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Gee: What do we do with online trolls?

(File, Associated Press)

Recently on social media, I witnessed adults say some foul things towards my son. If you’ve had this happen to you, then you know the feeling I’m talking about. Even if you haven’t had it happen, if you’re a parent, I’m sure you can still imagine.

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I ask him about the things that are said to him, and he simply says, “Dad, I actually feel sorry for them. Things can’t be going well in their lives if they choose to do that.”

It was in that moment, for the first time, I actually looked at social media bullies in a different way.

Growing up, we were taught that there were consequences to saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. However, in today’s world of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a host of other social media platforms, a person can pretty much hide under any number of personas and take cheap shots at anyone.

Seems like nobody is safe from these individuals who have such an appropriate name: Trolls.

Hollow-named individuals with random pictures for faces, these self-empowered nuisances can wreak havoc on businesses, brands, and individuals like nothing we knew in earlier generations.

There’s an argument for calling out the trolls — and at the same time — there’s an argument for dismissing them.

So, is there a solution?

Lately we’ve talked a lot about those with mental health issues, and how it’s important for them to get help. Every day, that’s what I see from what we call trolls; I see cries for help.

At least that’s how I look at it now after talking with my son.

Some of the high-profile people I lean on for advice tell me they just ignore the trolls, but is this the best way to respond to them? If everyone ignores them, does that make our world better? A well-known professional athlete I spoke with recently shared this with me about the people who troll him.

I think of them for what they truly are: Individuals with sad lives who can only find joy in trying to bring others into the same misery. So I handle them with a smile, knowing I get to do what I do for a living. And — regardless of the outcome — games end, and so do seasons, but these people will spend the rest of their lives being the sad individual they are. That gives me solace.

So again, part of me gets that advice and says, “Yep, you’re right!” Then the other part of me says, “Wait, if everyone has that attitude towards them, then what will happen to them?”

It seems in today’s world, keyboards provide people a measure of courage they don’t normally have.

It is hard for me to do nothing when people come at either my kids, or people I love and admire with messages of hate or lies.

There’s one element of all this that quite frankly scares me. If the trolls don’t have social media to vent their views, thoughts, and general disdain for life, then where do they release it?

People tell me, “They’re harmless” or “Ignore them!” Or the ever-popular adage, “Don’t feed the trolls.”

I don’t have the answer, but I thought writing about it would continue the conversation. I’d like to wish a Happy New Year to everyone. It truly has been an amazing year, and I look forward to talking about things that might just make the world a better place for all of us who share it.

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