One of my least favorite things in the world is a bully. Bullies come in many forms and have been wreaking havoc on sensitive souls since the beginning of time. (I don't have any actual proof of things from the earliest days of time, but I needed a dramatic intro and I imagine they were around back then.)
With the good sometimes comes the bad. As the internet has grown, it has given us immeasurable amounts of information at our fingertips. It connects us via video to our loved ones far away, allows us to express ourselves and to reach millions of people with our ideas. With this massive reach it has also spawned an entirely new breed of bully. We all know that cyber bullying has become a really serious problem.
I'm not sure if it's a term used widely on other platforms, but on Periscope the term "trolls" bounces around a lot. An anonymous commenter, usually with an egg as a profile picture, pops up in your broadcast to say something inappropriate. Whether it's a hateful jab, a declaration of some weird sexual desire, or something else totally out of line, it kills the vibe of the room, hurts people's feelings and makes everyone uncomfortable.
Here's where we must find balance. It's up to each of us individually to decide how much of it we want to tolerate and what we are willing to do to change it, if anything. Do we give up on broadcasting? Let them drag us into their darkness and take away something we are passionate about? Well, I have to be honest.. there have been some nights where I end a broadcast and feel completely defeated. There have been times when I haven't gone live for a few weeks because the last time felt so draining or negative or I'm insecure about it. I hate that I ever let them get to me like that, and more often than not I end my broadcast feeling excited and uplifted, but we all feel vulnerable sometimes. (Cue music "Everybody Hurts.. Sometiiiimes")
As I've written before, I think people who are vindictive or angry have often gone through something painful that made them act like that. I think sometimes it just makes them feel less alone in their pain to make other people feel it. You know.. misery loves company, hurt people hurt people, etc. I am by no means giving them excuses. Everyone knows that it is absolutely NOT okay to attack people, and nobody has the right to dictate what someone else sees in the mirror.I'm simply saying that throwing anger bombs back at them is more likely to create more conflict, internal and external, than it is to resolve the problem.
How do I handle it? Well, that depends on the comment and on my mood. Sometimes I ignore it if it's silly and not offending the group, and sometimes there are a lot of them and I don't want to take away from the real conversation by addressing them. I can't help but feel a little guilty when I ignore it knowing that I have a pretty thick skin and that person may go into the live feed of someone who is far more sensitive and really actually hurt them with those words. It makes me cringe when I go into a young person's broadcast and they are being objectified or verbally abused. But there really is no perfect way to monitor those things while still allowing the community to feel authentic. There are ways to report and block them, but just like the real world, bullies will always show up.
Sometimes a simple "No, I won't show you my feet, and I'm going to block you." Works for me. Sometimes I make jokes. Every once in a while when I'm really put off by something, I'll stop the conversation, speak directly to that person and try to explain to them that treating other people with disrespect is something that won't be tolerated in my room. I try to lead a drama free broadcast so that type of thing isn't invited. I'll tell them I pray that they find a way to eliminate whatever it is in their life that is causing them such animosity towards the human race..and then I will block them. And because I am human, there is the occasional time when I will lose my temper.. but only a little.
If you take the time and build a community, care for people, interact with with kind, like-minded individuals, when these trolls pop in, you have a shield of positivity there to protect you. I can't express enough how grateful I am for platforms like Periscope and for the people who support me there. Without them there would be so many incredible things I wouldn't have been able to do. So if we give the power and attention to the dark-hearted people, we are selling ourselves short and not showing up fully for our communities. When 10 people give you compliments but the only thing you focus on is the one person who said "you look like a man" (I get that one a lot) you're not giving the supporters the gratitude they deserve for being a part of your online fam and having your back. I've actually seen people come into the room and try to say mean things while I'm singing, and then when they realize everyone else in the room is saying positive things and chatting like old friends, they'll say something nice in the end, not knowing I had seen their first comment. Whether they are just trying to fit in with the crowd or actually changed their mind about me, the main takeaway here is that kindness creates more of the same. Maybe that person realized that being mean actually isn't more fun than being nice.
To anyone on the other side of this argument: please please consider NOT being a bully anymore. (Hey, you never know, maybe asking them nicely will work..) People are so fragile. You never know how heavy someone's burdens are. Online communities are a way for people to find friends, feel less alone and express their truth. If you make it an unsafe space for them, the damage that causes could be minimal, but it also could be catastrophic for someone who put themselves out there desperately needing love. Your words are far bigger than the small amount of space they take up on a screen. Choose them wisely.
And on that note. I love all of you. The world needs more love. Let's provide it.