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MissMalini book excerpt: When fragile egos turned so-called celebs into online trolls

In #ToTheMoon, Malini Agarwal, founder and creative director of MissMalini Entertainment, tells her story. In this excerpt, she shares how she deals with Internet bullies and “the occasional celebrity” troll.

books Updated: Jan 23, 2018 11:31 IST
Malini Agarwal
Malini Agarwal
Hindustan Times
MissMalini,Malini Agarwal book,Miss Malini book excerpt
If you work and spend most of your time online, make your peace with the fact that you will be trolled, says Malini Agarwal.

Blog #36: A Word About Trolls

Back when I was growing up, trolls were these ugly mythical creatures that hid beneath bridges and jumped out at innocent people who tried to cross them. Now trolls live all over the internet and spend many their waking hours posting hate messages or flaming anyone that happens to hit their radar.

If you live online like I do you, you should very quickly make your peace with the fact that you will be trolled, if you haven’t already. You have to grow thick skin and resist the urge to cry, rant or lash back in return. You must learn to be the ‘bigger’ person. Remember how mom always told you, ‘Sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you.’ Well, let’s be honest, words can do a fair amount of emotional damage in a thapad ki goonj sort of way. So here are a few ways to deal with the murky world of internet bullying and staying above the fray.

1. Ignore them. First and foremost, its best to just ignore trolls till they get bored of talking to themselves and move on to their next target. You know who you are, the people who matter do too, so what difference does it make if some stranger halfway across the world doesn’t like you?

2. Listen. In some cases, a troll is making a valid point, but just doing it in a really terrible way. Try to strip the message of its caustic coating and hear what they’re trying to say. Maybe there is some merit to the ‘mad-ness’ and an opportunity for you to improve.

3. Kill them with kindness. This won’t always work, but I have found that trolls tend to be lonely people, just looking for a little attention. So, sometimes if you just reply saying, ‘Hey, sorry you didn’t like my post but thanks for stopping by!’, they are taken aback enough to suddenly come back from the dark side and say something nice. (I’ve seen it happen many times.)

4. Use humour. The key to life on the internet (and probably in general) is to not take yourself too seriously. If you feel compelled to reply, post a humorous response that might shut up your bully or at the very least earn you ‘clever points’ with the rest of your audience. My mother does this often on my behalf and I think it’s both hilarious and awesome. One time, someone commented on my looks and said that I look older day by day. To this, my Mom wrote, and I quote verbatim, ‘Who doesn’t? Are you growing younger every day…will become a baby, then what?’ #GoMom

5. Block and report them. I very rarely block people, but if they are hampering your content by spamming the comments or in other ways, sometimes its best just to cut them off. All social media platforms have a block and report feature, which you can use to expose and report trolls.

Funny story, but I’ve been trolled by the occasional celebrity as well. I should tell you this one because it came totally out of left field, but taught me something about human psychology.

I was hosting the red carpet at a major awards show in New York and about four hours in was exhausted. My role was to identify 8-10 major Bollywood celebrities and ask them a few fun, rapid-fire questions on the red carpet, take pictures or boomerangs of the rest and let them be on their way. At one point, a crooner came up (whom I genuinely didn’t recognize, but would probably have done the same if I did) and I asked her to please pose for a picture. She immediately retorted, ‘Aren’t you going to interview me?’ to which I was a little taken aback. Anyway, she kind of huffed off and I thought that was the end of that, but apparently not. The next day I saw a series of tweets from her lashing out at me for being a ‘wannabe’ for only interviewing Bollywood celebrities who are in front of the camera. I replied nicely saying I was sorry she felt bad, but it was kind of the producer’s call whom we interviewed that day, but I’d be happy to do an interview with her at the MissMalini HQ whenever she was free. Her response was that she would never do an interview with me if her life depended on it. (I thought that kind of defeated her cause but anyway…)

The key to life on the internet (and probably in general) is to not take yourself too seriously. If you feel compelled to reply, post a humorous response that might shut up your bully or at the very least earn you ‘clever points’ with the rest of your audience.

The tirade didn’t stop there and several other singers that she had tagged jumped on the bandwagon of how they are under appreciated and I was a terrible person. Initially I felt bad, irritated, defensive even, but then I realized it wasn’t about me at all. It was obviously a raw nerve with playback singers in the industry who probably don’t ever get the spotlight they deserve. Although I don’t know if I should have felt obliged to interview her on the red carpet that day, I do see her point (albeit cloaked rather harshly in criticism). Maybe there is something to be learnt from the occasional trolling as well?

The other time that stands out in my memory is when a B-list-ish actress was severely offended that we had fashion policed her for carrying the same Chanel bag that had been spotted with Kareena Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. I felt that in this case she was justifiably upset because there’s no rule that only one celebrity can ever carry one bag otherwise the entire luxury industry would be in serious trouble today! I apologized and edited the article to say she had also been spotted with the popular accessory and wasn’t copying anyone’s style. It took her a while to cool off, but eventually she did.

Excerpted with permission from #ToTheMoon: How I Blogged My Way to Bollywood by Malini Agarwal, HarperCollins India.

First Published: Jan 22, 2018 09:32 IST