surviving trolls

in the past few months, i have had a chance to talk with a number of people who have had scary/awful/overwhelming interactions with mass trolling online. kind of an informal patterning, something my heart is wanting to understand.

(this curiosity might be because each book i release gains me more exposure and i see that what generally accompanies exposure is a white walker world war z speedy zombie phenomenon of trolls and haters. it also might be because i am always thinking about how we heal at a collective level, how we bring our attention to our wholeness, including, but not obsessed with, our fractures.)

sometimes the trolling was intimate – someone close to the person, who went public with a private beef, gathering negative public attention to attempt a victory, or punishment. often in the name of some vigilante justice.

in other instances, it was trolling from a distance – someone challenged by the work or ideas of a stranger, or an aspect of identity. and then that stranger deciding to attack the person in as many degrading ways as possible: sharing private communications, building a case about the contradictions, hypocrisy, or something else that often reduces the person to a cliche.

this post isn’t about the conditions that create the dregs of society that are trolls. this is about the people who survive the onslaught of that negative attention – the character assassinations, the insults and dismissals, the vitriol.

here are the top three strategies i’ve heard:

1. as a preventative measure and general life hack: have real people in your life who you trust and admire. deepen your relationships with those people. let them know the kind of person you are trying to be, and spend most of your time supporting each other’s becoming. get a good therapist/coach in this mix, and don’t perform for them. when pressure or struggle comes, let these people see you struggle, learn, and grow. call them your woes. goddesses. squad. circle. where appropriate, let these be spaces of mutual support.

2. with those close friends’ and professionals supporting and reality checking you, check on the patterns and do your work. is there any meaningful critique in the hate? or is there a pattern in the kind of trolls you attract – racists? exes? coworkers? if the pattern is something that allows you to predict your next struggle, then harness the energy to make adjustments, introduce new boundaries, new standards, new practices for how you share with dignity and intelligence. adapt for your safety and wellbeing (not from ego or fear).

3. turn away from the internet. it’s not the world. it’s not your work. supernovas don’t study telescopes. go shine, do the work that lets you shine. so far the internet has not been a place for redemption, for deepening understanding during interpersonal/organizational conflict, or for…shit, listening. this might be the most important of the lessons, the strategies that have worked for people: if they can’t and won’t hear you in your humanity, you can’t be responsible for listening to their hateration. there is a world out there, full of a lot of other real people. and meditation and mediation, and friends who won’t always be here, and actual work that can’t fit into pithy tweets, (even if they are tirades), and excellent music (lizzo, kelsey lu), and countries you’ve never heard of, and creatures you’ve never run from. or towards. or with. shift your attention to life and beauty and the work to be done.

i will keep listening.