BYU journalism graduate Maddy Low created a blog and was excited to see what her followers thought about her post on women not serving an LDS mission. She was shocked to see many negative comments from followers.
“I know it’s just somebody who wants to pick a fight or might not even be real,” Low said. “But words are powerful.”
Low has written blogs for years. She currently runs her own blog, “Here is the Low Down.” She writes about her life with her husband and her faith.
She said she has struggled with handling internet trolls. She said she is already self-conscious and receiving criticism is hard for her.
“There’s definitely a reality and you definitely have to develop a thick skin, but that doesn’t mean it can’t hurt feelings,” Low said.
Negative comments from trolls can actually help drive traffic, according to BYU journalism graduate Lizzy Early, the face behind the blog Your Cup of Cake.
“The more comments you get the better engagement you have,” Early said. “So negative comments don’t always lead to bad things.”
BYU psychology senior McKay Robison said he usually reads the comments first before reading the actual post on social media.
“I usually don’t have time,” Robison said. “I really like reading about controversial topics and people arguing about it is always entertaining and most of the time insightful.”
Low said her friends and people who like her blog look for trolls to argue with them. This positively affects her posts, because of the discussion, even though it is negative.
“I’m not necessarily grateful for that,” Low said.
Trolls don’t attack every post on Low’s blog, but after they have found a post they want to attack, they comment on four or five posts about the topic, according to Low.
“They’ll say something controversial and pick a fight, even if the rest of the posts aren’t worth picking a fight about,” Low said.
Low stopped letting comments publish without her approval only after her post about women who don’t serve missions sparked so much negative discussion.
“It got to a point where things were said to other people and to me,” Low said. “I own the site. I don’t need that.”
Low said there is a lot of debate about whether or not it is appropriate to set comments to “approve only.” She said some view it as censorship. However, Low said she is the only one who can make that call for her blog.
“I have to live with what people are coming and saying on my site,” Low said.
Early feels the same as Low does about choosing to approve comments. She said bloggers should reserve the right to moderate comments on their blogs.
“As bloggers, we pay money for that space on the internet,” Early said. “It’s like our little online home, and we get to choose what we want to write on the walls of that home.”
Low said she still approves and replies to comments 99 percent of the time. She will only ignore a comment if it is vulgar or overly malicious toward another person. She approves and replies to comments attacking her.
“I’ve published comments where people call me selfish and people call me stupid,” Low said. “I like to reply to the comments and tell them I don’t think I’m selfish or I wouldn’t say that I’m stupid.”
Low said she keeps herself in check by thinking about how she would respond to a comment. She doesn’t publish the comment if she wants to be rude or swear back at them.
Early also tries to be gracious in her responses to negative comments. She feels this calms trolls down.
“If you’re beyond kind to those people and give them zero reason to lash out, they can’t do much,” Early said.
Low said trolls still feel the internet is their territory and will continue to post negative comments on new posts, even though she tries to respond kindly to them.
“Because trolls are behind the safety of their own computer, they are willing to say things that they would never say to my face,” Low said.
Robison also feels people hide behind cyber walls on social media.
“I feel like a lot of people say things on (social media) that they wouldn’t dream of saying in front of the other person,” Robison said. “In one way, I think that could be a good thing, but at the same time it could be really dangerous.”