Tired of trolls

On Nov. 6, a retired Guelph airman suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) decided to put his personal problems aside for a noble cause.

Though he struggles daily with depression and anxiety, often to the point he can’t leave the house, he took the big step of donning his military uniform – and a brave face – to participate in the remembrance ceremony at the county museum in Aboyne.

He took great pride in being able to contribute to the annual ceremony, reading aloud the names of the war dead from the Palmerston area.

He should have been commended for overcoming his personal struggles, the magnitude of which no one else can fully comprehend.

But sadly, some small-minded social media trolls instead provided him with some good old fashioned bullying and harassment, all presented under the guise of military etiquette and protocol.

When the Advertiser included a photo of the retired airman in its Facebook coverage of the ceremony, one know-it-all decided to point out the man should not be wearing his dress uniform (or a medal fashioned to it) because he is retired.

We understand the importance of protocol, particularly in regards to service uniforms, but the man didn’t take his wardrobe decision lightly. As noted in his online reply to several critics, the man called both Veterans Affairs Canada and a local Legion to seek permission to wear his uniform.

Yet his explanation (and other replies, some of which we acknowledge were misguided) only served to incense the self-appointed protocol police, most of whom live nowhere near Wellington County.

With a mob mentality, these keyboard warriors, like a predator stalking injured prey, intensified their attacks to include profanity, criticism of his personal appearance and the second-guessing of his responses (all comments we suspect none of them would have the guts to mutter face-to-face).

In a matter of minutes these self-important trolls turned a significant occasion and positive News coverage into a vitriolic onslaught that disgusted everyone in our Newsroom (we removed the photo as a result). We were further disheartened to learn the retired airman was hospitalized with depression and other health problems that his family directly attributes to the online bullying.

Sadly, this reaffirmed our belief that social media generally causes far more harm than good. In addition to decaying the real-life social skills of users, these sites have become a breeding ground for cruelty,  often appealing to the lowest common denominator.

These particular people could have used tact to address their point but instead chose the malicious path. Quite frankly, we’re tired of such trolls. They should heed the advice most of us were offered as children, long before the internet even existed: if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

That, and: get a life.