Everybody knows that the virtual world is full of trolls. They’re negative, they’re angry and they’re probably a bit smelly too. Like sketchy neighbourhoods and dodgy-looking characters on the street, we take great steps to avoid potentially negative interactions in our everyday life online. But, what if I told you, that there is a different path open to you, when it comes to dealing with trolling? That trolls, nay-sayers, angry folks that want to insult you, and all-round impolite and insulting creatures online, are actually a force that you can leverage, for your own self-esteem, and for your business? Would you tell me that I’m crazy?

Why We Are Affected By Trolls

Most of us are lucky enough to live in a world, where our safety and self-esteem is not immediately threatened every day. There are no tigers waiting to eat us, no armed gangs gathering outside our homes, and we can safely call a taxi to get home on a night out. While this is ideal from the point of view of safety, it means that our deep reflexes – our natural instincts in the face of danger, don’t get a look in. In fact, those deep-rooted survival instincts are positively flabby. We don’t get enough practise dealing with conflict, so when it does happen, we go all wibbly-wobbly about it.

This is why, when we write a kick-ass article, post a picture or share an achievement online, we forget all about the uplifting comments from people that enjoyed it, in order to mentally and often physically, over-react to negative comments.

Even though we’re not in any physical danger, and we’re probably not in any other type of danger either, such as having our livelihood stripped away from us, or losing money. We react as though we are. Negative comments naturally dominate our thoughts, as the brain and body are attuned to threats and danger. That’s how we’ve survived for many thousands of years.

Being rejected by your tribe is an ancient danger. Shame has been used by humans to control other humans since forever, and this primitive reaction is what trolls are tapping in to. When your social standing and reputation are threatened, the primitive part of your brain doesn’t understand that it’s probably some dude covered in Pringle crumbs, sitting in his mother’s basement ten thousand miles away. 

When the brain perceives danger, or a threat to your plans or social standing, a chemical called cortisol is released by the HPA axis in the brain. This heightens your awareness (which is partly why some people obsess over certain comments online). It raises your heartbeat, your breathing gets shallower, and you might even start to tremble. You can have trouble focusing on anything other than the perceived threat, and even experience distortion of reality – such as thinking that your article is terrible and everyone hates it.

I don’t need to tell you, that this feels HORRIBLE! This is how trolls operate, and they get a kick out of causing a physical and mental reaction to somebody, just by using words.

How Trolls Can Be Good For You

First of all, if you can be at peace with the fact that trolling exists, and some of it is going to land at your feet, no matter how wonderful you are, then you have a huge advantage over lots of other people that want to get their work out there.

Being aware of the entire process of trolling, from what causes it in the first place to how it makes you react, helps to hand the power over the whole process back to you. People feeling powerless and trying to dominate and control others over the Internet because they’re feeling sad and inadequate in themselves – that’s the reason trolls say awful stuff. Your natural response – to over-react and feel like crap about it, is perfectly healthy.

This stuff is as natural as anything you’d see on a David Attenborough show. That doesn’t mean it’s OK, but if you can change your outlook on trolling, you can retain your power and actually use their negativity as motivation to hit your next level, where their comments can not harm you.

Being Trolled Is An Opportunity To Become More Of Who You Are

If you can concentrate on your own feelings and reactions to trolling and begin to control them, instead of letting them control you, then YOU get to use it as an opportunity for growth. You get to be the badass. You get to build the courage to post the stuff you might otherwise delete. You get to go deeper, be more experimental, and dare to connect more deeply with your audience. You get to be more authentic, more real, and come across in 3D, which puts you at an advantage, compared to everyone else that’s still getting hung up on rude people who get off on upsetting strangers.

Trolls Can Help You to Build Deeper Connections With the RIGHT People

Going even deeper – if you can control your own reactions to trolls, you can step in and uplift others. What better way to connect with other writers, entrepreneurs, or the artists and people you admire, than to counter their negativity THEY are receiving from trolls, with your admiration and acclaim?

This is going to bring you far more happiness and make you more positive connections, than thinking “I’d better tone myself down a bit in case I get a load of crap from trolls over this.” Standing up for yourself can repair the cracks that trolls may have caused in your self-esteem, but standing up for others gives you battle-armour.

You can’t wave a magic wand and banish all the trolls back to their bridges, but you can use their negativity to push yourself further, be more daring, and make all kinds of connections online. I’m sure many of you will agree, that is truly a win against the online forces of darkness.