If A Troll Falls In The Forest, Does Anybody Hear?

August 17, 2010

I wrtrollote this post late last year, and it is testament to the force of its argument and its mantra-like qualities that I cannot even remember what incident it was that prompted me to write it. I’d now like to forget a confrontation with ugly that I had yesterday – ugliness that scratched the wound of an old ugliness, ugliness that was being hurled directly at the beauty of the other week, which meant that it had the potential to cause much hurt – which meant that it did cause much hurt, until I decided to follow the advice below – and so I am reposting it, in the manner of repeating it like a mantra, and asking for your support in asserting it, loudly and clearly and emphatically. Because.

How To Deal With Trolls: A Primer

Step 1: Ignore the trolls.

Step 2: Ignore the trolls.

Step 3: IGNORE THE TROLLS. Do not look at them, do not respond to them, do not point your finger at them and scream TROLL, because the only thing that trolls love more than the sound of their own voice (virtually rendered in the spaces of our community as unpleasant/derogatory/inappropriately critical/unnecessarily smug/indisputably bitchy words on the screen) is the sound of other voices responding to theirs. And what a troll hates more than anything else? The deafening silence that resounds when their words fall into the dark, empty pit of nobody cares, the dark, empty pit that rings only with the hollow echo of their mean spirits hammering against the walls of their vacant souls.

And in the space where you might otherwise have been tempted to put a rejoinder or rebuttal or argument or smackdown? Put love. Put friendship. Put community. Put laughter. Say something nice, something friendly, something clever, something ridiculous, something vapidly amusing, something about coffee or chocolate or how much you love person X or how much you admire person Y or has anybody seen that awesome thing that person Z wrote yesterday? or oh, look, roller skating babies!

And then move on. And forget that you ever saw that troll under that bridge because really, there are so many, there are always so many, always spilling out from the muck and the grime and reaching out with their spindly, warty arms and grabbing for attention, but they only have power if we let them, if we choose to see them, if we acknowledge that they’re there, if we let them seize that attention and hold it and turn it ugly.

Let’s not let them.

Let’s just not.

*I know, I know. I don’t always do this. This is as much a reminder to myself as to anybody else.

**And? I know that this can be hard to do. But I think that it’s the only thing that makes any sort of difference. Fight hate with love. Don’t give it space to grow. Shut it out. SHUT IT OUT. Plant these spaces with good seeds and sunlight and clean water and care and weed out anything that produces rot. That’s all there is to do. Really.

***We don’t even need to discuss why I wrote this. (ed. note: except for what I wrote above about why I wrote this.) Let’s just MAKE THEM GO AWAY by ELIMINATING THEM FROM THE VERY SPHERE OF OUR AWARENESS. (whips out canister of Troll-B-Gone) (pffssst-spray-pffssst). What trolls? Where?

****The claim has been made that it’s just critical commentary, and who is anybody to shut down critical commentary, and didn’t John Stuart Mill say something about how even bad ideas need to be permitted in the sphere of public discourse, yadda yadda…? To which I say, sure, and maybe this is something that we should talk about at greater length sometime. But John Stuart Mill also cautioned against words and ideas that cause hurt and harm, and I would argue that in the case of communities like ours – and we are a community, right? – we have a special obligation to ask ourselves, always, when we are tempted to take critical aim at each other, what is our intent? Is it to hurt? To discount? To silence? To cast aspersion? To make ourselves feel better about our own limitations? Where our intent is questionable, we should think twice.

Now, you: I asked this yesterday on Twitter, and I’ll ask it again here… tell me a happy thing. Tell it to me here, in the comments, or on your own blog, or in a photo or a tweet or whatever… just, give some light and air and space to happy things. Baby smiles, dry vodka martinis, meteor showers, Mad Men, chocolate, doing good, wearing tutus, peonies, shaggy haircuts on toddlers, double espressos first thing in the morning, Spanx, cupcakes, friends, butter, you name it. I want to hear it. We all need to hear it.

What’s your happy thing?

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    { 74 comments }

    kaitlin August 17, 2010 at 11:28 am

    My happy things today: Arcade Fire’s new CD. Coffee. waking the husband with such a silly grin that he tells me that it’s too early for such cheer. Also, the sun.

    Issa August 17, 2010 at 11:31 am

    My kids came home after two weeks away. I don’t know that I’ve ever missed them so much in my life.

    I have three of the best friends ever.

    I adore the song Amazing by Josh Kelly.

    At BH I took a photo of my friends toddler in a tutu. He’s an adorable little sprite, with bright red hair and huge blue eyes. He is wearing a tutu for Tanner. He is eating the best cake ever, compliments of Sparklecorn. He is holding an iTouch. It’s possibly my favorite photo of that entire weekend. It makes me smile.
    .-= Issa´s last blog ..Because it’s my blog and I’ll whine if I want too =-.

    Catherine August 17, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    @Issa, POST THE PICTURE. PUT A LINK HERE. PLEASE.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..If A Troll Falls In The Forest- Does Anybody Hear =-.

    Issa August 18, 2010 at 10:44 am
    Catherine August 18, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    @Issa, AWESOME. THANK YOU.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..If A Troll Falls In The Forest- Does Anybody Hear =-.

    Julie @ The Mom Slant August 17, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I just had a piece of bacon. It was delicious. Also, my children are momentarily quiet and happy. (Yeah, the TV’s on, so what?)
    .-= Julie @ The Mom Slant´s last blog ..Did Don Draper do the right thing =-.

    Catherine August 17, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    @Julie @ The Mom Slant, bacon is always a happy thing.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..If A Troll Falls In The Forest- Does Anybody Hear =-.

    sarah August 17, 2010 at 11:32 am

    My happy thing today is waking up after NINE hours of uninterrupted sleep. NINE!!! This will go a long way in making ALL things happy things today! Hope yours is happy, too!
    .-= sarah´s last blog ..The Accidental Tourist =-.

    Karen B August 17, 2010 at 11:34 am

    My husband just called me at work to say “Hi” because we missed each other this morning…20 years and four kids later and he called me to say “Hi”…might be silly but it made my freaking day :)

    Jaden August 17, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    @Karen B, That is so sweet!! My husband told me last night that he thinks I’m more beautiful than a friend of mine who I have always considered to be amazingly, modeliciously beautiful… I think that one made my week :) It’s great when they can make you sparkle after all that time, huh?
    .-= Jaden´s last blog ..Summer Reading List Book 2 of 10- Relentless Review =-.

    Catherine August 17, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    @Jaden, sparkling = HAPPY THING.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..If A Troll Falls In The Forest- Does Anybody Hear =-.

    Saisquoi August 17, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Here’s my happy thing today: My 18 month-old woke up dry and went pee in the potty. It’s funny how my happy things have changed of late…

    Also, tomatoes off of our own plants. With fresh mozzerella from a local farm.

    And toddler kisses and hugs.
    .-= Saisquoi´s last blog ..Ribbit =-.

    Ashley August 17, 2010 at 11:38 am

    I love you’s from my 4 year old…. those are all that matter to me now.

    Ariel August 17, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Happy things: I’m trying to get pregnant! I’m in college– I just finished my first semester and it kicked my ass, but I kicked it harder and got a 4.0!
    My daughter has another loose tooth and has grown 2 inches in the last two months. She is beautiful and fun and healthy!
    I am happy! I get to wake up next to a great person every morning!

    Catherine August 17, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    @Ariel, all SUPER happy things!
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..If A Troll Falls In The Forest- Does Anybody Hear =-.

    Barnmaven August 17, 2010 at 11:46 am

    My happy today is that my kids are with me tonight and not with their dad. I missed them so much last night.
    .-= Barnmaven´s last blog ..On my car =-.

    tifRN August 17, 2010 at 11:51 am

    My daughter, wearing princess shoes, a dress, a tutu for tanner, and singing with Ariel.
    Also, that I get to shine a light in the lives of kids with cancer, and sick kids in general.
    And getting to help raise awareness for peds brain cancer so that someday no parent has to hear that diagnosis.
    http://www.thekyriefoundation.dojiggy.com

    Catherine August 18, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    @tifRN, yes! so awesome!
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..If A Troll Falls In The Forest- Does Anybody Hear =-.

    tifRN August 17, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Crap. Make that http://www.kyriefoundation.dojiggy.com
    I’m an activist…but apparently not a very accurate one, lol.

    Catherine August 17, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    @tifRN, AWESOME.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..If A Troll Falls In The Forest- Does Anybody Hear =-.

    Ally August 17, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    My Happy Happy thing: my lovely boyfriend is taking me to Paris next month! I have about 3 weeks to plan sight seeing, lots and ltos of eating, a 2 day side trip to a European city of my choice, and OMG – what am I going to wear! I LOVE this kind of obsessing – this obsessing over a Happy Thing.

    Catherine August 17, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    @Ally, Paris is almost more than happy. Paris is pretty much bliss.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..If A Troll Falls In The Forest- Does Anybody Hear =-.

    Jennie August 17, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    My boys, 2 and 10 months, are starting to wrestle and play more together and I often find them both giggling. Not always, but lately once a day, they are laughing together and that makes me sooooooo happy.

    Thanks for this post :)

    TheKitchenWitch August 17, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    You are so very right about the Trolls. I need to remember this more–especially that the worst thing to do to a Troll is respond/react. Sage advice.

    Happy thing: this morning, my girls and I played spa. We washed our hair, slathered on a face mask (cucumbers on the eyes included), lotioned ourselves up and did the mani-pedi with plenty of sparkly nail polish. Good fun.
    .-= TheKitchenWitch´s last blog ..Intentional Happiness- NYC Edition =-.

    Jeannie August 17, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    My happy things today — a 3.5 month old girl, her four year old brother, a sunny warm summer day, my husband making ribs on the BBQ, and family coming round to enjoy it. Yep. It’s all good.

    mosey August 17, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Right now I’m reading blogs in peace while my daughter plays on the iTouch. And drinking a steaming coffee. And I think the sun might be coming out.

    Thanks for this reminder.
    .-= mosey´s last blog ..putting on my shoes =-.

    klcrab August 17, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    my happy thing is reading your words- how ever they come out. I am so proud of you and I don’t even know you!

    Catherine August 18, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    @klcrab, aw… *blush*
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..If A Troll Falls In The Forest- Does Anybody Hear =-.

    sonya August 17, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Believe it or not, the whole concept of fighting hate with love is a Biblical one.

    It works every single time!

    I go for a walk every afternoon and pay attention to the trees, leaves and flowers and to pray.

    It helps my mind to relax and get back into the context that’s good for me.

    Lasha August 17, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    A scare, and then the flicker of a tiny, seven-week heartbeat on the screen.

    Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) August 17, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    My (almost) 2 year old daughter and I just danced to the opening theme to Mickey’s Clubhouse five times in a row. Her sheer exuberance over any kid of music or dancing, is always my happy place.
    .-= Marilyn (A Lot of Loves)´s last blog ..Remembering Why I Love Being a Mother =-.

    KBO August 17, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    This week? Piave cheese, a break in the oppressive St Louis heat, and a husband who loves and supports me.
    .-= KBO´s last blog ..The Three Ways To Prevent Pregnancy- Or- Catholicism- What’s Up With That =-.

    mapsgirl August 17, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Trolls shouldn’t be heard at all :( Dumb trolls back off. This is a place of sparkle, love, support and tutus.

    And here are some cute, smiling faces that make all things better (well, at least for me…tho I hope you do too).

    http://mapsgirl.blogspot.com/2009/11/hard-to-believe-its-november.html

    Maybe trolls are like the monsters in Monsters Inc. They’re afraid of cute kids :)
    .-= mapsgirl´s last blog ..stuffed- boston pizza and lays chiptrips =-.

    Catherine August 17, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    My baby started kidergarten yesterday. And today she was excited to go back!

    Laural Dawn August 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    My happy thing.
    I took an afternoon off and went to see Eat Pray Love on my own.
    I cried the whole time, ate a lot of popcorn, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
    So necessary. And highly recommended.
    .-= Laural Dawn´s last blog ..A Weekend to Remember =-.

    Catherine August 18, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    @Laural Dawn, I totally need to do that. Play hooky. TOTALLY.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..If A Troll Falls In The Forest- Does Anybody Hear =-.

    Heidi August 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Open windows and a comfortable breeze blowing in the house is a happy today, especially after the stifling heat we’ve been having. Oh, and driving with the windows down, blaring music that both my 16 yr. old son and I enjoy. Very happy.
    .-= Heidi´s last blog ..About that Knitting Thing =-.

    ahdra August 17, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Ironic. I just read this a couple of mornings ago in The Message (Bible translation). “Let your enemies bring out the best in you.” Good then, good now. Good reminder. So easy to just knee-jerk reaction all over everybody when you are tired and stressed with life.

    Happy things here: Trader Joe’s Spiced Chai in my cup right now. New bedding and drapes for my bedroom. Two kids under 5 who are quietly taking their afternoon nap as I type and look over my favorite blogs. A husband that I do not deserve. The thermometer is not going to hit 90+ today. Our cozy little house.

    nic @mybottlesup August 17, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    a shower this morning. made all the difference in the world.

    good on you for writing this.

    Jen L. August 17, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    My happy thing: My little boy told me he loved me for the first time the other day. He also calls me “Sugar,” which makes me happy all the time.

    Also, coconut M & Ms.
    .-= Jen L.´s last blog ..Imaaaaaginaaation =-.

    Her Bad Mother August 17, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Wait, what? THERE ARE COCONUT M&M’S???

    ~j. August 17, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Happy:
    ~great day for my curly hair (not frizzy!)
    ~free DMB concert tonight
    ~happy & healthy kidlets
    ~abundance. everywhere.
    .-= ~j.´s last blog ..its like i always say =-.

    Mama in the City August 17, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Oh my happy thing… is easy!

    An upcoming vacation to Hawaii with my husband. Six weeks to go and counting. Any moment of stress or over extension, I go to the place in my mind where I pretend to smell Plumeria and walk the beach with my honey. *mmm happy place!*
    .-= Mama in the City´s last blog ..How Old Are You =-.

    Mandi Bone August 17, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    My happy thought will always be Greg,Amelia,Evelyn and Ingrid. My husband and my girls.
    .-= Mandi Bone´s last blog ..Diet Coke =-.

    Frannie C August 17, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    My Father In Law made it through an 8 hour laryngectomy yesterday. He might not be able to speak yet, but at least we didn’t lose him. That’s my happy thing. I still have my Dad x

    Her Bad Mother August 17, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    I love that. Warmest hugs to you.

    Frannie C August 18, 2010 at 11:32 am

    @Her Bad Mother, Thank you so much x
    .-= Frannie C´s last blog ..Hurdles =-.

    Lori August 17, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    I’m a little uncomfortable sharing my “happy thing” with people I’ve never even met. I mean…my mother told me that was supposed to be, you know…for that “special someone.”

    So I’ll just share something more suitable:

    I love fried zucchini. LOVE it.

    (Get your mind out of the gutter, you know what I meant.)
    .-= Lori´s last blog ..Little Girl Lost- Growing Up Gay in the Midwest =-.

    Her Bad Mother August 17, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    oh, oh – DEEP fried zucchini? I LOVE deep fried zucchini. HAPPY THING.

    red pen mama August 17, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Today’s happy thing: lunch with my husband. A story about having his tooth pulled by an uncle. Me theorizing that since we don’t have a dog, I could just tie the string to my younger daughter, and the two of us laughing our a$$es off.
    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..The Things We Do For Kids =-.

    Sara at Keeth Ink August 17, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Making handmade things for friends even though I’m not very good at it and the things are ugly but my friends wear/display/use them anyway.

    Feeling my soon-to-be-born baby kick so hard I lose my breath!

    Knowing that tonight I am cooking one of my husband’s favorite dinners ever (from the Pioneer Woman site, natch).

    One of the main reasons I love my husband is because when people ask what our love language is we immediately begin speaking/shouting like the Martians in Mars Attacks.

    Miss Grace August 17, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Today is cake day at work.
    And my baby brother is 26 today.
    And the sun’s out after days and days and days entrenched in fog.
    .-= Miss Grace´s last blog ..Stella =-.

    Tara August 17, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    What makes me happy? Watching my 4yr old daughter, dressed up in her pink super hero girl costume singing, “All super heroes are girls. GIRLS. GIRLS. All super heroes are girls. GIRLS RULE. BOYS DROOL.GIRLS. GIRLS. Pink super hero girl to save the day.”

    Lucie August 17, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    My happy thought: despite the fact my husband and I are unemployed, broke, and about to be staying with my parents (shudder gasp howl) for an unspecified time while we get back on our feet, my two boys (ages 2.5 and 4mos) are HAPPY and HEALTHY. While I couldn’t get down in my own tutu for Tanner, I have made a point to thank the universe for my children’s health everyday since Blogher. Their health is my happiness, and we have wealth because we have one another.

    Oh, wait, you said happy? I thought you said CHEESY. My bad.
    .-= Lucie´s last blog ..What Virginia Woolf Could Learn From Finding Nemo =-.

    Chrissy August 17, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    @Lucie, I LOVE your blog. Love it.

    Lucie August 18, 2010 at 8:25 am

    @Chrissy,
    Thank you!
    .-= Lucie´s last blog ..What Virginia Woolf Could Learn From Finding Nemo =-.

    Backpacking Dad August 17, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    I made a jam for you. Eat it.

    I said EAT IT!!!

    I put extra burnt pieces in.
    .-= Backpacking Dad´s last blog ..Backpacking Dad Goes to Canada TripTravaganza! Part One =-.

    Adventures In Babywearing August 17, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    The beach and the water washing to shore. It calls to me and makes everything better.

    Also, @BackpackingDad on twitter tonight.

    All happy good things. More for you to come as you breathe, I pray.

    Steph
    .-= Adventures In Babywearing´s last blog ..Augustus =-.

    Jenn August 17, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    My 7 month old baby came to me today, under the speed of his own crawl, for the first time. He melted my heart.

    Oh, and the tomatoes are ripening!

    Dawn August 17, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Three words. Bacon-Flavored Vodka. ‘Nuff said.
    .-= Dawn´s last blog ..Part Nerd- Part Awesome =-.

    Chrissy August 17, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    OK, so happy happy thought. And totally inappropriate: When I saw the title of this entry I thought about the Nightman Cometh episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” – when Danny DeVito’s character Frank sings, “You have to pay the toll troll if you want to get in that boy’s soul…” OK, so this is bad quality but to explain: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJ8G2s–1zA
    .-= Chrissy´s last blog ..Justine and the Raven =-.

    Refinnej August 17, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    My happy thing for the day: the sound of my kids and their friends in the house. My boys were with their grandparents (4 provinces away!) for 2 weeks, and I’m loving the chaos they brought home.
    .-= Refinnej´s last blog ..Phew =-.

    carrien (she laughs at the days) August 18, 2010 at 12:21 am

    My seven day old baby staring wide eyed as my 6 yo holds him, and trying to suck on her hair. :)
    .-= carrien (she laughs at the days)´s last blog ..One Thousand Gifts-Week Whatever- New Baby =-.

    Another Suburban Mom August 18, 2010 at 6:49 am

    I agree about the trolls, I sometimes desire a troll only section of the internet that is cordoned off clearly for everyone. (I imagine crime scene tape)

    Happy:

    My kids playing peacefully outside.
    My new weighted hula hooop-fun and exercise
    Red Velvet Cupcakes with home made buttercream
    That its almost kicky boot season, but still far from snow boot season
    That i’m flying to Dallas in two days to spend my anniversary with my beloved Hubman

    See, lots of happy
    .-= Another Suburban Mom´s last blog ..Random Dozen =-.

    absepa August 18, 2010 at 9:22 am

    My happy thing is good health. I had a cancer scare in July–my gyn found several masses, three of which were very large. On the 5th of this month, I had a complete hysterectomy/exploratory surgery, and the docs found that there was absolutely no cancer. I turned 40 last week, I’m recovering well, and I wake up every morning SO grateful that I’m healthy. It colors every day with a little happy, no matter what else happens.
    .-= absepa´s last blog ..Please pardon this interruption =-.

    Michelle @ Mommy Loves Stilettos August 18, 2010 at 9:58 am

    It’s hard sometimes to ignore a troll when they said something that hurts you in the deepest place, but I agree – it’s better to ignore them cause they hate that the most.

    My happy thing is my new love for working out :)
    .-= Michelle @ Mommy Loves Stilettos´s last blog ..Any man can be a father It takes someone special to be a DAD =-.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting August 18, 2010 at 10:47 am

    I got the best hug ever on Sunday when picking up my kids and husband at the airport upon their return from Europe 12 days after my return. I can still see my kids running towards me and feel their arms around me in what was the greatest hug I’ve EVER had.

    Plus, I’ve never seen a box of timbits devoured as quickly as the one I was holding when they arrived.
    .-= Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last blog ..Emotional Availability and Infant Sleep =-.

    scatteredmom August 18, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Happy things:
    -morning coffee
    -chocolate ganache cupcakes
    -sound (and smell!) of the ocean
    -my bff is coming home after a 2 week holiday. I miss her!
    -picking wild blackberries with my teen, as he eats them and stains himself all purple like he did when he was little
    -motorcycle rides with my Hubby; zipping along the highway by the ocean
    -I’m finally going to blogher in 2011. (SO excited!)

    Chrissy August 18, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    @scatteredmom, This: “-picking wild blackberries with my teen, as he eats them and stains himself all purple like he did when he was little” -

    That made my day! We just moved from Alaska and our berry picking adventures were so joyful – thanks for helping me remember them.
    .-= Chrissy´s last blog ..Justine and the Raven =-.

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