It is not something I like to start the day reading. Someone posted a nasty comment on my blog. I suppose I should expect some criticism once in a while, but most people are generally very encouraging so it is surprising and hurtful when someone lashes out just to be mean. It’s also particularly disheartening when they claim to be a Christ follower at the same time.
Just so my readers know, I read EVERY comment and I will screen out some that are offensive, or malign my Lord, or are spam. If someone leaves a comment that gives constructive criticism, and does so in love, I allow it. There have been times I have misspelled a word, or used incorrect grammar. It pains me to admit I make mistakes like that but I appreciate my readers catching those kinds of errors and letting me know about them. A few people have challenged me on my interpretation of Scripture and my voicing opinions they did not agree with. We have had good discussions, all done with civility and respect. The people who really disappoint me are those who malign my character, who criticize my writing without cause, or challenge whether or not I am Christian. I believe they do so with the sole intention of just being hurtful to me. What gives them the right?
The internet has become a breeding ground for faceless, nameless bullies (Trolls) who enjoy ridiculing and denigrating others online. I recently read an article about “Trolls” and their inappropriate behaviour online. “We define trolling as deceptive and disruptive online behaviour, which typically involves posting inflammatory and malicious comments to deliberately provoke and upset people.” Celebrities are most often targeted by these trolls because they have large audiences (followers), who will read comments and the troll gets the attention, negative or otherwise, that they crave.
“Psychological studies show trolls tend to be male, show higher levels of psychopathy traits — low levels of empathy, guilt and responsibility for their actions — and higher levels of sadism traits, the enjoyment of causing others physical and psychological pain. Trolls are also motivated by what psychologists call “atypical social rewards”.
“Generally, people are motivated by creating a positive social environment (typical, positive social rewards).
But trolls show higher motivation to achieve negative social rewards, like creating social mayhem and disruption.”
Christians are targeted by trolls everyday, and as one article stated, “It’s not always easy to “love thy hateful commenter as thyself.”
I suppose I understand to some extent that a person who does not share my Christian beliefs would want to attack me online. It is a form of persecution, and I can expect that. Scripture does state clearly that those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour are walking in darkness. (John 8:12) In other words, until they step out of the “darkness”, they will not understand the “light” until it is revealed to them. Although disconcerting to read those inflammatory comments by those people, it should not stop me from writing about and sharing my faith here on Journey Thoughts. What distresses me even more are the Christian Trolls, who cause division and unrest within the community of believers by attacking other believers! The problem with those kinds of nefarious assaults leveled at other Christians is that we have disregarded Christ’s golden rule to “Love One Another.” (John 13:34) When a Christian comments on another Christian’s blog, website, book etc., for the purpose of sowing division and disunity within the Body of Christ, that is SIN. Let’s call it what it is!
We can have productive, theological debate with our fellow Christians without resorting to accusing them of heresy, demeaning their character, or saying they are not “true” Christ Followers. I am reminded of the Scripture passage: Matthew 7:3-5 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
After reading several articles on the psychology of trolling behaviour, and how to handle trolls, I come back again to the article by Evita March:
- “If trolls are rewarded by creating social mayhem, then it’s best to not feed the trolls. Try not to reinforce their behaviour by reacting. If the troll knows they have succeeded in disrupting the social environment in some way, this will reinforce their behaviour
- Psychopathy is generally associated with a lack of a fear of punishment. So, punishing the trolling behaviour might also prove ineffective
- Reward good behaviour. By rewarding the good behaviour, we will see more of it.”
So, taking that advice this morning, I deleted the offensive comment and immediately prayed for the person who made the comment. I know that “hurt people, hurt people” and I shouldn’t take what some people say personally. It may not be easy to “love the hateful commenter as thyself”, but I’m going to try.