On Internet Trolls and the Kindness of Readers

Social media has been a wonderful way to bring people together, reconnect with former classmates, brag about your children and share more information than most people are actually interested in. I’m typically quite entertained by Facebook posts or tweets from clever, funny people. Unfortunately, social media also attracts many who use it as a place to bully, demean, argue, rant, complain, swear, and generally work to make the rest of us miserable. I’ve wisely hid or unfriended these people yet periodically a nasty Facebook post finds it’s way to me and that has led to some soul searching on my part.

The other night a particularly vicious post that misquoted and took out of context the words of a woman who was discussing victim blaming of women who had been raped, caught my eye. This woman had been raped herself and now courageously spoke out to support others. The website that posted it (two women) used the misquote to make fun of this woman and to label her as uninformed and stupid. This alone was dreadful enough yet the fact that someone I know reposted it was so disturbing. As if that wasn’t upsetting enough I made the terrible mistake of reading the comments on the original post. This is when my faith in humanity began to waiver. The comments were aggressive, sexually violent, racist, bullying, demeaning, and cruel beyond reason.

I sat in my family room filled with anger and hurt, wanting desperately to lash back at the cruelty and judgment of people who seem so miserable and so ready to hurt others. My 20-year-old son came into the room at just that moment. He looked at me with his young, innocent eyes and his delightfully optimistic, idealistic personality and said, “Mom, can you recommend some life changing books for me?” I just stared at him and part of me wanted to say, “Don’t bother. The world is a cruel, terrible place. People judge and hurt each other for no reason other than the pleasure they take from it. Arm yourself with the pessimistic, negative shield that most adults carry and empty that overflowing optimism glass of yours.”

Happily, I didn’t say this and instead decided to reach out to my friends on Facebook to ask them for their book recommendations. That’s when the magic happened. It was 10:00 at night and I assumed most people would be sleeping already and I wouldn’t hear much until the next day. Instead, the recommendations came in fast and furious along with supportive, loving comments. Friends of friends responded, adult children responded, old college friends wrote special private notes with some of their favorite, life changing books. The people who responded represented both political parties, most major religious groups, different races, and different ethnicities. No name calling, no disagreeing or condescension just pure love of reading and sharing that love.

What was even more amazing was the list of books that they came up with. Books that shared kindness, self-awareness, love of man, humanity, religion, spirituality, poetry, and charity. None of the books taught hatred, bullying, humiliating others, criticism or condescension. The books that changed their lives were thoughtful and insightful and led these people to behave in kind; to choose kindness over cruelty and compassion over hate. Reading has always been my salvation through sadness, fear, anxiety, and boredom. I read to learn and to grow but also for the sheer joy and entertainment of it. Reading has opened my mind, helped me find empathy and compassion when I might not otherwise have thought to look for it, and has made me a kinder, more tolerant person. In a moment that shook my faith in others, the kindness of readers reassured me that all is well and that beauty abounds in books and in real life.

Thank you dear people who unknowingly reached out that night to brighten my spirit and to share your very intimate recommendations with my son. I am forever grateful. Here is the list of the books that changed your lives and in so doing changed mine.

The Red Lion by Maria Szepes The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

This I know by Susannah Conway Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Bridge to the Soul by Rumi The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson The 4 Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez and Monique Tilford

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell There are no Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett The Chosen by Chaim Potok

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Body and Soul by Frank Conroy Many Lives Many Masters by Brian L. Weiss

The Bible Code by Michael Drosnin The Thinking Life by P.M. Fomi

Outwitting the Devil by Napolean Hill

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

Case for Faith and Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

It’s Here Now by Bhagavan Das Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Ami:The Child of the Stars by Enrique Barrios and Glen Strock

Shantaran by Gregory David Roberts

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda

I Ching or Book of Changes by Richard Wilhelm, Cary F. Baynes, Hellmut Wilhelm and C.G. Jung

Kisses from Katie by Katie J. Davis and Beth Clark

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Coach Yourself to Success by Talane Miedaner

On the Road by Jack Kerouac The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The World According to Garp by John Irving

Native Son by Richard Wright

Portnoy’s Complaint by Phillip Roth Forever by Judy Blume

Ordinary People by Judith Guest The Magic of Thinking Big by David J.Schwartz

Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen

15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John C. Maxwell

After Visiting Friends by Michael Hainey Inspiration by Wayne W. Dyer

Any that you would like to add?

Lisa Kaplin is a Life Coach and Psychologist at www.smartwomeninspiredlives.com

You can reach her at Lisa@smartwomeninspiredlives.com

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