Last week I had an interaction with a troll.
I didn’t run into a cave troll while fleeing through the Mines of Moria.
I didn’t run into a troll during the Oblivion mission “A Brush with Death.”
I didn’t run into a troll while crossing a bridge and discussing the flight speeds of swallows.
My troll was of the Internet variety, baiting me into an online conflict that wouldn’t have resolved anything. And while I know that engaging with online trolls is never the proper course of action, it’s so difficult in the moment to remember that.
“Don’t feed the trolls” is some of the easiest advice to give but also some of the hardest to follow.
When someone trolls us our immediate response is to defend ourselves. We want to spend the next three hours cultivating the most perfect response. We want to address each of their criticisms with well-thought out arguments. We want to stand upon our self-righteousness and send that troll back to the darkness with the Balrog.
The only problem with those intentions, though, is that they always fall short.
There’s no response perfect enough, no argument so cutting, no higher ground that’s high enough, to defeat a troll. There’s no chance of winning against a troll, only losing. Which is why we can’t feed them.
Trolls are bottomless pits of criticism and arguments. No matter how many reasoned responses or blatant truths we throw at them, they’re never going to be satisfied. They’re always going to want more and, instead of feeling victorious, we’ll only feel empty.
I’m all for having people in our lives to hold us accountable and criticize our behavior. But those shouldn’t be people who only interact with us on social media. I have plenty of family, friends and coworkers who speak truth into my life. And when they do, instead of arguing with them I allow their insight to help me become more the person Jesus created me to be.
We should covet the accountability and criticism of people, but only those who love us and want what’s best for us. Trolls don’t love us and they don’t want what’s best for us; so we shouldn’t interact with them, respond to them or feed them.
What makes feeding the trolls so enticing?