Web Culture

How You Can Be a Force For Good In a World Filled With Online Trolls

Ryan Dube 04-02-2015

Why is the Internet such a nasty place? Why does it seem like there are trolls found around every corner? It doesn’t have to be this way. Each of us can make a difference, simply by making an effort to post positive things throughout the Internet.


Back in 2012 a bunch of nasty readers started attacking young inventor  Why The Internet Provides A Thriving Environment For Hate & Trolling [Opinion] Aidan Dwyer entered and won a science competition. What happened next is something that those of us that have been on the Internet for a long time now would not find very surprising. The story... Read More Aidan Dwyer Why The Internet Provides A Thriving Environment For Hate & Trolling [Opinion] Aidan Dwyer entered and won a science competition. What happened next is something that those of us that have been on the Internet for a long time now would not find very surprising. The story... Read More , after he had invented an intriguing solar tree design. Instead of encouraging this inventor, age 13, to keep up the great scientific work, know-it-all trolls came along and started trashing 4 Types of Blog Comments That Make You Look Like a Troll One of the most fascinating things about writing professionally on the Internet for nearly a decade now is the progression of "commenting" that has evolved alongside the blogosphere. I was first introduced to the whole... Read More both young Aidan and his creative design.

Why? Why were people so evil to trash down Aidan instead of encouraging his innovative nature? Wouldn’t inspiring a young inventor make our future world a better place?  

For that matter, wouldn’t using the Internet to encourage everyone in their positive endeavors How to Stop Complaining & Live a More Positive Life Here are 10 tools that can help you stay gracious and positive and get you out of the pointless habit of complaining. Read More , make the world a better place?

Josh’s Story

I first thought about taking this approach when I came across the story of Josh Yandt, a young high school student whose father had died. In the midst of dealing with this tragedy, he started to withdraw from other students, and was bullied Abused, Bullied & Harassed On Facebook: 6 Ways To Get Back Your Dignity [Weekly Facebook Tips] Facebook isn't a safe haven. A recent study by GMI revealed that one in ten Facebook users have experienced some form of abuse. Among 18 - 24 year olds, one in four were affected. Offenders... Read More .

After moving to a new home in the city and attending an inner-city school, Josh felt invisible – like nobody knew who he was or even cared. The bullying didn’t stop. So Josh did something few people do when faced with such a situation: he used positive actions to let people know who he was.


Every morning, he started opening doors for students. He greeted them by name and said good morning. At first they didn’t know what to think, but after a while everyone knew who Josh was. Everyone liked Josh.

At the time this story was published on LittleThings.com, there were few comments. I loved the story so much that I decided to encourage Josh, on the very off-chance that he might read the comment.


The post received 38 likes over the month it was published. There was even a follow-up thank you from someone I suspect may be part of Josh’s local community.


Then I realized: maybe someone from the community would show Josh the comment. Maybe it would encourage him to continue speaking to kids about being bullied – to continue making a positive impact on his community. And if a single positive comment can encourage people to continue living their lives in positive ways, isn’t that a powerful way to influence the sort of world we live in?

Negative Stories Get All the Comments

Exploring the web, I noticed an interesting pattern. Negative news stories or blog posts, which tend to draw in negative comments and trolls, are usually overflowing with comments. People appear to love socializing and debating about negative stories.

One example was the 2013 case where 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick was driven to commit suicide by the taunting of a bully at school. The story was about the bully ending up in jail for what she had done.

The negative actions of this bully were attacked in the comments area of this news article – she was called names, and people even posted that she deserved to die.



This may reflect the general problem with commenting on the Internet 5 Ways To Improve YouTube Comments YouTube's comments section is one of the worst places on the web. On an Internet already full of nonsense no sane, intelligent person would want to spend their time reading, YouTube's comment section stands out.... Read More . The ability to post anonymously might be half the problem – this was recognized by YouTube in 2012, when they forced commenters to use real names.

Another part of the problem: negativity breeds negativity. The bad stories in the news – the crime and tragedy in the world – seem to end up with comment areas that are bursting at the seams.

It doesn’t have to be that way; not if each of us makes a conscious effort to seek out positive stories, and comment on them. To praise those people who do the right thing.


Making Fun of Fat People

The most tragic form of troll is the one who attacks nice people. One example of this was an article in Salon written by Rebecca Golden, where she detailed what it was like to be bullied because she was overweight FatBooth: See How You Would Look Fat [Android] Read More . She almost committed suicide at 12 years old. Still, she managed to drop 300 pounds after reaching her lowest point, a commendable achievement by anyone’s standards. Still, the bullying continues today.

She is the kind of person who deserves praise and encouragement for surviving, and for having the ability to take a public stand.

Unfortunately, the comment area reflected more trolling by the same sort of people who probably bully people in real life.


What’s the point? Why spread such hate and animosity in a world that already has too much of it? Why not be a better person, and spread positive feelings and motivation to people who so obviously need it? Imagine how uplifting and encouraging it would be for this girl to be commended and praised for her achievements this far? Imagine the motivation she would have to further improve the quality of her life and the lives of others?

Thankfully, there are some commenters out there who have mastered this.


Yes, there are good people in the world and they are online too. We need more of them.

Family Adopts Eight Brothers

Another example was the wonderful story from late 2014 of the Nebraska family who first fostered, and then adopted, eight brothers – all born from an addict mother who could not keep them.

It was a heartwarming story of a family graciously opening their hearts and their home to children in need, and helping to keep these siblings together. It’s a selfless act that would most certainly change the world by shaping the type of men these boys will become when they get older.

This positive story got 176 comments. Unfortunately, it attracted a few trolls (using anonymous names, of course).


Thankfully, there were also the positive commenters filling the comment thread, which these heartwarming stories seem to draw more than the negative news stories do.


As you can see above, most of the time when these stories are published, the people who know those involved – or even the person the story is written about – are reading every comment. Just think of the power that gives you, as a commenter, to compliment, encourage and motivate those people to continue their wonderful work.

And doing so also encourages other people reading the comments to follow suit, to do similar good in the world, and to make the world a better place as a result.

Molly – A Bullied Blind Girl

Then, you’ve got the truly positive and motivational stories out there. Like the story of Molly, a girl who lost her vision from a degenerative eye disease.

She told the story of how she was bullied after falling blind. How no one believed her, because she had learned to use her other senses to make her way around the world. She told of the things she had managed to achieve in her life despite the scars of that bullying. Despite the limits of being blind.

She is a beautiful young girl, with a very bright future. She survived the depression following her diagnosis, and she is now a successful young woman with her own apartment, making her own way in the world. Her story should be overflowing with comments and positive encouragement in the comment area.

Yet there are a bare 5 comments on that article above. Barely 11 comments on her YouTube story. Thankfully, this is in fact where you’ll find some of the good people of the Internet actively encouraging people.


Unfortunately, there are far too few of these good people, and far too many mean people on the Internet these days. Which group do you fall into? Do you spend your time spreading comments that hurt people, or comments that help to make the world a better place?

The Power of Words

Patrick Rothfuss wrote in The Name of the Wind:

“As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” 

These days, people toss around words as carelessly as they toss out their weekly garbage. In many of the same ways, people give just as little thought to the impact of their words The Listserve - How It Could Be A Force For Good What would you say to 1 million people? That is the intriguing question behind The Listserve, which can be accurately described as a giant listserv, a social game, a lottery of words, and a cross... Read More on the world, as they do the impact of their trash.

Wouldn’t it make sense to give conscious thought to how you words will affect people, how they will impact those lives, and how those lives may impact the world? Every small pebble of a comment you cast into the Internet can have a ripple effect upon the lives in those stories, and upon the lives of those around them.

So why not be a positive voice in a sea of negativity? Why not shine your encouraging light into the darkness of the Internet? Maybe together, we can make the web a more positive and uplifting place to explore.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Ryan Dube
    February 5, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Actually Dragonmouth, it's defined as someone who can never seem to find it within themselves to find anything positive to say about anyone, ever.

    I knew you'd show up sooner or late on an article about trolling. :-)

  2. Sam
    February 5, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    I despair at the number of people who feel the need to bring others down in order to feel better about themselves. It must be a very sad existence and I pity them. Thank you for writing this article, I hope it inspires others to comment more on positive stories and to be more positive when they do.

  3. ReadandShare
    February 5, 2015 at 2:52 am

    Hmmm... I posted a positive response earlier. It was there after I refreshed my browser. But now, coming back after a few hours, I see it's gone.

    Ryan -- is MUO -- or perhaps your -- arbitrary censorship a form of bullying? Arrogance? Disrespectful of your readers?

    Or will this post be deleted too??

    • Ryan Dube
      February 5, 2015 at 3:05 am

      Likely the automated spam-bot. Our comments moderator will likely approve that positive post shortly. I'm looking forward to reading it.

    • dragonmouth
      February 5, 2015 at 2:00 pm

      A "troll" is defined as anybody who does not share our opinion. /cynicism

  4. likefunbutnot
    February 5, 2015 at 1:34 am

    The irony here is that this article was posted by the MUO writer most likely to call MakeUseOf readers thieves for his own entirely self-serving reasons.

    • Ryan Dube
      February 5, 2015 at 2:01 am

      There's a strawman if I ever saw one. Where on earth could anything above be construed as calling anyone a thief??

    • likefunbutnot
      February 5, 2015 at 2:49 am

      @Ryan Dube,

      So you're denying you own conduct in the comments section of the anti-adblocking article you posted? Or did you just forget about it?

    • Ryan Dube
      February 5, 2015 at 2:55 am

      Link please? The most recent adblock article published was 2013, and not by me.

      So, I'm waiting, Mr. Strawman.

  5. saveInternet
    February 4, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    great articles, I hope all trolls can be considered as criminals, personally i think they are hired to do that, don't you think so ?

    • Ryan Dube
      February 5, 2015 at 12:24 am

      I've definitely suspected that sometimes. It makes sense, hire troll-mercenaries to attack articles on competitor websites - thankfully we have wonderful readers like you all who call them out. :-)

  6. Ryan Dube
    February 4, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    That's the way to spread the love online. Thanks Stacey. :-)

    • ReadandShare
      February 4, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      Good respense, Ryan! :)

  7. Stacey Mitchell
    February 4, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    not to be a "bully" or anything..but this is a pretty crummy article.
    im not sure what point it is trying to put across and how it fits in with the makeuseof website

    • Andy M
      February 4, 2015 at 7:03 pm


      Stop, go back, and read again. Then read your comment. Then ponder on your choices

    • Rob
      February 5, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      I love irony, though I hate this comment. It's a tech website. These things happen often as a result of technology. The point is to try to use technology , and our access to conversations via technology, as a force for motivation, inspiration, and as a catalyst for good.

    • Rob
      February 5, 2015 at 12:17 pm

      Great article, Ryan! I've no idea what most of these comments are talking about, and fail to see their relevance to the content. Completely agree with the angle of the article, and the comments on this thread highlight your point completely.

      Here's my contribution: Keep writing great content like this. The more positivity in the world, the better.