I’ve heard of comment sections referred to as the sewer of the Internet. Honestly I like browsing comment sections to look for additional information, divergent viewpoints, and sometimes thoughtful commentary. But inevitably, the trolls will be there, gleefully triggering strangers with their inflammatory statements, misinformation, and poor writing skills. Often these trolls have 50, 80, 100 replies or more, and many emojis – smiley and angry cartoon faces – fighting for the top. Here’s the part where the troll wins. They stay on top by getting the most engagement, thereby keeping their hateful or ignorant rhetoric in the conversation far more longer than if people had refused to feed them in the first place.
Therefore, I’d like to offer a short list of people and things to feed that will result in less stress, more connection, and yes, maybe even thoughtful action:
Kittens – ever see a kitten eat or lap up water with its teeny-tiny tongue? It’s adorable. Even better in real life than on video, so if you don’t have a kitten, try volunteering at an animal shelter to get your fill. Then adopt an adult cat – they are harder to place than kittens.
Puppies – puppies eat like it’s just the chore they have to do between playing and napping. Actually, right now being a puppy sounds nice. No puppy in your life? See the kitten suggestion.
Children – Unlike puppies, kids eat with a presence I have seen only in a few of my adult friends and family. Whether they love or hate something on their plate, you’ll hear about it (and if it’s a baby, you’ll probably be wearing it either way). Not suggesting anyone becomes the stranger that gives kids candy, but there are plenty of opportunities to feed kids (and adults) at a soup kitchen or community food pantry near you.
Your garden – with spring officially here, few things bring hope like the first buds after the last of the snow/dirt piles have disappeared.
Birds (and by default, squirrels, and probably some deer too) – I mean all that flying has to make you hungry! But be consistent – birds rely on food sources once they are established.
The Elderly – There is something about caring for an aging parent that evokes visceral emotions. Here is the mother or father who attended to your every need suddenly struggling to do the most basic functions without making a mess. Some might say it’s undignified to feed someone, but feeding my mom helps her maintain her dignity and helps us connect with her in whatever time we have left. Even if not your own parents, there are millions of lonely elderly people out there – many in your community – who would love a visit.
Your passions – What if, instead of getting into passionate arguments with people (or bots) who are laughing at your passionate attempts to try to educate them or change their minds, you channeled that energy into something worthwhile – a poem, a painting, an editorial, a non profit endeavor? Either by your actions or your words, feed your passions.
But not trolls. They do not care for your garden, your children, your pets, or the aging, and they sure as hell don’t care about your passions. They don’t want to be educated or even understood. Trolls care about creating divisions and staying on top of the comment section so that more people will be angry enough to toss them another bite. Want to minimize their power? Ignore them. Don’t respond – not even with and angry face emoji. Engage with people you know or would want to know – whether you agree or disagree with their viewpoints. We need disagreement to help us reflect and grow, but we don’t need any more hatred.
Just some food for thought.