That’s the crucial takeaway. Wealth acquired at such a high cost to other human beings does not last. A generation or two after the Civil War, plantation owners’ offspring were living in poverty. Why would the wealthy hoarders care? They were dead.

Many of my ancestors also belonged to what ought to be called the warrior caste. Until the 20th century, at least they were compensated, albeit with stolen land. Today’s military personnel are lucky if they end their careers of service feeling their sacrifices were worthwhile. Some walk away with a deflating sense of having been used and discarded.

Simultaneously, my ancestors were predators and they were prey. Many of them couldn’t read or write, and it didn’t stop them from believing they could be rich or, failing that, superior.

Should I assume the propaganda swallowers couldn’t have known better? Many were illiterate, after all. They were dead by the time their accumulated wealth was gone. The lessons couldn’t be learned in real time. History was whitewashed. Is it fair to place blame? Do you worry about fake news, even though we’ve always had fake history? The market demand for lies is insatiable, because people are desperate to believe in their own superiority.

For All Souls Day, I have a lot to learn. I don’t want my descendants to remember me the way I’m thinking of many of my ancestors this week.