I’m a writer, and therefore, used to digital criticism, insults, and the occasional threat.
If I didn’t write social and political commentary, it would probably be more of an anomaly. However, we are a greatly divided people who continually find ourselves in heated conversation over those very topics, and that translates to the digital world. It is common to open up Twitter just to find myself on the receiving end of nasty comments.
Internet trolls are discouraging, and it is easy to want to fight fire with fire. Yet, I follow Christ, and thus, even my digital encounters should reflect Him. How can that be accomplished?
Here’s what I’ve learned about acting like Jesus in the age of internet trolls:
Seriously. This can be extremely hard when someone is out to make you look unintelligent or idiotic, or is saying something blatantly wrong, but most internet trolls are simply out for your response. 9 times out of 10, it is better to say nothing at all than add fuel to their fire. Like Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” (ESV)
One of the reasons why people are able to say horrible things to others is because they have the disconnect of the internet between them and the other person. This digital age dehumanizes people. Take the time to sit back and remember that the person attacking you is a human as well; you don’t know what is going through their brain or their motivation for being awful.
BE ABOVE REPROACH
The old phrase “kill them with kindness” rings true here. In 1 Peter, Peter is discussing being above reproach as a reflection of Christ when he writes, “…keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:16) Although this passage of Scripture has a specific context, it is applicable here as well; be above reproach in your digital interactions; keep a clear conscience and therefore, reflect your Savior well.
PRAY AND REALIZE BIGGER BATTLES
Especially if someone said something that you’re having a really difficult time not internalizing, take the time to pray for them and about the bigger battles that are taking place. Is the problem really that they said something awful, or is that they don’t know Christ? Humanize the person once again and know that things are so much bigger than whether they agree with you politically or socially. A soul on the line will always be the biggest battle.
In the spirit of full disclosure, every single point I just touched on is a personal struggle. It is hard to not become angry or discouraged when a person behind a computer takes it upon themselves to slice apart something you worked hard on or when you are attacked personally. Yet, as Margaret Thatcher said so brilliantly,
“I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political [social, factual, etc.] argument left.”