Be an Internet Pixie not a Troll!

February 22, 2020

The internet is a fascinating and boundless place. It has so much content. So much culture. So much influence. It is a land of unlimited opportunities for information: on any subject, on any thing you can really imagine (always use caution when really tapping into your imagination). It is also a place for socialization albeit a very strange one. You see, part of what makes us humans so interesting is our ability to communicate. According to anthropologists, evolutionary biologists and other smart people – the ability to explicitly and implicitly communicate and thus share information, is what got us to where we are today. Therefore, language: the vessel through which we communicate, is complex. We do not just express ourselves through our literal written words or our spoken phrases. We also use body language, active listening, tone, and a lot of hidden meanings or symbolic language (things like idioms and sarcasm) among other amazing phonological things. My point is, there is more to language than the words we write in a comment box.

Figure 1.1 Check out this cool graph!

The problem is that the internet, for the most part isn’t really monitored by a ruling or governing body. Sure, they have all kinds of people observing what goes on in the internet but no one is really policing it. For example, say you woke up late and are starting your day off poorly. Then you get on public transit and someone on the bus is listening to music full blast without headphones. Yes, using their shitty phone to blare ear bleeding static noise for all to enjoy. It’s at this point you realize you forgot your coffee. Your body temperature increases. Frustration builds up. You feel a demon inside you starting to riff speed metal on your psyche. You are ready to snap.

But you can’t. You can’t walk up, rip that person’s phone and defenestrate them both from a moving vehicle.[1] Social norms resist us from doing that. If you were to do that. You would probably get yourself in a lot of trouble with the law. Because you took someone else’s property and destroyed it (albeit, somewhat justly).

Is there a metaphor here? Yes. Is it super clear? Maybe not, so I’ll explain. We all have bad days. We have all likely been victims of our anger and rage at some point. If not externally, then internally. However, socially constructed systems, like laws and policing bodies, have created things to protect others and in so doing has developed social norms and expectations. Ask anyone on the street if it is normal to walk up to someone and punch them in the face and they will tell you, most likely defensively: no (on second thought, I strongly advise that you please do not do that). That is because we all have a right to be safe.[2] So, you can’t take that goofballs phone and throw it out the window, even though he deserves it. And if you do you go to jail.

So you keep that anger in.

Until.

Something else happens. Then something more. Et cetera. Et cetera. And the fire that is your temper grows.

If you are a healthy person. You might start to do some deep breathing. Take a sip of cold water. Distract yourself. Maybe think about a herd of wild puppies jumping on you in a spring meadow and the sun is out. Just look at those puppies. Awww so cute. (Damn, that calmed me down just writing that!)

But maybe you don’t have the strategies to calm yourself down. Maybe you’ve been told all your life to keep it in or not to let it bother you. This advice isn’t very helpful because it isn’t practical. We have to let it out some way or another. And if we don’t let it out through a positive mindful practice, we will let it out through a negative one. Go ahead and name your vice: be it raging at others, road rage, porn, liquor, stealing stamps from your Grandmother’s vast collection, you name it.

Or, maybe you go on the internet. After all, the internet is for the most part, a fairly unregulated and ungoverned place. It seems, that the only way you are ever held responsible or accountable for something you say is if it causes enough social outrage that people come after you. Usually, this is reserved for the off-colour remarks that famous people make while tweeting well past midnight.[3] But the troll is not famous and thus they log on and proceed to absolutely trash someone of status or otherwise. You go on groups and intentionally start fights. You love dwelling in comment boxes and typing things you would never say in public. But here, oh here, you’ve found the perfect place to unleash that monster inside you. Your goal in what you say is not to provide constructive criticism but to evoke the same rage demon that has been conjured up in you. All these years. These people are called Internet Trolls.

Trolls are bastards. They feed off negativity. They say things that cause emotional responses in readers arousing some of our most primitive emotions: hate, fear, anger. They desperately want you to respond. To ignite their fire. To keep that pain burning. Because they are weak. They are hurt. They are people who have been bullied all their lives. Mistreated and presumed powerless. Neglected when they needed a friend. Abandoned when they needed a place to share their heart, their passion, their spark. Trolls are also people just like you and me. They were once a child. They were once innocent and full of potential, now they get their power from antagonizing others online. See the hurt in their words. Hate is hurt and hurt people hate.

There is only one remedy to hatred.

Kindness.

Which brings me to my amazing mother. She has given me so much advice and care over the years that I could never repay her back, I can only pay it forward unto others. She used to say to me when I was angry at someone: If you have nothing nice to say, find something nice to say. I know. I know. The saying usually goes that if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything. But our brains are wired for connection. And when we see the positive in things, our brain develops neural networks that, from that moment on, searches for positive things. It might be difficult at first, but the more you look for the good, the easier it becomes.[4] So instead of shooting a bunch of venom into the internets, say something kind!

For example, perhaps you have a funny comment about regarding what someone does. Do a quick checklist and ask yourself: could this person misread what I am saying? Is this comment mean spirited or is it friendly? Where is this comment coming from? Is it out of pride or jealously? I probably shouldn’t post it then. There are other questions you could ask, but these are good immediate ones to consider before posting something. I’ve made jokes and said things that after I thought, perhaps sometime later: geeze, I probably shouldn’t have said that. If you are having Post Regret. Don’t sweat it. Who you were is not who you are. Just make a conscious effort to say nicer things moving forward. Maybe go back and say something positive on that person’s page. They probably won’t notice or even care, but you will.

Going around saying nice things or comments that are intended to encourage or promote positive feelings is a really good thing. You are injecting the opposite of what the internet already has waaaaaay too much of: trolls and trolling behavior. So much so that it’s a commonplace verb nowadays. Also, you will feel good about yourself too! When you say positive things and encourage others, you feel amazing after. So be an Internet Pixie instead. Might sound super lame but it far outweighs being classified as a troll.[5]

What is a Pixie? Well, depending on where you look, the definition of a Pixie is an entity that can be mischievous but chooses to do “good” instead of being “bad”.[6] They are literally kind-spirited (a kind spirit) versus mean-spirited (a mean spirit). We all have a consciousness and an intuition that tells us what is right from what is wrong. We feel good when we do things that are good, like helping others; however, if we feel bad, like a troll often does, we continue to do bad. Being a troll is cyclic: you feel shitty, so you say something shitty, then you might get a rush of dopamine, but because you didn’t do anything constructive, you feel shitty and the cycle repeats itself.[7] Wow, that’s a lot of excrement. Excrement is toxic. That’s why we get rid of it. So: break the cycle. Be kind, friendly, nice and pleasant on the internet and say things that follow these values. I guarantee that if you promote kindness by throwing some Pixie dust on the internet, then your overall mood will follow!

So be an Internet Pixie, not an Internet Troll. Start Pixing today!

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy this article as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Have a wonderful day.

-RG   

Figure 1.1 Comes from the article Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 Rule of Personal Communication written by Nagesh Belludi. Read it here at: https://www.rightattitudes.com/2008/10/04/7-38-55-rule-personal-communication/


[1] Absolutely love when I get to use this word in a sentence. Defenestrate literally means to throw someone out of a window. Who came up with that? A genius, that’s who.

[2] I know some smart ass is going to say: “Well maybe in your culture but not in mine”. My advice is to read the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

[3] Much like operating a car or heavy machinery, don’t post things under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

[4] Thanks mom, I promise I’ll clean my room. Later.

[5] I originally considered calling it an Internet Faerie; however, I received a lot of feedback, non-verbal and otherwise, that this was probably not a good choice in wording. My intent in using this terminology was not to offend anyone or any groups. If you think it is suiting go ahead. Whatever it is, it is meant to be positive.

[6] Found this through a simple Wikipedia search, then got lost for half an hour in the vortex that is the internet and ended up on the climate on Kilimanjaro wondering: how did I get here? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixie

[7] It is a similar phenomenon in drug addicts called the Habit Loop. For more information, read: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

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