I had my first trolling experience last week.
What an event that was….
Before I explain the whole sordid tale, let me give you some background: I’m a pretty harmless person. I avoid confrontation. I’m not an overtly opinionated person and you can see that through my online presence. I don’t discuss topics that stir up controversy. I’m cautious about exploring both sides of the story before I make up mind about any topics. I actually believe I need to start voicing my opinions more. Get some serious conversations happening or stir up a vigorous debate, puff my chest out and stamp my feet. But ah, you know…it’s easier not to. So, trolling hasn’t really been an issue for me.
Until last week.
If you haven’t heard about the whole Belle Gibson saga, your head must be under a rock. But the gist is this:
Woman has brain cancer. Woman heals brain cancer through ‘alternative therapies’ and diet. Woman amasses cult following on social media. Woman releases a health and wellness app that Apple loses their shit over. Woman nails publishing deal with Penguin. Penguin, peoples. PENGUIN. Woman does all this on the back of her amazing ‘cancer survival’ story. Then gets diagnosed with more cancer. Media finds out said woman doesn’t have any cancer. All hell breaks loose.
This woman, Belle, is actually someone I know personally.
I met Belle before she launched her app and became ‘insta-famous’. She was a little quirky, but nice enough and I gelled with her well. I didn’t question her cancer because seriously, why would I? It’s not my nature to doubt people saying they have cancer you know? And I never doubted it because I didn’t question it in the first place. It never even crossed my mind – ‘she looks so healthy, she’s travelling around the world, how the hell is she doing that with terminal cancer?’. It was very naive of me – but that’s just me. Harmless.
The whole saga unravelled when it was reported that Belle didn’t donate money to the charities she promised. Belle states this was a ‘cash flow’ issue – but why was it even in cash flow? Whatever. But here’s where my trolling stepped in.
I was invited to Belle’s charity event last year. And I wrote a post about it.
Then the lovely people over at the ‘Discovering Belle Gibson’ page decided to share my post.
Ah. My heart sunk.
I immediately deleted it. Totally rash decision. Totally out of fear.
Straight away, lovely trolls started to comment on that post:
“Another B-School and Institute of Integrative Nutrition graduate”…
Ah, please. I didn’t do B-school.
I quickly realised that I should make the article live again.
Because why the hell should I take it down anyway? This exposes exactly what happened, and I didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, I donated money to those causes. Money that didn’t even make it to those causes. So I added an update.
“*UPDATE: I have just seen this post being shared on the Belle Gibson Uncovered Facebook page. My first thought was ‘sheesh, I better delete this’. In light of all the recent controversy surrounding Belle, I will leave this post live. Please note that whilst I’m fully aware of the situation surrounding Belle, I am refraining from making any judgement or personal comments until I read her public statement. I am not affiliated with Belle at all but yes, I did meet her before she launched her app and yes, I believed her story at the time. I too donated money to these causes and not exactly thrilled the money hasn’t been given. That said, there is a 4 year old boy’s safety that is on my mind and I will not tolerate any harmful comments.”
This was the best thing I could have done.
I outright acknowledged the situation. I knew haters were gonna get all up in my grill – even though I wasn’t at fault. By adding this update, I practically got a virtual round of applause from the ‘Discovering Belle Gibson’ (DBG) moderators. It appears they were impressed with my honesty.
So, the trolls. Where do they come in?
That post generated quite a bit of comments on the DBG page. And as you can imagine, the people over there are pretty pissed off. I made a point to NOT look at the post. I don’t want to see that kind of negativity. Whether it’s directed at me or not.
*Note: this is why I say ‘kinda’ got trolled. Most of the comments were on the actual post over on the DBG page, and not on my site. It meant I could escape it more than I could if it were entirely on my site and social media.
I got a few comments on the actual blog post itself. I deleted some of the harsher ones, and left the few that were reasonable and well voiced. This is my virtual space – I can do that. I have very firm boundaries – this is a place of positivity and (constructive) realness, not blatant abuse.
I’m not going to comment on the whole Belle Gibson thing. I’m not happy my money didn’t get donated and frankly, I don’t want to be associated with someone like that.
But I will comment on what this whole experience has taught me:
[list_styles size=”normal”][list_style icon=”fa fa-arrow-circle-right”]Own what you say: once it’s online, it’s online. Yeah, opinions change and situations change, but own it that you meant it at the time. I read my post and cringed, but how was I to know it was all a sham at the time? Deleting the post just showed that I didn’t want to own up to it. Updating it showed that I owned it and that yeah I’m a little embarrassed, but hey so be it.[/list_style][list_style icon=”fa fa-arrow-circle-right”]Ignore: I turned off all notifications from that post on the DBG site. I didn’t want to read those comments and feel belittled by strangers. Switch it off and ignore, ignore, ignore.[/list_style][list_style icon=”fa fa-arrow-circle-right”]Moderate and let go: The nasty comments on my blog post that were just a deliberate attack were deleted immediately. I’m all for articulated opinions, debate and hearing all sides of the story. They can stay. But stupid, vicious, inconsiderate comments are not invited into my little corner of the virtual world.[/list_style][list_style icon=”fa fa-arrow-circle-right”]Be authentic: Ok, this is more about the whole Belle thing and not the trolling, but for f%#k’s sake, don’t make up stories. Don’t lie. Don’t hide behind a persona. It’s a shame that Belle was able to do so at such a large scale. Build your brand and business around the real you. [/list_style][list_style icon=”fa fa-arrow-circle-right”]Take it as a good sign: Somehow my post, of probably hundreds on Belle, was discovered and shared. It means my content is showing up. It means I’m making an impression. It means I’m building a large database. Success comes with some pain-in-the-ass, unfortunately. And I truly take it as a good sign that you’re going really, really well when you start to stir up the haters. [/list_style][/list_styles]
In the words of the wise Taylor Swift, haters gonna hate, hate, hate…
Have you had experience with trolls? How did you manage it? Share your experiences in the comments below. But like, you know, keep it all loving and real and non-trolly, yeah? 😉