Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it
George Bernard Shaw
Pigs and fools. Unfortunately, the world seems to be full of them. I’m not talking about the adorable creatures whose intelligence is said to be greater than that of dogs, or of medieval court jesters. Pigs and fools, in this instance, are bullies, trolls and the spiteful people who we encounter daily, and whose whole purpose in life seems to be to make life uncomfortable for others purely for their own amusement.
With the rise of the internet, these bullies and abusers seem to be breeding and multiplying. This is partly because of the ease with which they can target people through social media outlets, and also the anonymity with which they can operate. Hiding your identity, or setting up an online profile with a false name is far too easy. Of course, this is a known problem, and authorities and the social media outlets themselves are working hard to tackle cyberbullying and trolling. Chances are, however, that you will still encounter it yourself at some point.
It goes without saying, that this behaviour is not restricted to the online world, but this is where it is at its worst. In person, you have the chance to talk to these people and try to find out why they are treating you in this way. However slim, there is always a possibility that you can communicate and reason with your tormentor. It’s not unthinkable that you might be able to open their eyes to how they are affecting your life, and the fact that there is no real reason for this anger and hatred which they are directing towards you. It’s not only in the movies that bully and victim can actually become good friends through communication and understanding.
Online, however, is where this behaviour seems to be at its most spiteful and evil. In this instance, you feel powerless because you have no idea who is targeting you and why. The temptation is to either try and reason with them, defending yourself and your actions, or to respond to their abuse with some of your own. Please resist this temptation, because you will only end up feeding their ego and prolonging the abuse. These people thrive on peoples’ reactions, so do what they least expect and starve them of yours. It is the hardest thing to do, doing nothing, but sadly the only way to deal with a troll. Starve them of your attention and reactions, and they will get bored and move on. It may feel as though you are letting them win, but please understand that this is not the case. In the public arena (online), any reaction will not remain between between yourself and the bully, but will also be seen by family and friends as well as any clients or fans which you may have. By rising to the bait of the troll, you are risking your reputation just for the sake of saying that you get the better of an anonymous abuser. Ask yourself, is it really worth it? Any victory will be pyrrhic at best, won at too great a cost to be of any value to you. If you are to respond at all, respond with kindness. My favourite is “I’m sorry that you feel this way, but more sorry that you have so much pain inside you that you have to abuse people anonymously in order to feel any happiness. I will pray for you that your source of pain may leave you and that you might once again experience the joy and beauty of life”. Works every time. Even if you don’t get an apology, you will be left alone. It’s a win-win situation which will see your reputation and relationships unharmed and unaffected.
While I strongly believe that we should be kind and respectful to each other at all times, whether in person or online, not everyone feels the same way. Some people will always choose to bully others anonymously in order to feel better about themselves, because this is far easier than dealing with the source of their unhappiness or pain. They would rather make others feel pain and anguish like they do, rather than do something to remove whatever it is that troubles them.
This is why we need to develop a thick skin if we are to navigate our way through life effectively. As much as it might hurt to be on the receiving end of someone else’s bile and nastiness, we need to be able to shrug it off. Understand that their attack is a reflection on them, and not you. Don’t start to question yourself or let this hurt your confidence. Instead, sympathise with your tormentor, because they are in pain but are either unable or unwilling to do anything about it. In this instance the saying “kill them with kindness” couldn’t be more appropriate. Especially if this is being played out over social media, in the public eye. Don’t be dragged into a war of words. If you must respond, do so with kindness and respect, because your response is a reflection of who you are.
Never argue with a fool. Onlookers may not be able to tell the difference