People love the internet for various reasons. Some like the shopping options. Doctors love the instant access to more medical information than any office library can hold. Parents who travel or are divorced and have children adore Skype to talk to their kids far more often.
These things are all great, but to me the real gift of the internet is the one it was originally created for...the exchange of ideas.
I've learned to treat others as they treat me. I had a man pop in to one of my columns and start criticizing my ideas without understanding them or the fact I'd written the article in satire. He jumped on me for a typo, which I'm sensitive about. I have severe arthritis in my hands, and I know I make a lot of mistakes in the fall and winter. At first we argued and traded insults. Then he posted something with a far more conversational tone. I replied in kind, now we are talking. I'm glad we are, because the argument led me to read some of his work as well. He makes as many typos as I do, but he also does excellent work and has really good ideas. I may not agree with them all, but I still think they're good.
The real gift of the internet is that we're able, at all, to trade insults or ideas. Twenty or so years ago this could only happen if we'd somehow accidentally met in public. The odds of this are near zero.
There are real trolls out there on the web. They detract from that exchange of ideas and work hard to disrupt real debate. I don't consider spirited debate trolling. People can be passionate about what they believe, even zealous, and it isn't trolling. We all know real trolls and the difference. Each of us have a button that can be pushed and it's a trolls job to find it. Aside from the occasional return insult I've only had my temper raised once. I'm a retired career firefighter/paramedic, and I take great pride in the job I did. One day one our little trolls caught wind of that and went with it, taking pot shots about firemen being lazy, not doing a real job, and not being deserving of respect. He did not make these statements as nicely as I just have. I spent years risking my life, I served at Ground Zero, and I saved many lives in my career. I flew off the handle. Fortunately so did pretty much everyone else in the discussion forum and the troll quickly found himself on the ignore list of everyone involved.
This is the kind of person that simply needs to be ignored, no matter how personal the attack seems. It's not personal. They simply pick at random until they see they've reached a target. The best defense it for everyone who sees that troll to "walk" right over his or her comment like it was never made. I engaged with the person I wrote of in the third paragraph because he is not a troll but was a man with different ideas who, I think, misread my intent.
So ignore the real trolls, recognize when you are misunderstood, and keep exchanging those ideas!
It is the true gift the internet has given us...a chance for the world to exchange its ideas, it's ideals, and its cheese cake recipes.