I can barely remember what it was like to be 17.
It was a while ago, to be sure. Let's just say that social media did not exist. Or YouTube. Or most of the mobile apps we all use every day all day long.
To really get angry at someone back then meant you had to find them in person or at least find a phone. These days, anger is easy. A few clicks and you can deride just about anyone.
Recently, the climate change activist Greta Thunberg has been in the news for all of the wrong reasons. The musician Meat Loaf said she's been "brainwashed" and a former Trump aid named Sebastian Gorka used a derogatory term to describe her that I won't repeat here.
After being named the Time person of the year and speaking at a UN council meeting last year, the Swedish teen has dealt with derision and scorn, most of it on social media.
Her reaction? Mostly, peace.
Say what you will about her politics and viewpoints (for example, it might not make sense to put all resources toward climate change when there are other pressing issues like world hunger, the Australian fires, and a potential war with Iran), but I admire her restraint.
In one recent post, she took the criticism from Meat Loaf in stride, saying the issue is not about her or anyone else but is about the scientific facts related to climate change.
Even though the Gorka comments made the news cycle, Thunberg stayed silent--perhaps the best reaction possible when it comes to facing the trolls and dealing with criticism.
Most of us don't react that way. In a business context, we sometimes use a much more aggressive stance. Killing them with kindness doesn't work, some argue. We pull out the big guns of clever wording and irony, we flame each other with Twitter torches.
The problem is that it doesn't work. You don't poke a troll, partly because they grow bigger and stronger but mostly because poking just creates an environment of criticism. Someone has to take a stand and stop the attacks at some point. Kindness works. So does ignoring the attacks and pretending they do not exist--or not even reading them at all.
Restraint is harder. It might be the new buzzword of 2020, who knows. (Ironically, it is not a word that is usually associated with activism.) It requires perseverance and patience, a change in attitude, empathy, and emotional intelligence--a higher calling.
My call to action? Pull your hands away from the keyboard. Face criticism with an attitude of empathy and emotional resistance. That clever dig won't work anyway.