Thanks for the questions/comments. Here are my thoughts regarding the various things you asked/said:
“At what point did we allow our feelings to get hurt so much by random strangers on the Internet,…”
In my opinion, we’ve always been this way. As a species of creatures who feel, we’ve always been affected to varying degrees by what others think of us. Some of us learn how to cope with it earlier than others. Some of us are affected by it more or less, but it’s a human phenomenon, not an internet phenomenon. The internet has simply made it easier for us do what we’ve always done. This is nothing new. We’ve always had to manage the process of dealing with the creative challenges that arise from how strangers treat us.
“…that we have to write out a lavish letter detailing how much better we are than them?”
That’s certainly one way to see it. Here’s the perspective that inspired me to write this article: No one is better than anyone else. We all have flaws and failings. Nevertheless, it remains a fact of life that some people choose to deal with their struggles by trying to inflict pain upon others. And some people dedicate a lot of time to it. And some of those people are really good at what they do. If one wishes to maintain constructive focus, it helps to understand what’s going on when we encounter the people who choose to do this. The alternative is to be distracted or discouraged by those who seek to drag you down. So it’s not about seeing yourself as better than others. It’s about seeing things from a perspective that empowers you to stay focused when others try to manipulate your feelings. This is an insight that can be practiced without presuming that others are inferior to you.
“Who cares that someone insulted you on a baseless criticism?”
Human beings care. Lots of them. And while it’s easy to remind people of how much they shouldn’t care about certain things, it turns out to be much harder to remember and practice this in the heat of the moment (for many people). So I agree that we shouldn’t care about someone insulting us on a baseless criticism, but whether we like it or not, we live in a world where lots of people are adversely affected by that very thing. When we observe them in that condition, we can be irritated by their capacity to be affected by trolls or we can offer perspectives that might help. The choice is up to us.
“Even worse, people who have valid critiques that are thrown in the trash instantaneously because they had a few harsh words?”
While it’s important for us to not dismiss truth just because it’s stated in a politically incorrect or harsh manner, it’s also important to emphasize that trolling is a different phenomenon. A troll is distinct from a critic who just happens to hurt people’s feelings. Valid criticism is driven by a desire to promote truth or correct error regardless of how the criticism might make you feel. Trolling is driven by a desire to hurt you or anger you regardless of what the facts say. To the critic, speaking the truth is the main point, but making you feel bad is irrelevant. To the troll, making you feel bad is the main point. So while we should definitely encourage people to follow the truth no matter who it comes from, we should also encourage them protect their time and energy when dealing with someone who is arguing with them just for the sake of pulling their strings.
“If we are so easily hurt by virtual words, should we even be putting our content out there in the first place?”
Words are words as long as they convey concepts or convictions. The medium through which a word is conveyed does not negate it’s capacity for impact. Whether you’re reading something online, in a book, or hearing it in person, words are capable of healing you, helping you, or hurting you depending on the perspective you bring to the situation. People who are hurt or helped by “virtual words” are no different, in essence, than people who are hurt or helped by the words from a book, a radio show, a song, or a person standing next to them at a stoplight. The solution isn’t to suppress our natural human need for self-expression. The solution is to develop practices and perspectives that will help us cope with the challenges inherent in all forms of expression (online and offline).
“Should we not wait until we have the confidence needed that we can simply ignore such irrelevant comments?”
It all depends on the person. That’s each person’s decision to make. One thing to keep in mind is this: some people don’t find out about these things until they start putting themselves out there. So, for many, it’s a process of learning that happens after they’ve already committed to action. Sometimes life isn’t as simple as running away from the world until you feel ready for the world. Sometimes you have learn on the go and make adjustments in your attitude while you act. Many of life’s most important lessons are the ones we have to learn while struggling to apply them in real time. No matter how long we wait until we think we’re ready for something, life will still throw us curveballs we were never prepared for. So there will always be a need to learn while you live, to grow while you go.
“The Internet is not, and never will be, a safe space. For anyone.”
We agree. I expressed those very sentiments when I wrote, “There will always be another troll. And no matter how many strategies you come up with for ignoring us, outing us, and converting us, we’re always going to be there in some shape, form, or fashion.” Given the fact that the internet will never be a safe space, this is precisely why we should adopt perspectives and practices that help us maintain a constructive focus. We can retreat from the challenges of life or we can learn to deal with them. My hope is that we all continue to grow in our ability to do the latter.