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What's the opposite of an internet troll?

April 6, 2017

I'm in the cafeteria at one of the large recreation centres in my city. I'm hiding from winter and I'm hiding form my toddler (who I checked into the child minding service). I have a few minutes to myself and my laptop is open. The cafeteria is busier than usual today, but still not full. There is happy chatter right next to me as a group of twelve seniors have gathered for coffee and socializing. Outside the large windows it's snowing and cold. 

 

 

 

A few tables down are two women chatting. I can tell they are just finishing a workout since they are both in workout clothes. One of the women checked children into the child minding room at the same time as me, but I don't know them. I take no notice of them for a long time, but then one of the women gets a phone call. She stands up and moves to the corner of the room to take the call. Then sits back down, and bursts into tears. Muffled tears. She is trying to be discrete about it and the hum of the conversations at the seniors table helps with that, but she's visibly shaken. Despite how curious I was about her phone call, I respect her privacy and I don' t stare. Her friend is rubbing her back and talking softly to her. She seems to be in good hands. My mind starts to wander. Searching my memories for all the bad news bearing phone calls I have answered. " You mother has died", " you father has had a heart attack", " you sister has tested postive for BRCA 1", "The baby inside my sister-in-law isn't moving". Smaller bad news too "my client fired me", "my car was hit", "I can't find Leah".

 

Life is like a spook alley. What will pounce on you from around the next corner?  I want to go over there and put my arm around that lady and tell her how strong she is. I want to tell her to believe in herself. I want to tell her she will figure this out. No, more than that. In a strange way, I wish I had her phone number. I wish I had good news I could call and tell her. NO that's not it either. I wish I had her number so I could call more than once and tell her to keep pushing through. I know how wonderful it is to have a friend that follows up with you frequently. Asks how you are doing, or what the latest update is. A friend who points out what is going right. A friend who lets you cry. A friend who tells you to be strong and reassures you that you will figure this out. What is the opposite of "trolling"? Pixieing? Perhaps all that's needed for the trolls to take hold is for the pixies to do nothing. Don't we all need a digital pixie who will drop reassuring messages along our path?

 

In the end, the two women leave and eventually so do I. I return home, still thinking. I scroll through my text messages looking for people who need to be "pixed". I ask my tweens if they know anyone who needs to be pixied.  I think I'm too busy with my own brood to serve or volunteer. But I'm not too busy to "pixie". I find a few, simple, simple ways to reach out over the next couple of weeks. Ironically all of those simple gestures involved my cell phone in some way. Sending an "I'm thinking of you text", inviting a friend over for lunch at the last minute, posting a compliment on Facebook.

 

So to the lady who just burst into tears in the cafeteria, look for and choose to listen to the pixies. The people who bring good news and happy vibes in little packages. And to myself and to my children (the children who hound me for Instagram and Snap Chap accounts), please don't be one of those people so absorbed in your phone or your laptop that you fail to notice when someone has burst into tears. Don't be so concerned with how many likes you have on your latest post that you forget that someone needs to know you love them (like your mother: your mother needs to know this). Before you watch that 3 minute 14 second YouTube video, send a 30 second text to check on a friend. 

 

All that's needed for the trolls to win is for the pixies to do nothing. Do something today!

 

 

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