Trolls, attacks, and swarming
The price of being able to say what I want to the public is hearing FROM the public.
I know many people who publish or post or comment and are shocked by the responses they get. This leads to statements about being "attacked" if it one or a few people and "bullied" if it is more.
You didn't ask, but here's my advice.
- Listen. You may be hearing from someone with a tired flag they wave at everyone and be entirely alone in their view, but they may also be alerting you to critiques that would otherwise not be known to you. Not knowing that people disagree with you doesn't mean they don't.
- Count. One person with an opinion is just that.
- Intentions don't count. You may not "mean to" say something or hurt someone and you may be a really nice person who has suffered, but public statements do not have context: they stand alone.
- Be confident. People can disagree with you. It's okay. If you want to speak up in public you can't expect to please everyone or be understood. If its important say it with courage regardless of the response.
- It isn't about you. If the opinion or position you are taking is just yours and represents no larger movement or current in thinking then maybe it is about you, but we don't say things in public just to hear our own voice. We are trying to be heard so we can persuade, or comfort others of the same view, stand up for a principle. So if it's not about you, then neither is the critique.
- It isn't about that critic. If what someone says has truth to it then it isn't just her opinion and you need to know what that thinking is.
- What-ev-er. If you want to speak in public you have to have a sense of humor and a rude hand gesture to call on in the privacy of your home. If you make too much of any response or take it too much to heart you may not have the stomach for public discourse.
- Anonymity and/or not being in the same room do strange things to people's manners. That's between them and their grandmother, and only reflects on you if you throw it back.
- A group of people with a shared opinion on one thing are unlikely to be allies on much else. When a bunch of people swarm over and pile on about your saying X, they are most likely griping about someone else in the swarm at the same time. The enemy of your enemy is rarely your friend. Your cheese stands alone.
- Apologize. If you say enough things over a long enough time you will say something you later regret. Own it. Growth is good. You want others to hear you and you want to persuade them so give them room to grow as well. We're trying to change things, not just be right.
- There's a difference between growing public opinion and swarming. If you personally stand up for what you believe, and others join you, that's public protest. If you exhort others to swarm against something just on the basis of your relationship that's swarming. In the end we are all individuals of conscience and responsible only for our one voice. Use it carefully.
- Speak up against ideas, not people. If it is just about that person then it's not something to do in public. If it is an idea then then debate THAT. There is no "them" and "us" it is "this idea" or "that idea."