Social Media Trolling Should Not Be Your Preferred Method of Online Communication

Trolls are still a thing. Like, a serious thing! It’s so weird, right? It feels kind of pathetic to lash out at strangers online. Or is it just me?

I mean, we can see that it’s almost certainly a waste of time. I suppose I should qualify that we. I mean as the more reasonable among us. Sure there are those who relish hate and negativity and passive aggressive displays of immaturity. Due to lack in other areas of life these folk may glom onto online displays of bad behavior as a matter of course. But let’s not get this thing twisted. Outside the pages of an old-school fairytale, there really is no place where trolling is okay. Even jokes go awry these days, and quick.

Further, people who perceive digital communication like social media as more impactful or suitable than more traditional methods — and in traditional I include email — dude. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

For example, let’s say an organization with branches in multiples states has a new leader. The woman’s been in her role for like, a month. She has an active social media profile. Nothing crazy or outlandish. Her activity on Twitter and LinkedIn is positive, tasteful, appropriate. But now her new employees in different states are hopping on Twitter to air their grievances. Basically they’re trolling her every time she makes a post, no matter how positive, or how innocuous.

Is that the best way to effect change? Um, no. Especially since in this example, this leader is known for having an open-door policy — or its equivalent in these times of Zoom and quarantine. Everyone in the company has her email address. She has encouraged every employee from the people on the factory floor to those in the C-suite to use it.

But the issues that she’s taking heat over? The trolls – her own employees, natch – didn’t email her about them. The first she knew of one issue, was when she was trolled about it online.

Now if this story had a HEA ending, this beleaguered leader would have immediately reviewed policy, made changes befitting the organization, and set a date in the not so distant future when that policy would become active. But in Kellye-land, the land of practicality and doing what makes sense in the most efficient way possible, guess who’d be on a list of people to watch for performance-related issues? Guess who’d be top of mind if workforce cuts were necessary? You guessed it — the trolls.

First, it’s completely unprofessional behavior. Spreading negativity online? Are you a teenager who can subsequently use immaturity and hormone surges to explain your lapses in judgement? No? Then you should know better. Social media isn’t new, after all. That’s in the handbook: Though shalt not troll and be deemed a mature and responsible human being.

Two, why would you poop on your own boss? Does that make sense? How is that helpful? I’m not saying you need to be the Stepford Wives version of a company man/woman, but use your head. You’re trolling your boss, who has an open-door policy, about issues she hasn’t even been made aware of because she’s been sitting her chair for like five minutes. How can that possibly reflect well on you? You appear disloyal and immature, a troublemaker who flouts the rules and seems to like drama more than actually doing something productive.

Three, the time that leader has to spend doing damage control, deciding if and how to respond, that’s all time spent on non-productive activity that is to the detriment of the organization that cuts your check. If you’re tweeting at your company, as is the case in my example, it’s completely counterintuitive. Unless of course, your purpose is to look stupid, immature, and life-less.

I mean, what else can one assume when someone chooses a method of communication run by an unexplainable algorithm that systemically pushes narratives that are patently — and easily proven as — false? What else can one assume when someone chooses to chirp into a relative void, where their chirp will almost certainly get lost in a deluge of other noise, and there is little hope for a response? What else can one assume when someone chooses a method of communication that is not only indirect, but has a character limit? Come on. Really?

And let me clarify, not every comment someone leaves online has to be overwhelmingly positive and glowing. That’s not real life. But there is a distinct difference between pointing something out that’s wrong or problematic in the spirit of discourse, and just spitting fire to set someone’s feed or digestion ablaze.

I’ve wanted to leave negative comments before. I think I have! I’m human. I don’t like everything. But I certainly haven’t lately because I don’t want to be a troll. I always think, is this valuable? Is this helpful? Can I phrase this in a way that shares my perspective but doesn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth or anyone who reads this? How does this make me look? How might this be perceived in ways that I did not intend?

Usually after I start asking these questions, I realize it’s not that deep. I don’t even care enough to leave a comment. The most I’ll do is withhold my like, and I’m big on liking things.

Seriously, though? Don’t troll. It’s sooo 2015. And it does not reflect well on anyone involved. There are much more productive things to do with your time online, trust me. Like, watch baby animal videos on YouTube. It’s much more enriching for mind, body and spirit.

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