My First Internet Troll: Life Lessons for a Blogger

For the first time since I started this blog, I experienced a troll on one of my social media outlets. I don’t want to get too specific because I don’t think it’s worth engaging in it anymore. But I do have to admit that I took the bait when it first happened, and it bothered me enough to blog about it — which I’m doing right now.

I posted something about coconut oil for topical use, and this person completely hijacked the conversation, stating that eating coconut oil and other saturated fats was terrible for heart health, and that instead we should be eating soy and corn oil and more polyunsaturated fatty acids.

  • He likened following traditional diet practices to following a cult.
  • He said that the folks who’ve influenced and inspired my view of healthy eating were “wannabe nutritionists” and hacks.
  • He dismissed a highly regarded meta-analysis that casts serious doubt on the validity of the claim that ‘saturated fat causes heart disease.’
  • He said that the only valid research on this topic is from the 80’s before drugs like Lipotor came out and confounded all the evidence, so was unable to cite any new research to support his claims.
  • Then he said that he hoped that I’d “see the light” before it was too late and I died of CVD (cardiovascular disease) later in life.

This person was a doctor.

life lessons internet trolls

“internet troll” by Eirik Solheim sourced through Creative Commons

People on the thread were thanking him for clarifying “confusing information on healthy fats,” and I just couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t. I wasn’t going to say anything, but the thread was growing and more people started engaging this guy, asking him to share his research and saying they were happy that he could clarify what the “right” food choices were. He cited a website with an intentionally anonymous author and said that this nameless person was the expert on understanding hard scientific evidence and debunking diet trends. The website he referred to has a stated vegan agenda. When I quoted a study that he’d shared through this anonymously sourced website as evidence for my argument and asked him to respond, he ignored me and continued to spew. It was clear that he didn’t want to have a conversation; he wanted to hijack my thread and make it about him and his “expertise” on the topic of CVD and dietary saturated fat. 

Choosing Your Battles

Over the course of my life, I’ve struggled with keeping my mouth shut at appropriate times, knowing (or not knowing) when to leave well enough alone, recognizing a futile argument when I see one, etc.

I was absolutely and fully sucked in to the “liberal college kid” syndrome. You know the one where you leave home for the first time and realize that everyone in your family is a conservative freak? And you simply MUST take it upon yourself to start every idealist liberal argument that comes up vaguely at the Thanksgiving dinner table your first visit home during freshman year? The one where you develop shiny new principled views on every social justice issue from racism to transgender issues to homelessness and the environmental atrocities taking place in your home state of Texas? Yes, that one. That passionate sense of injustice for anyone who’s ever been subjugated or persecuted fills you with rage to the point that you develop a ridiculous notion of personal responsibility to educate the world through teenage activism in the form of calling your republican father a bigot at Christmas. Yes, I did that. I got a bit carried away at times. I yelled. I cried. I slammed doors. I picked up my plate and moved. Yes, I did all that. I was experiencing growing pains, and so were the members of my family victims.

In my adult life, I’ve tried to tone it down a bit. I recognize that I live in the “Bay Area bubble,” and as a result can have some unrealistic expectations of what should go on around me and in the country in general. I also recognize that I chose to live here, in part to surround myself with people more like me. I don’t think those causes that impassioned me in college are unimportant, I’m just an adult now and can temper my emotions and talk to people like a person instead of like a lunatic.

That being said, I make it a conscious practice to empathize and try to recognize that everyone’s viewpoint comes from somewhere, whether I agree with it or not. In fact, I was talking about this very concept with an old friend just a couple of days ago before this troll entered my consciousness. I sometimes forget that there are people in this world who don’t strive for that sense of personal growth at all and in fact thrive on antagonistic commentary, especially online where they can safely hide behind the computer screen. Some people aren’t interested in anything but getting a rise out of people. 

Over the course of this online conversation, my emotions ranged from righteousness to despair, with temporary confusion, frustration, incredulity, and powerlessness peppering between the extremes. I finally realized that it wasn’t worth it. I had to just let it go. This person was citing an anonymous blogger while simultaneously making ad hominem arguments against well-respected doctors, scientists, and nutrition experts. How is that fair? But more importantly, what does it matter? 

life lessons internet trolls

Life Lesson: Let it Go

I was tempted to use this blog post today to discredit this troll’s nutrition claims point by point. In fact, I started out writing with that intention in mind — to create a list of my own bullet points countering each of the claims I enumerated in the list above. But I’ve decided against it. Instead of making this post about nutrition and saturated fat (which was NOT what my original post on social media was about in the first place!) I’m making this post about Life Lessons.

What can we take away from experiences like the one I just described?

Sometimes it can be really hard to rise above conflict when there’s a core principle involved. (And as I illustrated through my inelegant college-aged outbursts, I tend toward “principled” in general.) Sometimes it’s actually worth it to engage. But most of the time it’s not, and experience and time might be the only way to learn the difference.

I am still learning.

My hope is that as this blog grows and more people read and experience the benefits of enjoying life with

  • real food
  • a real sense of purpose
  • a creative endeavor
  • mindfulness
  • movement
  • authentic experiences with nature

the power these trolls have will fall away. (There are my counterpoints!) Because truly, that list of emotions I ran through up there? Despair? Powerlessness? The only person making me feel those feelings was me. I allowed some random person I will never meet to cause me distress and self-doubt (and make me late for work). That was me that did that. Not him. I chose to respond and I chose to let it get to me.

And now I’m choosing to rise above it and turn it into something I can use and learn from and share with you. Maybe I should be thanking him for giving me my first trolling experience. I am too old to have experienced any real cyber-bullying, so I guess this is as close as it gets. So my advice, my lesson is to sit back and decide what’s worth arguing for and what’s worth letting go. Decide who deserves your energy; who deserves your attention; who’s worth your time. And if a stranger with bad information and a chip on his shoulder doesn’t fit into any of those categories, just let it go.

About 

I'm a wellness professional with a Master's in Integrative Health, passionate about spreading health, happiness and personal fulfillment to as many people as possible. I have a professional background in health and wellness, dietary supplements, and nutrition, and embark every day to live a well, balanced, happy life. In being true to myself and what I seek in life, I hope to inspire others to do the same, to cultivate wellbeing in their own lives.

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