Trending Trolls and Being Silent on Social Media

Image source: Pixabay
Image source: Pixabay

By Saud Inam

Abraham Lincoln said:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

We all know what trolls are when it comes to the internet. Those unbearably annoying, opinionated, arrogant, and argumentative. Unfortunately, we have trolls in other forms too. I call them Trending Trolls. I define a Trending Troll as someone who comments on each and every hot trending topic regardless if the troll has any understanding, knowledge or expertise on the matter.

Often times many of us unwittingly fall into this problem when it comes to social media. Our kneejerk reaction is to respond, post or write about a trending topic or issue, which is fine if you’d have some knowledge or connection or real interest. But, to have an opinion or view on an issue you have no clue about or simply have nothing to do with doesn’t add any value to the discussion.

Sometimes the best thing to do if one doesn’t understand an issue is to remain silent. Recently a friend asked me what my views were on medicalized marijuana, and I point blank told him I have no views or opinions because I hadn’t done enough research on the topic. Likewise, there are several issues I remain silent on because I don’t have enough knowledge or expertise on.

Staying silent doesn’t mean you don’t care when something happens in the news. But better to stay silent then just comment without knowledge.

There are Trending Trolls like Asra Nomani and Zuhdi Jasser amongst others, who often interject themselves into topics, events and issues that have absolutely nothing to do with them. And it often doesn’t come across as useful to those with a vested interest tie to said topic or issue. Sometimes we may knowingly or unknowingly do this ourselves, and we should be careful of that.

This isn’t to say to stifle discussion, but as a community we must understand when and when not to say things. We must have the wisdom and the humility to understand when issues and topics are beyond our understanding, knowledge or expertise.

Others seek to create controversies over issues and events where none exist. Recently, when Ibtihaj Muhammad was being celebrated for her bronze medal, others sought to cause a controversy about a perceived bias towards Ibtihaj over Dalilah Muhammad, who won gold in the 400-meter hurdles. Instead of celebrating both sisters’ success, some sought to cause controversy not for the sake of conversation, but to simply gain followers and readership.

This type of social commentary is useless and unproductive. If you truly want to add to a conversation or issue do your due diligence in asking yourself if your social commentary is necessary, beneficial or well-researched.

Plato said: Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.

It’s become too easy for us to get on social media and publish a post or Tweet or an article on any  trending issue or topic instead of understanding that sometimes the best thing to do is remain silent. Or, sometimes the better way to address the problem or concerns with a particular person or group is to take it offline. There’s virtual/digital /online activism and then there’s on-the-ground activism.

So, instead of tagging or publicly bashing a person, issue or organization, we must ask ourselves what we are doing at a practical level to address the issue we are so passionate and vocal about. Are we engaging in that issue on a practical level, or are we simply acting as arm chair quarterbacks or coffee shop revolutionaries?

We must be responsible when it comes to posting or commenting on social media — what we say, how we say and when we say it. Our comments have unintended consequences and impacts on others we may not even foresee. I pray we all gain the wisdom to know when to talk and when not to talk about issues and events we have no knowledge or understanding about.

I pray we get to a point where we don’t seek attention by injecting ourselves into an issue or event we have nothing to do with.

Saud Inam is a Muslim American activist, social entrepreneur and blogger. He is always on the lookout for more opportunities to help empower the Muslim American community.

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