Dear Diary, What is a Troll?

blogging about blogging, storytelling

I have a website where I write things in a public space. There are millions of us out there. Some of us write about parenting or budgeting or making meals completely out of frozen waffles. Some of us post photos of outfits or shoes or art or home improvement projects. Some of us draw bad cartoons or tell dumb jokes or write open letters. The internet is vast and weird and there’s a lot of stuff in it.

You may find a ton of people that like you; you may find a ton of people that hate you. You’ll likely find at least a little bit of both. A lot of this space has become over-the-top ridiculous, and a lot of it is normal and sane. It’s simultaneously a cesspool and a cool place to be.

I feel like qualifiers are necessary when I write a somewhat opinionated post, so hear me when I say, this is just my opinion. I might be wrong! I’ve been wrong before. I’ll be wrong again. These are just some thoughts on how to take internetty criticism and remain a sane voice in a space that is becoming increasingly similar to that drunk aunt at the wedding with the back of her dress tucked into her pantyhose.

Dear Diary, What is a Troll? || NEON FRESHStop calling everyone a troll.

Sad Blogger says something like, “A commenter said she didn’t like music that auto-plays when she visits my blog.”

Blogger Friend #1: “Ughhhh what a troll. Ignore her honey.”
Blogger Friend #2: “Troll. Keep calm and carry on!” or whatever’s the latest variation of that awful sign on Pinterest.

He or she probably needs Blogger Friend #3 to step in and say, “Music auto-playing is mad annoying. If I’m listening to Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major and Taylor Swift starts blasting when I click on your site, I’m going to have a bad time. Maybe keep the player, but don’t have it auto-start? What do you think?”

If we turn into a community that only yeses and high fives each other all day long, we completely lose our credibility.

One who dissents is not necessarily a troll. I am, admittedly, ultra-sensitive, so when I get a negative comment, I have to fight the urge to roll around the floor a few times and cry a little bit. Instead, I try to keep my sanity about me and ask myself if this is a reasonable comment or if someone’s mad for the sake of being mad.

Here’s a loose definition. A troll, IMO, is someone who hates your site (or you) no matter what you do or say or for reasons that perhaps you cannot control. These are usually incredibly mean-spirited and void of any constructive criticism. Ignore them or delete them or respond to them or do whatever feels right for you.

Take constructive criticism with grace, or at least don’t tell anyone that you’re sobbing and eating your emotions.

Someone who disagrees with or dislikes what you’ve written (if you’re me, for example) or worn (if you’re a fashion blogger, for example) or decorated (if you’re a DIY blogger, for example) is just that, someone who disagrees with you or dislikes something you’ve done. That doesn’t make him or her a bad person. Just a different person.

If we’re putting ourselves in a very public space, we’ve got to be able to expect and even embrace differences of opinion and sane, polite discourse. That’s how (again, for me) I learn and grow and understand people better as a whole.

I appreciate when a reader contacts me about something that would make his or her user experience better. “Do you think you could make it easier for me to pin a photo from your site?” Sure, let me download a plug-in. “Can you put a search bar on your site?” You bet, now there’s one in the footer. I’m happy to do what I can, within reason. “I really disagree with your thoughts on Jay-Z, real women sizes, parenting, and heroin.” That’s fair. Let’s chat about it. “I love TIHIF! Can you make these happen once a week?” Done. “I hate TIHIF and it should burn in a fire.” So sorry, don’t come to my site on Fridays.

Now, if the criticism is just that you hate the way I write, then I’m probably going to suggest that my website is not for you. That is sad for me, but there are plenty of other writers who don’t use LOL-speak and Emojis as actual forms of communication. [Sidenote: Matt Inman writes a little bit about this. The Oatmeal is always and forever NSFW.]

There is always the quiet exit. I posted a ridic photo of me wearing overalls (we had discussed the new trend in previous weeks) and immediately lost a handful of followers. Maybe they don’t like overalls! Maybe they don’t like photos that aren’t of cute kids! Maybe they just don’t like me. That’s, you know, it’s okay. I don’t like one of the cashiers at Target, so I avoid her line so I don’t have to deal with her. Same thing.

Recognize and fix your egregious, ridiculous errors.

A little over a year ago, my family and I ran in the Sandy Hook 5K. It was a meaningful event for us (Jack had played at some of the events for the families of the victims; I had helped raise money for the community; the town isn’t too far from us), and we were excited to be a part. Remmy did the kids’ half mile fun run, and without thinking, I uploaded a photo of her to Instagram and captioned it with something along the lines of “Remmy killed it.”

I know! Not even thinking. That sort of phrase is common vernacular for me, but it was wildly insensitive considering the event we were attending. A couple of readers pointed it out, I realized what I wrote, immediately turned bright red, apologized, deleted it, and uploaded it with a new caption. Done. Least said, soonest mended (except for me bringing it up again right now).

It’s okay to make a (big) mistake, apologize, and fix it. Just make sure you fix it, or we’re all going to give you the side-eye for link-baiting and starting up a colossal internet fight for the sake of pageviews. Don’t do that. :/

The internet can be hard, for sure. We’re all here willingly, and the hard part of internetting is a tick in the con section – just like any job (or hobby!) has pros and cons. The other con is that I’m sedentary for too many hours in the day so I’m supposed to limit my pizza intake or whatever.

Here’s the part where I tell you that I’m totally okay with constructive criticism, not okay with name calling, and now I’m going to lie down on the floor and make carpet angels. \o/

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  • Reply Laura McClellan March 24, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Like limiting pizza intake is ever an option.

    Loved this. A lot more practical and use-able than the “just ignore the haters; you’re awesome and awesome draws haters” posts I usually read. :)

    • Reply Roo March 24, 2014 at 11:01 am

      Hahaha pizza <3333.

      I would agree that there's some truth to that. If you (anything you do) becomes widely seen, it'll certainly draw criticism. But sometimes things draw criticism because they're worth criticism.

      IDK Laura IDK!!!!

      • Reply Laura McClellan March 24, 2014 at 12:18 pm

        Exactly. A lot of negative comments are just negative comments you should ignore. But I like the practical side to considering whether or not it is a legitimate concern/request rather than just being all “LET ME DO ME” regardless of what they’re saying. :)

  • Reply Julie March 24, 2014 at 10:41 am

    someone told me they like this rule of three: is it true? is it kind? is it necessary? works kind of great when it comes time to speak one’s “truth”. cuz sometimes peeps say, in defense of their verbal blows, “weeeeeelllll, i wuz just telling the truth.” and so, yeah, but is it kind, and more importantly…..necessary? the necessary is the real clincher for me, lots of blunt, truthy things just aren’t necessary. IMHO, you know, like..keep that truthiness to yourself when you just gonna be mean, dudettes and dudes.

    • Reply Roo March 24, 2014 at 11:06 am

      Oooh, your comment is so good, Julie. I agree.

      There’s a million things I don’t like about Dress Barn. I’m not going to waste my time telling the execs that. Dress Barn isn’t for me.

      But if I had the ear of an exec at J.Crew, I’d politely tell them what I loved and what changes I’d like to see, just because I shop there often and I feel like I’m representative of part of the demographic they’re trying to reach. I think the same applies to blogs. If I’m an avid reader and suddenly they change their color scheme to black and neon pink, I might politely say “I love your site, but I think I’m quickly going blind. Any thoughts on changing the color scheme back?”

    • Reply Jen March 25, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      I don’t comment on blogs often mostly because I probably overly censor myself before posting – I too follow the is it true, kind, and necessary? mantra before posting. I think people are extra mean online when they have anonyminity to hide behind because they really don’t face full consequences for their actions (would they say those things to someone’s face when that person might cry or punch them?).

      Besides, it’s one thing to disagree and have a conversation for the greater good, and it’s something else entirely to just be hateful and mean spirited because some blogger likes a restaurant/musician/fashion designer that you detest. Le sigh.

      Keep on keepin on Roo, I love your blog. And your sketches. And TIHIF. :D

  • Reply Kelly {the Centsible Life} March 24, 2014 at 10:50 am

    This is incredibly honest and refreshing to read. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking people who disagree with us are ‘haters’ when they are behind a computer screen even when they aren’t. I try to place those words in the context of a conversation. Like if a friend said this IRL what would my response be? Sometimes I need to own that my response is coming from a place of pain or frustration with myself/my own life and know that is coloring my response/reaction.

    If it’s just an insult, though? That’s ‘their stuff’ and has nothing to do with me. I do think the internet’s anonymity (or seeming ability to cloak who we are) can bring out some nasty stuff in people though. (hello any news sites comment section)

    For the most part though it’s a GOOD place, and I like it. And I also like to know other people’s opinions/stories/ideas/perceptions/etc. And I guess maybe some folks are REALLY anti-overalls.

    • Reply Kacey W. March 24, 2014 at 11:05 am

      I agree Kelly! I think a lot of the meanness on the internet is because people take advantage of the fact that they’re not addressing an actual person, face-to-face, and put aside their manners and their filter for the veil of anonymity. I sincerely hope (or maybe I’m just really naive) that people wouldn’t talk about each other or to each other in such ways in person.

      • Reply Roo March 24, 2014 at 11:48 am

        Totally, Kacey. Not too long ago, I was getting comments on my appearance (you know, typs mean comments), and I was like “Alright, sanity is gone, because the only person who would say any of that to my face is my mom.”

        Hahahahahaahaha. :)

    • Reply Roo March 24, 2014 at 11:45 am

      “Their stuff.” That totally makes sense. I can’t even venture in the comment section on news sites anymore. I’m just like O__O all over the place.

      And YEA GIRL to your last paragraph. I *like* that people have differing thoughts and opinions. That just helps us all learn and grow and cultivate empathy and understanding.

  • Reply vanessa March 24, 2014 at 10:58 am

    you’re my favorite and i’ll be here forever!

    • Reply Roo March 24, 2014 at 1:39 pm


  • Reply Hannah March 24, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Slow clappin the shit out of this…
    Nice job, Roo! True stuff and funny as usual

  • Reply Emily March 24, 2014 at 11:16 am

    I seriously find that every time I think “Roo just cannot get anymore awesome” you go and surprise me with even more crazy awesome posts. Like, it’s getting out of hand how much I enjoy this site. Am I creepy? (Yes, Emily, yes you are.)


    • Reply Kelly March 24, 2014 at 2:01 pm

      I agree with Emily! I love your post so much that sometimes I feel like most of my “did you hear” things come from issues you write about! Huge fan and keep it going Roo!

  • Reply Jessi March 24, 2014 at 11:18 am

    It reminds me of the time I was at a new job training under someone who didn’t particularly care for me. My father-in-law, bless him, said ‘He’s just jealous. ‘ Jealous of what, I can’t imagine. I think the truth was I sucked at the job and the trainer hated training people. Sometimes good people get bad feedback because they deserve it. Doesn’t make it easier to stomach, but it should cause us to back off on the anger.
    Anyway, I’m a loyal reader and if I need to tell you something ‘constructive’ I’ll email you in private.

  • Reply Rachel March 24, 2014 at 11:32 am

    I think we’ve all gotten a little comfortable sitting by ourselves behind a computer. Sometimes bloggers forget their writing is being read by an audience, and sometimes blog readers forget that bloggers are real human beings that don’t always have a thick skin. People are also insecure, and the bloggers I have read who have been the most vocal about negative comments (which are usually just people politely disagreeing with them) are not blogging for a sense of community, but rather for some type of personal validation. Now, I guess there isn’t really anything wrong with that, but I personally have no interest in following that type of blogger. If you’re using your online persona (and these are all personas, which we often forget) to feel good about the real person you are then you need to take a few steps back from the internet, take a few seats, and get it together. I’m not a huge commenter, but if I were and I continued reading blogs like that then I could see myself politely disagreeing with them and then being called a troll. And then telling them HEY, you aren’t the BORG. CHILLAX.

    All of those words were to say: there are lots of different bloggers and lots of different blog readers. We all need to find our people, but not get so pissy when the people who aren’t our people have opinions and dare to say them. It’s just blogging, guys. It’s not that serious.

  • Reply Cheri @ Overactive Blogger March 24, 2014 at 11:36 am

    I think if I ever really disagree with a blogger, I will shoot them an email, and not try to clown them in public – I think a lot of times, that’s what I feel like I have a problem with. But good for you to be able to recognize the difference between trolling and constructive criticism. So many of us are quick to denounce actually good feedback as the person being a “hater”.

    • Reply Tamara March 24, 2014 at 11:50 am

      That’s how it should be done, especially for situations that can be tricky. In a face-to-face situation, most of us would have a one-on-one conversation instead of calling someone out in front of a crowd. Same goes for the Internet.

  • Reply Carrie March 24, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Well said, Roo!

  • Reply Tamara March 24, 2014 at 11:46 am

    Love this post. Especially this line:
    “If we turn into a community that only yeses and high fives each other all day long, we completely lose our credibility.”

    Yes-people drive me nuts. And they foster the all-about-me instant gratification mindset that is not so great, in my opinion. I don’t like hearing that I’m not perfect, but I absolutely need to hear that from time to time. Thankfully my sisters keep me in line!

    And like you said, being disrespectful is not okay. I get so happy when I see comment threads where people disagree and maintain respectful discussion. When commenters start making assumptions and personal attacks, I shake my head and wonder if these people have any friends in real life, or if they are only jackasses when they can hide behind their device.

  • Reply Miranda Rowe March 24, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I love this post and btw, I have SUCH respect for how you handled that snark site.

  • Reply Aya March 24, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Great post Roo. You have mentioned something to this effect to me in a personal message before, and I am genuinely, thoroughly baffled at what there is to troll about on your blog :( Don’t worry, whatever happens, we’ve got your back!
    Have you seen this post?

  • Reply Kristy @ Kristy's Health Revolution March 24, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    It’s kind of embarrassing how much I love you! haha! This is an excellent post. While I do adore blogs, it irks me when people think that they are their own personal journal where they can say whatever they want without judgement or criticism. I can’t promise I’m not going to comment if I disagree (I probably will, I’m just like that), but I try to do so politely.

  • Reply Jessica March 24, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Your overalls only made me love you more :) But on a serious note I totally agree. Since when did we all become so mean. I follow several bloggers and some of their instagram feeds and am amazed when I stumble across some truly awful comments. Why is that necessary!? If you don’t agree, don’t read it or don’t look at it or just agree to disagree and move on. I truly can’t understand those that have the time or energy to just seem to look for reasons to post nasty things. Thanks for always being awesome!

    • Reply Tiffany March 24, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      I have to second the overalls picture. I thought it was adorable and funny.

  • Reply Steph Reiner March 24, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    First of all, puppets explain trolling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O83vd0l-_Ew&index=7&list=PLPU-SleOZ3Z95Dy5CPBJlLpn02S_eUOP-

    I like constructive criticism when it’s done graciously but it is SO RARE that you ever find a gracious commenter that doesn’t agree with you. It’s too bad really.

  • Reply Lindsey March 24, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    If you forever posted overall pictures I would never be mad about it.

  • Reply Sandy March 24, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    Always remember there is a real person on the other end of your screen reading your hurtful comments. Do unto others and all that.

  • Reply Catherine March 25, 2014 at 12:00 am

    Great post! I have to say I am scratching my head over you losing a handful of followers because of the overalls…. hmmm, how odd! I thought it was funny and just thought ‘oh no, leave those things in the past!!’ (mainly due to my memory of them – you could totally rock the look).

  • Reply Laurie March 25, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Often trolls are people just saying something to cause a ruckus. They need the attention, even if it is negative. So there is kind of a pathetic side to the trolls.

    You create content. That is always going to generate criticism from some people. I think a lot of that is jealousy and comes from not being able to create something themselves. Most people who create content are careful about criticism because they know how much of themselves go into creating that content.

    You do a fabulous job here. Great content and really good writing. You have every reason to be proud of the work you do!

    And nothing beats TIHIF.

  • Reply Athena March 25, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    There is definitely a difference between constructive criticism ( which even sometimes leaves me wanting to go cry in the corner) and there is rudeness. And then you have that one blunt person who does call someone out on their stuff and makes them go why are you being mean. I’ve been guilty of that maybe once or twice. :)


  • Reply Julie March 26, 2014 at 1:31 am

    Um, I love everything about your blog, and I love how you handle criticism – or at least publicly handle it, because I know what I do when I get criticized (curl up on the couch, cry, mope for a day or two, have chocolate cravings, eat ice cream, wander aimlessly around my apartment trying to figure out what to do to distract myself from my misery…and all those things are not necessarily in that order).

    As a “beginning” blogger, I would actually welcome even the criticizing comments because quite frankly, I’m sick of seeing that my Askimet plug-in has caught oh-so-many spam comments and almost none from real live humans instead of bots. If someone leaves a comment it means they’ve read your blog, taken time to consider a response (or maybe didn’t take the time because they got all worked up and spouted absolute nonsense all over the place), and that they want to be a part of your discussion/community. And those reasons create all kinds of warm fuzzy feelings… well, unless you’re getting smacked around in the comment section, then it might be more like rage monster feelings.

  • Reply Jen E @ mommablogsalot March 26, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    I 100% agree. Trolling is not nice but neither is accusing people with differing opinion of being a troll. Well said!

  • Reply Goldie March 31, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Somehow I’m behind in blog reading (hoooow Universe how??) and just got to read this post now. Roo you are such a class act. I wrote a comment on Facebook to you, and after it went up I questioned myself that maybe it sounded snarky when I was just confused about something you had written. You clarified, and we both moved on, but I want to apologize in case I caused you to make any carpet angels. (I forever am super awkward, I even jumped out at you online for YHL book singing in NYC but you probably don’t remember that)
    Love from the very untrolly me :)

  • Reply Leigh Ann March 31, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    A blogger friend of mine squeed once when she had her “very first hater!” I scoured and scoured her latest posts and found an emotionally ambiguous comment that could or could not have been construed as negative? And that was her hater?

    Then again, I get heart palpitations when someone leaves me the most vague, neutral comments that others don’t seen anything wrong with, so I’m not that great of a judge. Clearly I haven’t “made it” yet. ;)

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