I’ve had a few follow-up discussions on the fandom/bullying issue with friends, and keep bumping into what most of us acknowledge is the core of the problem: we know that ignoring bullies is best, we know that what they want is attention. But somehow, not saying anything winds up only giving them an open field in which to wreck mayhem.
And that led me back to thinking about something I’ve known for a long time now: love, and positive emotions, may be more powerful than hate/negative ones, but hate is usually louder.
If I’m looking at reviews of coffee pots on Amazon, I don’t always remember to factor in that people are far more likely to write a review complaining about something than they are to write glowing praise. You buy a toaster and it works, doing exactly what you wanted it to do, you don’t necessarily trot over to Amazon to say so. But boy howdy, if it doesn’t work, you’re right there, telling the world. And yet, 25 negative reviews out of 300 positive ones is enough to have me rethinking the purchase. For whatever reason, the negative carries more weight, and drowns out the positive.
We see the same thing at Bonesology far more often than we like. People will be responding positively to an episode, talking about what they enjoyed, and someone will pop up and say, ‘I didn’t like it because X,’ and suddenly the thread is dominated by what people were disappointed by.
Just to be clear, the people who didn’t like it have the right to say so. We all respond differently to things, and true dialogue requires expression of all views. And unhappy people should be correct when they say, ‘my not liking it shouldn’t affect those who did.’
But somehow, that’s not how it works. I’ve never forgotten the two people who sent me private messages after the Bones season six finale saying they were taking a break from the board for a while because while they were over-the-moon happy with the pregnancy, a very loud, very vocal, very angry protester who hated it was spoiling it for them.
This is why we attempt to walk a line between allowing negative responses, and in trying to prevent people from dwelling on them – that ability of a single unhappy person to drag down an entire thread.
So what does this have to do with trolls and bullying?
Just this: I think the same thing comes into play here. If a troll is active, or someone is being bullied, and no one responds out of a fear of giving the troll the attention they want, they still win because the field is left open and all anyone then sees is the hate.
And if you’re the person who’s being bullied, even if you tell yourself that silence from others doesn’t mean agreement…it’s easy for the idea that maybe they do agree to grow louder in your head. (“Maybe I am alone here. Maybe everyone does agree that I’m worthless.”)
It makes me wonder if the best approach is somehow to drown out the bullies and trolls with kindness and/or positive comments for the victim – without interacting with the troll directly. If I’m the one who’s being harassed, no, I’m not going to dignify the attack with a response. But if someone else is being attacked, I’m going to let the victim know I’m in their corner. I’m going to interact with them, encourage them, whatever. Just flood them with kindness and the reassurance that the bully isn’t speaking for everyone.
It seems like the more people stand with a victim of bullying and say, ‘you’re not alone, the bully doesn’t define you,’ the less power the bully has. But we have to take the time to reach out to those who are being victimized.
Love is more powerful than hate, but hate is often louder.