Emotionally Distressed? We get to choose.

When others choose to deliberately cause harm and distress, the power around whether they succeed lies within us. Malevolent in their actions and intent, ‘Trolls‘, or as I will coin them, ‘flies‘, and the results of their actions are a growing and regular news item – which of course suits their need for being validated – and perhaps helps them feel they are of some perverse value.


A recent BBC Breakfast discussion asked the question: Does giving malevolent users of the internet a name such as “Troll” create a value for them? Can the Troll wear this title as a badge of honour, reminiscent of how some ASBO kids have in the UK, and if so, what else might we call them?


So I gave this some thought… and came up with “Flies”!

Apart from the obvious disgust for flies most of us share, brushing them away, swatting them, getting poisoned by them, there are other possibilities with what we might consider the ‘flies’.

E.g. F******Lies!

How would you deal with a fly problem in the real world?

Time for one of my infamous acronyms FNSPECK:

  • Flies taken over? Step away and use fly spray – leave the social network and don’t go back until the problem is solved.
  • Not sh*tting in your own back yard, or “don’t feed the trolls” – don’t do anything to encourage them.
  • Starve them. If there is nothing for them to feed on, they will eventually give up – ignore, disengage, dis-invest, dismiss the fly behaviour.
  • Put up a fly screen – block them.
  • Encourage the Spiders! – is it happening on a site with visible, active moderators… talk to them.
  • Clean up – remove whatever comments (fly food) you can so you don’t even have to see them.
  • Keep everything really clean – report and block every time you come across a troll.


The flies are easily identified as those similar to the school or workplace bully. Without personal integrity, moral values, ethical or social awareness. Outcasts, they are in truth invisible, and dysfunctional in the most cowardly of ways, hiding behind their screens.

Will they forever be flies?

If they only learned sooner, rather than later, as surely most dysfunctional individuals eventually do, that they could use this otherwise destructive energy for purposes of compassion and usefulness, they just may become available to feel compassion for themselves, given time. (Probably unlikely to hold my breath on this one, but I know it is possible!)

They are unwell, but this needn’t define them forever. They are only ‘flies’ for as long as they operate on ‘dead meat’ and excrement – and for as long as they keep landing on the good food, which in this context – is everyone else!

Governments, internet providers and social media platforms are all scratching their heads around how we can reduce or stop the ‘flies’, but why? It is already ‘fait accompli’. We cannot reasonably expect to completely and irreversibly stop individuals intent on causing harm via some form of restrictions, or punitive measures; they may not even be necessary if we choose another approach!


We are only as much a victim to harmful influences and behaviours as we choose to be.


The most vulnerable people to these phenomena aren’t just those kids who tragically believe what is being read, it isn’t just those who lack self-esteem, or have a psychological condition. It is any of us, at any time in our lives when we may succumb, having become so mindlessly immersed in the business of life, its stresses and strains, the routines that can leave us susceptible and vulnerable to being blind-sided!

The recent Ask.fm situation, along with other forums who are either encouraging, or failing to discourage hateful or unhealthy content, such as in the recent scam involving blackmail, which led, ultimately, to the suicide of young man is worth discussion.


If we get caught out, and it IS a minefield out there with flies and scammers rife, is suicide really better than a moment in life – and any momentary embarrassment? We become ‘old’ news very, very quickly!

We become that which we think. We quickly become influenced by those we engage with.


The above statement contains a positive message to look after our psychological wellbeing! To make use of this, we have to become more aware, more mindful in all we do. When we become more aware, we begin to see things for what they really are, with clarity. We can become empowered, and victims no more. When we engage with positive, like-minded and right thinking people, we grow in that way too.

And the flies?

Well, if we remove their ‘fuel‘, they will eventually have to come to their own senses and choose alternative behaviours; they might even become of true, welcome value! Flies generally have a very short life-cycle, but unlike their insect counterparts, we CAN choose whether to have them in our personal and online lives.

Investigating and removing the Power of the Trolls [Flies!]

It really is OUR choice! It must be pointless placing responsibility to exist on those without conscience.


You CAN decide, you DO get to choose.


If you are being adversely affected by another, it is your choice and responsibility to remove yourself from their sordid account in whatever way you choose (other, of course than to bring harm to yourself – and placing the flies in a position of temporary power). Whilst researching this article, I found this piece for your interest – provided by Huffington Post blogger, Dr Nicholas M. Almond, which touches on some of the points I have raised, and offers some other, perhaps more controversial perspectives.


About the author
Managing Director / Counsellor at Anglia Counselling Ltd | 07747042899 | [email protected] | Business Website

Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.

Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).


  1. Victoria Betton

    Hi Bob. Thank you for this excellent post – bringing a psychological perspective to hurtful behaviour online. I do like your metaphor of flies and it does the job of being fairy disgusting! I think the issues of bad behaviour online calls for schools in particular to be supporting children and young people to be considering critically the impact of their behaviours and how to manage behaviours of others that they find might distressing. My gut feeling, like yours, is that the best way to deal with bad behaviour is to ignore it – starve it of oxygen wherever possible – not always the right solution but one I’ve found works with the milder end of nastiness.

    • Thank you for stopping by Victoria, and for your feedback and insight. I present the views within this blog as just part of what may be available to us; to others, realising as you have there are many more things we can consider to mitigate such behaviour, and to respond when we are in receipt.

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