Walking with Trolls

It’s been almost a year since I wrote my first blog on this website, Growing in Grace…at any age! The title of that blog was “Walking in the Dark with the Prince of Peace.” (If you haven’t read it, check out New? Start Here. There you can read the entire story of my stage-IV breast cancer diagnosis and the blessings I’ve received while “Walking in the Dark with the Prince of Peace.”)

So. Why am I now “Walking with Trolls?” When I was a child, trolls were those fearsome beasts in the Norwegian tale, The Billy Goats Gruff. Trolls lived under bridges and threatened to eat little goats who dared to cross over them. Today trolls, specifically internet trolls, are not fiction.

According to Google, a troll is “someone who sows discord on the internet though propaganda, hoaxes, and disinformation.” They are cyber-bullies that love to distort facts and defile reputations. These factual fearsome beasts come in all sizes, from malicious websites dedicated to “fake news,” to the lurking Facebook or Twitter hacker who joins in conversations with crude, derogatory, and often inflammatory comments. Trouble is: how can you tell a troll from a FB or Twitter buddie who is just venting? Our media conversations have taken on a trollish tone these days.

That term Fake News, popularized by Trump Tweets (seriously…presidents and popes who Tweet!?), has been bandied about on all news outlets, from on-line to major networks like CNN and Fox – mostly in an accusatory way: “Your News is fake! Our News is authentic!” The problem is, how do we know what is fake and what is real?

Trolls aren’t the only culprits. In an all-out effort to get the biggest headlines and lucrative bylines, news reporters are slanting stories toward sensationalism. There is little effort to check facts. Little or NO effort to be unbiased, to tell both sides of the story – a hallmark of good news reporting in the past. I call this Bad News – not so much Fake as it is badly written and unfairly slanted. Our newspapers and news magazines (on-line and off) read more like The National Enquirer than the “fair and balanced” news they purport to be.

This Fake/Bad News overload is not a new phenomenon. It’s been a growing problem for decades, but has exploded into a firestorm after the election.

The election…. Just saying that word makes my blood pressure rise! Since November (really since the primaries a year ago), we’ve been inundated with an onslaught of negative, hate-filled, fear-fomenting “News” that spreads to Facebook, to Twitter, to…well you get the point. We are surrounded by “social media” that has gone mad. Mad! In every sense of the word.

This isn’t the time or place to go into specific issues that scream from headlines: Suicide Bombing — Isis Claims Credit! Pro-life/Pro-choice March! Executive Orders! More Executive Orders! The point is that we are drowning in a stormy sea of negative news.

At least I am. And it’s not just the daily stories of marches, protests, and riots. The “everyday news” — drownings, traffic fatalities, missing persons, fires, floods, earthquakes, even the death of Packy the elephant — is weighing down my soul. (Hey, I was a senior at Marylhurst College when Packy was born at the Portland (Oregon) Zoo. I woke up to the happy news of his birth on my alarm radio!)

When I wake up these days, I find myself tense. What will happen today? Another flood/earthquake/tornado? Another Hispanic church attacked by hate mongers? Another suicide bombing? What’s next?!  For the rest of the day, I’m drawn like a moth to the Internet News, to Facebook, to radio talk shows to find out what’s happening. I have to know, right?

Then at night, I can’t sleep. My mind is churning. Anger and fear badger me into a state of hopelessness. My prayer life has become a litany of Why God? And, Where are you, God? Why? Why!

In the middle of one of those nightly litanies, I had an “ah-ha” moment. I’d been having a particularly bad case of acid indigestion that day, thanks to a spicy bowl of chili. The thought came to me as I complained to the Lord about the latest crisis in the News: I have spiritual indigestion.

I’ve been feasting daily on a steady diet of corrosive “News” – about the election, about the weather, about executive orders, about deportations, about murder and mayhem all over the world – and I have become SICK. Spiritually sick, emotionally sick, and even physically sick. My blood pressure has been in roller-coaster mode!

Just one example: I grieve for the mother in Arizona, Guadalupe Garcia, torn from her husband and two teen children, and deported to Mexico. I pray for her. I even signed a petition to stop the deportation. But it was too late. And I fear. Who is next? A father? A grandmother? A family with little children – perhaps classmates of my grand-daughter?

I don’t have the emotional armor to protect me from the impact of the Trolls and the Nightly News. Perhaps this battle with cancer has made me more sensitive, more aware of the preciousness of life – and more reactive to those things that threaten our world.

I suspect I’m not the only one suffering from the gluttonous intake of “News” that spews from all our social media vending machines – TV, Talk Radio, Internet, Facebook, Twitter, IPhone, IPad, ETC. In the past month, I’ve read four articles that talk about “addiction to social media.” Yep. That’s me – and I don’t even Tweet!

I am henceforth on a News diet. No more Internet News. No more Nightly News. And limited visits to Facebook — if a blood-pressure-issue is being discussed, I’m off to play Candy Crush! (Another Internet addiction, but at least it’s not News!) Or, better yet, I will spend more time reading the GOOD News, written by the WORD Himself, the Prince of Peace.

 

PS I promised a while back to keep my blogs under 1000 words. For those who care about such things, this blog “weighed in” at 994 words! (NOT counting this PS!)

Next week (God willing!) I will post Walking with Trolls, Part II. As my “editors” (Tom and Lisa) pointed out, today’s blog ended a little abruptly. There is more to the story!

More things we can do to survive the onslaught of heartbreaking issues we face in today’s world. Positive things! Things that can be part of the answer instead of just part of the problem. So, please come back next week!

 

 

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