You ever read the comment section on a blog or on your favourite news site?
I’m not a ranter, but I have to tell you, sometimes I find the comments section of many sites discouraging…even depressing. It’s like the mean people took over the internet. I’d link to some that bother me, but then I’d just be taking us all down and I really don’t want to do that.
I guess I’m a little attuned to this right now because of the massive response to this post recently that spawned hundreds of comments on my site in a few days. I heard some incredible encouragement from many commenters, but the cynics and the trolls also showed up in good number.
The trolls and cynics have gotten bad enough on the internet that several well known bloggers have discontinued comments altogether on their blogs. They have various reasons, and as someone who has to wade through hundreds of comments a month on this site, I completely understand that.
If I ever cut comments here, it would be because the quality discussion is too often hijacked by the trolls and cynics.
But I don’t want to close my comments section, even though it means I have to take extra time on the comments when addressing sensitive issues like this. Why?
Because I really value dialogue from good people. Because I learn from readers like you. Because I actually value different perspectives, not just my own. And I should say, so many of you have been SO encouraging. Thanks for being awesome like that. In fact, when I sent out a short version of this article to my email subscribers last week, the reaction was SO positive many said “please turn this into a blog post”. So I did.
So here we go: I don’t want the cynics and the trolls to win. I trust you don’t either, right?
Of course this is all bigger than just blogging. My guess is the cynics and trolls have gotten you down more than a few times in life and leadership.
What do you do?
How Instant Access to Everything has Empowered Cynics and Trolls
Remember the days where cynics and trolls had to interact in front of real people? They’d have to say something in the lunch room in the presence of their co-workers, or line up at the microphone at a meeting to be heard?
Or remember when, pre-chat rooms and social media, when they had to use email to complain, which means they pretty much had to use their real name and expect a real response by a real person?
Ah, those were the days. There was a social check in that…the idea that you were part of a community where people actually interacted with each other.
But now, emboldened by a keyboard and seemingly endless amounts of time, they seem quite dedicated to spreading hopelessness and misery.
Social media and comments threads now gives cynics instant access to anyone who will let them rant, groan and show the rest of the world how much they think they know.
Apparently they have the time, doing little productive with their lives.
As a result of all this, the collective dialogue is suffering:
We know more but think less.
We’ve convinced ourselves that opinion beats dialogue.
Rudeness has become a substitute for disagreement.
That can’t win. Personally, I am addicted to hope, as I know many of you are, awesome people.
The Antidote to Trolls and Cynics
So what can you and I do?
Naturally, you can edit and even ban the cynics and trolls. I try to ban as few people as possible, but every month I end up banning a few people from commenting on my site who honestly just want to pick fights (while I do it reluctantly, it’s my blog and I don’t apologize. It’s like life: you can be rude in my house, but do it and few times and you won’t be invited back.) And sometimes I delete comments from naysayers who have nothing constructive to add.
But you and I can do much better than that. Much better.
I believe there are far more good leaders and good people than there are cynics and trolls.
Here’s the tension: our silence is killing us and fuelling them.
The antidote to cynics and trolls is intelligent, hope-filled conversation by good people.
So, I’m asking you to be a force of good this week by doing two things:
1. Leave an intelligent, helpful, constructive comment to a blog or website this week
It doesn’t have to be on my site (although I’d welcome that, of course), but just leave one somewhere to let humanity know all hope is not lost. Okay?
None of this means you have to agree with the writer (discussion and debate help us all learn), but courteous, grace-filled thoughtful debate moves the dialogue and the mission forward. I KNOW that’s what you bring to the conversation.
Chances are you just think your voice doesn’t matter much. I promise you, it does.
2. Say something helpful and constructive in face to face conversations
Conversations go south in real life all the time. What do many good people and even good leaders do in moments like that? We simply shut down.
Say something helpful, something intelligent, something heartfelt, something constructive. Look to leave the dialogue and the world a better place.
And if you encounter a cynic or troll who says something like “X are just useless places run by selfish people”, look them straight in the eye and ask this question: Really? And just sound surprised.
Most cynics and trolls don’t know what to do with a real person who lives with hope. And if they get rude, just say “I’m sorry, you can’t talk to me that way” and then go on with your intelligent conversation with the other good people in the room.
So would you speak up today?
Your voice is exactly what this world needs right now. And there are far more of you than there are of them.
What are you learning about trolls and cynics?
Scroll down and leave an (intelligent) comment.