Albert Einstein was brilliant beyond his years, but some of his wisdom can even be applied to the Internet era.
A treasure trove of the famed physicist’s old letters has recently been released, and among his many gems is one on dealing with trolls. On Nov. 23, 1911, Einstein told rising science phenom Marie Curie that she shouldn’t bother with small-minded folks who obsess in criticizing her:
Highly esteemed Mrs. Curie,
Do not laugh at me for writing you without having anything sensible to say. But I am so enraged by the base manner in which the public is presently daring to concern itself with you that I absolutely must give vent to this feeling. However, I am convinced that you consistently despise this rabble, whether it obsequiously lavishes respect on you or whether it attempts to satiate its lust for sensationalism!
I am impelled to tell you how much I have come to admire your intellect, your drive, and your honesty, and that I consider myself lucky to have made your personal acquaintance in Brussels. Anyone who does not number among these reptiles is certainly happy, now as before, that we have such personages among us as you, and Langevin too, real people with whom one feels privileged to be in contact. If the rabble continues to occupy itself with you, then simply don’t read that hogwash, but rather leave it to the reptile for whom it has been fabricated.
With most amicable regards to you, Langevin, and Perrin, yours very truly,
Einstein’s writing has a distinct and delightful charm. It is both exceedingly polite and assertive at the same time. And the letter itself stands as wonderful advice: When someone hurls insults at people you respect, you should pen (or tweet) them some supportive words about how they inspire you, and note a similar disdain for their haters.
The Internet has been a particularly fertile breeding pit for trolls; reasoned dialogue does not always win the day. Just recently, Facebook cofounder and owner of The New Republic, Chris Hughes, penned a thoughtful response after much of the senior editorial staff resigned in protest to changes at the liberal periodical. The comment section on his op-ed is rather despicable.
It’s unfortunate that trolls have the power over our psyche that they do, but even one message from a fan is enough to dispel their power.