Thinking about the Comments Section Trolls

Just thinking aloud tonight…

I’m one of those individuals who has a rather large soft spot for other people. I tend to think with my heart more often than my head, according to my husband, and I can’t really argue. The thing is – I’d rather be this way than be a cynic. Sure there are times when people have certainly taken advantage of me, I’m no fool. I have a strong sense of empathy for others. I also tend to see both sides of disagreements. These traits, while generally being positive characteristics, also cause me a fair amount of stress and anxiety.

I’m a curious individual and I like to keep up on current events, particularly local issues. I read articles from my local newspaper online via Facebook and Twitter. Recently I read an article about a family who had come upon hard times due to the major illness of one of the main breadwinners that eventually took his life. The wife and her children are currently living in a motel as they could not afford the security deposit along with rent for an apartment.  I read the article and then made the mistake of clicking on the comments section below the post on Facebook. There, among a few generally sympathetic responses, were some of the most vitriolic statements I could imagine.

This is not my first experience with this sort of degrading and vile commentary. The county I live in is almost stereotypical in its white, Christian, conservatism; when tragedy occurs these same people pull together in a show of amazing love and unity with one another; however, at the same time the same values they uphold in one instance of human need seem to completely vanish in others.

The issues are much more complex than the manner in which I am painting them here simply because human hypocracy is not my point, or at least I don’t think it is. What I’m really thinking about is how I have this tendency to open myself up to feelings of anger, resentment, and hurt by looking at the comments sections of articles I read. Perhaps I seek drama; that isn’t how it feels, but I’m open to that criticism. I am curious as to how others feel about the issues I’m reading about. I often want to hear the arguments of the opposition; it isn’t opposition that bothers me, but more the manner in which people express their opposition.  Since when did it become outmoded to consider others’ feelings, or mere civility, when commenting on issues that affect others’ lives?

Time and again I have sworn I will no longer read the comments sections; however, curiosity often gets the better of me. I don’t know why I let them bother me so much. I know that is what many of them are hoping for – to antagonize someone to the point of heated argumentative response. I have only ever responded by commenting back one time, but in the end it didn’t make me feel any better. Perhaps that’s the lesson I need to take away from these experiences.

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