Troll baying seems to come in waves. Is it a lunar thing?

Image via Trey Radcliff

Lately, something has been going on. They’ve been making quite the cacophony out there in the social media zoo.

It’s not just the traditional trolls either. It’s everyday people who get all snippety about an issue and forget that online slam-downs are no different from screaming hysterically at a stranger in the street. It’s also Big Name Bloggers who feel they have license to get, well, plain mean.

Over the years I’ve truly come to weather the slings they throw from time to time on this blog, and now on my Instagram and Twitter accounts. Age helps – “sheer years on the planet” as I say quite often. Feeling comfortable with what I do does too. So does being bullied as a kid. I was ostracised most of my childhood until my intensity found a place on the planet. Again, sheer years on the planet!

I have a troll that follows me about. David Driscoll is his real name. He sets up fake Twitter accounts using pictures of cute, likeable 20-something women and goes after me for, yes, suggesting to others they might like to limit their sugar. He attacked me – for days? weeks? – for not responding to some comments from a dietician posted in response to a blog I’d written. FYI: I’d made my point already in my post (and didn’t feel I needed to say more), the dietician in question is sponsored by a major sugar-based food company (so I didn’t feel I needed to expend too much energy on her take), and – besides – I’d decided to contact the dietician direct and met her for coffee to discuss offline. Like real people do. We had a great coffee chat, didn’t agree, but kept it amicable. Like real people can.

Anyway, I’ve just done what I’m about to advise one does not do (see below).

Why am I taking time to write about this? Because I’ve been really concerned that readers here on this blog (and who follow me on social media) have been copping it from these Trolls and Snippities on my behalf recently. Some of you have – very kindly – jumped on to comments to defend me or  to defend an argument I make. Or a piece of blindly obvious logic. Or just to defend decency! Which has then seen you get sledged by this sordid lot. So I thought I might start a discussion on how to get us all more mindful and grounded with this kind of base behaviour. Please wade in. And, today only, any trolls that make a noisome fuss will be blocked. (I try to avoid blocking people, instead allowing them to peter out on their own.)

Me, this is my Troll and Snippities Deflecting Approach:

1. Ignore them. Much like dealing with a recalcitrant toddler: you encourage their good behaviour, ignore their bad. And hopefully they’ll mature through this kind of attention steering. As Brian Eno has said, “Attention is what creates value.”

2. Ignore them. Adding oxygen to their fire never helps.

3. Ignore them. When I was a kid and griped to Mum about the “girls at school” who stuck compasses into the back of my legs and accused me of having a mono-brow and having too many siblings (thus justifying four years in the library-at-lunch wilderness), she’d ask me, “Do you respect these girls, Sarah?”. No, I’d say, they’re idiots! “Then hold your head high,” Mum would tell me. I reflect on this advice often.

It’s important to “be our message”. Which is not the same as “being right”. There is no right. This is part of my message. So I have to live it.

4. Ignore them. Save time for more important things. There’s much freedom and lightness in knowing you haven’t expended energy on such an ugly cause.

5. Smile at it. I’m not sure if I’ve shared this before? I like to visualise Troll Sledges and Snippity Snark as so many balls coming towards me. I can try to hit them back. Or I can simply watch them sail on past me, before splatting! behind me. And I find this a little bit amusing.

Artful ignoring can be tough to pull off. But practice – and smiling – helps. It really does.

One more thought:

Trolls don’t disturb me so much these days, but the Snippities can. This is because they’re normal humans – dads with kids, young women with sensible jobs, not unhinged weirdos hiding behind avatars or fake Twitter accounts – who think they’re so in the right that their behaviour is justified. The fact that they think there’s a right way depresses me so much.

There is no right, and to hold to that is to hold humanity back from expansiveness.

Anyway, if you’re up for expanding on this topic with your thoughts on how to handle this vexing issue, please do share. It would be good to support each other and to get on a similar page. Oh, and a special shout out to the caring, passionate people who calmly, considerately and carefully defend me and my points (and decency). I salute you!

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • amos

    Sometimes a person just needs to cut a toxin out of their life, any way they can. You did it regarding sugar, Sarah. It might be time to do it again, with the larger toxin….

  • $44923

    I really felt it was at the time, and really reflects the unfortunate change of tone that particular blog has taken in the last couple of years. I used to really enjoy it, but stopped reading about a year or two ago. And that comment and link was taken down from their Facebook page, so hopefully they realised it was inappropriate/misguided. I was so disappointed that I commented on it, which I don’t do a lot of. Good on you for being able to ignore it/rise above. That’s a very admirable skill.

  • $44923

    The whole thing was deleted wasn’t it?

  • Amen David!

    If you want to claim to play the science game and use research to back up your fad diet, you have to be able to strong enough to take criticism by the scientific community. We do this all the time with papers, or else we would all be following the wrong advice and research outcomes poorly designed studies. It also means as a scientist- yes nutrition is science and taking this stance on sugar has a science basis, you have to look at all the science- not cherry pick the ones that suit you.

    Asking for explanations is not trolling, being nasty is. Calling some one a troll is a form of bullying anyway. Maybe practice what you preach?

    In addition your “sugar free” advocates visit other dietitian pages all the time, yes “trolling” being nasty. Commenting with personal opinion (not research based) and generally showing how brain washed they are with ill advice.

    How it is so easy to throw stones…

  • Pip

    Hi Kate,
    Thanks for your wise words, I read this link and comments in a search for how to manage toxic people in my life and i found the answer in your comment. Thanks to you, and bless you. As Sarah said “Right on!!!”, Pip

  • Noelle

    Awesome and so well spoken Sar! I’ve seen a few discussions here and there (by some big name bloggers) that I also know and wonder where it was all coming from… seemed silly, especially when they have a responsibility to their many followers to keep it real and balanced! BIG HUG! OX

  • Jacqui

    F*&@ them Sarah, F*$& them. Just keep on being you. xx

  • San

    I was bullied as a kid and believed many of the comments. I thought I looked like an alien, so seriously ugly. I just found an old photo album. Seeing myself as a cute, smiley little child, I cannot make sense of what problem these people, and I, had?!

  • Danielle

    Just picture yourself being a bully or troll and leaving nasty and useless responses hiding behind your computer for a second…. Seriously think about it. You would have to be in a pretty bad place in life. So I’m grateful that I must actually be incredibly sane and happy as such idiotic behaviour would never even occur to me! I think if you’re ever having a very bad day – remind yourself you’re still doing 1000 times better than some weirdo who spends their time coming up with negative or hateful comments. Until they grow out of it – ignore them & be grateful you have much better things to do.

  • Katy

    Thank you, thank you! I’m small fry. I’m a year or so into public exposure and have only had a few things catch fire. I made the mistake of reading a long thread about one of my FB videos in a group. It was 99% possitive but the 3 or 4 nasty people threw me for a loop. I didn’t comment. My defenders were a salve but it took about 24 hours to stop questioning my mission. Thank you so much for sharing. Keep up the good work.