Last week, I had an essay published in the Globe & Mail’s Facts and Arguments about my time spent in Norway with my two young children. I was so excited Wednesday morning when it was posted online that I forgot to heed my own advice about never reading the comments. I read the first few comments. This was a grave mistake and demolished any sort of initial joy I might have felt being about published in a major national newspaper.
Silly me. Now, I’m not going to feed these trolls by talking about them or responding to them, except to say that it is rather amusing to see trolls crawling out from under rocks about an essay about Norway. They can suck it. What I do want to say to writers who are contemplating sharing their work for publication is this…
Do not be daunted by the trolls. There will always be someone who feels that he/she must comment something contrary about whatever you write – even if it is the most positive, feel good piece you could ever image. Ignore them, and don’t give them the satisfaction of the attention by responding to them. In fact, don’t bother reading the comments at all. The days of civilized conversation on the Internet are long gone. (But if I think of it, I can remember being on a listserv about attachment parenting with a group of moms 20 years ago, and unsubscribing after being engulfed in what we termed back then as a ‘flame war’ – badly behaved people have always existed on the Internet. And in real life too).
Ignore all that crap. Keep writing. Persist in telling your stories. This makes you vulnerable, yes, but it also opens you up to some beautiful people, like Emilie, who took the time to comment on my blog:
Heres’s a good comment to read – your piece made me melt. Well done and thank you for sharing your past pain and healing with strangers. Keep writing!
Emilie is the person you are writing for. Keep the her in your heart and banish the trolls to the remote mountains of Norway, where they belong. As someone once wise told me: if you don’t play the game (of engaging with any asshole in life), you can’t ever lose. So no need to jump to my defence – I’ve checked out of the comment reading game. Oblivion is bliss.
Ps: for a much more thoughtful essay about trolls, read Stephanie Wittels Wachs’ super piece in Vox called My brother died of a heroin overdose. Internet trolls wouldn’t let us grieve.