An Expert Tells How To Best Defeat Internet Trolls

Defeat Internet Trolls

Trolling online has reached a Satanic art form today. The entire internet is teeming with trolls. You cannot escape them without being off the grid. So, it is better you learn fast how to handle and defeat them.

Two Wishy-Washy Ways To Handle Internet Trolls

1. Report Them Up

You can report them to the group or page administrator if on Facebook. For Twitter and others you could send a direct message to the person who started the conversation or thread. These might or might not work, as the admin or original poster may be too busy to notice, or even doesn’t bother.

You could report to Facebook or Twitter also. That, though effective sometimes, takes days to reach any resolution. By then, the storm would have died down, and the damage already done.

2. Reply With Humor

This is dicey, at best. You may be able to defuse them with a hilarious or even mildly humorous comment. You might even thank them to be part of the discussion and community while asking them to be polite. But none of those tactics are ever a guarantee.

You might also try laughing off their comments. But that wouldn’t make sure they are any milder towards their next victim.

The Most Effective Way To Defeat Online Trolls

Do Not Indulge The Trolls.

This is the best, the most effective, and the only right way to respond to trolls. Most social media veterans swear by this strategy. Let us repeat it so you remember:

Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t indulge a troll.

Trolls are mostly unknown persons who desperately seek the spotlight. And there’s nothing they hate more than having the attention stolen from them. Ignore them, and they suffocate to their deaths.

However, if you engage them, even with the best of your intentions and the kindest of your words, they get their lifeblood. Once you do that, their vitriolic self comes alive in a truly demonic shape.

They attack you, your family, your relationships, your past, your race, your beliefs, your credentials, your education, your intellect, your nature, and even your very existence.

This last part sometimes takes the form of a gruesome provocation repeated over and over, “Why don’t you kill yourself?”

That is the evilest aggravation to be thrown at a depressed person. Amanda Todd and Charlotte Dawson were two known early victims of this kind of abominable trolling.

how to handle an online troll

Getting into a long thread of argument with a troll is a self-defeating idea. They get what they wanted in the first place – public attention. But it’s you whose professional and personal brand gets tarnished.

Do not play their game. Do not step into the boxing arena they set up for you. You’ll most probably lose in a bad way because they will hit you below the belt, while you will not.

The best way is to never give them that chance. Never indulge them. Leave them to their pitiful state. As soon as you stop paying attention, the fire starts to peter out.

Do not climb down that rabbit hole and become the most conspicuous part of the entire fiasco. If you do, that is when the worst thing starts to unfold.

When you play equally dirty as them, replying with equal toxicity and rage, you gift them extra boosts of life. Remember, what happens next is under the watchful eyes of your fans and followers.

Suddenly they change tracks and point out you’re the vile offender they ‘knew you were’ from the beginning. They become their loudest, trying to prove to others what a bad person you are, and always were, by quoting you and even attaching screenshots of your comments.

Congratulations! You’re the troll now. You got your pound of flesh, but now everyone sees blood on your hands. Only your hands, not theirs. They are the victims now, as the public sees.

And you’re left aghast, wondering how on earth did it come down to this? How could you let yourself stoop to their level?

So, stand a strict guard long before you reach this stage.

Remain calm and civil at all times. If they get your goose, the least harm they would do is make a joke out of you. From then on, the community will hold you as someone whose buttons can be easily pushed by a random stranger.

Do not take the smallest step to indulge them — no matter how much you’re tempted to.

Take the high road and let those of their first troll-words baiting you roll off your back.

Angela Saini, author of Superior, prescribes this from her Twitter:

The internet creates monsters out of nobodies by harvesting eyeballs, clicks, likes, and retweets. All you have to do to win is ignore them. Never engage with racists or sexists because attention is their oxygen. Instead, amplify those who do good work.

Press the delete button. If it is your timeline they are trolling on, delete the offensive comment before it flares up. Even delete their identity from showing up on your timeline. Unfriend them, block them.

And if you cannot do any of those as it could be someone else’s group or your company’s page, then delete your original post. This strike always works – it quietly steals the carpet from under their feet.

Then go mind your other businesses.

What Is Trolling?

Trolling is when a person antagonizes and torments you brutally on the internet, even when you back your arguments with scientific facts, to create an inflammatory ruckus that tries to do two things: 1. Push you down into a pit of excrement, 2. Pull him up into a spot of attention.

Trolling is what trolls do. And trolls are of two kinds. It’s the second type of trolling we want to understand.

1. Folklore Troll

The definition of a folklore troll, as Cambridge Dictionary says, is “an imaginary, either very large or very small creature in traditional Scandinavian stories, that has magical powers and lives in mountains or caves.”

2. Internet Troll

While many of us wouldn’t attach that above definition to an internet troll, as this latter breed lives among us, within our society. Nevertheless, it wields a similarly vicious, disruptive power as the fabled trolls.

Here below is how we may explain internet trolling:

They usually lurk in the comments section of your social media posts, spewing venom. From their seemingly overbearing position, they rattle your cage so loud that others take note and then arouse them to join in bringing you down.

Trolling is not about arguing your points. The trolls are more against you than the spirit of your argument.

The trolls aim their guns to shoot the messenger, never the message. You are their target, not your argument. Click To Tweet

James Hanson writes:

Basically, a social media troll is someone who purposely says something controversial in order to get a rise out of other users.

Origins of Internet Trolling

The trolls made their debut around 40 years back.

If you are someone who lives and breathes on social media, you must have come under the ax of a troll in one form or other. Most of them are residents of Facebook, though YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter harbor no less of them.

Freelance journalist Mattathias Schwartz informs,

In the late 1980s, internet users adopted the word “troll” to denote someone who intentionally disrupts online communities.

In its earliest days, trolling was synonymous with flaming, in which a forum user would start a scathing personal attack against another just because they did not agree.

Trolling became a flagrant part of the internet lingo when in 2014, a sixteen-year-old Amanda Todd took her life after years of online bullying. The same year, Charlotte Dawson attempted suicide after battling a horde of Twitter trolls.

In this 2014 paper, the journalist and troll researcher Jonathan Bishop wrote:

The term trolling has essentially gone from meaning provoking others for mutual enjoyment to meaning abusing others for only one’s own enjoyment.

Why Does Trolling Happen

Why do the trolls do the trolling? Are they criminals and psychopaths in their offline lives?

Surprisingly, internet trolls are often normal persons in real life. In many cases, some of the most vicious trolls have been unmasked to be ordinary people living simple lives outside the internet.

But why do these simple people become villains when online? Two of the commonest reasons people troll online are:

  1. personality disorder
  2. shield of anonymity

1. Personality Disorder

Most of them have their origin story rooted in a personality disorder. Their very different online avatars might arise from a backstory of oppression, depression, lack of attention, anger, jealousy, envy, narcissism, or some other emotion they themselves might not be fully aware of that influences their trolling persona.

A personality disorder is not the foreign presence of demonic possession or a cancerous cluster of cells spreading among the internal organs. It is a pattern of cognition and reaction that impairs the capacity to be productive, happy and generally at ease. ― Merri Lisa Johnson

However, if you ask them, they have some bizarre explanations for their behavior. In an interview to NYT, some of those interviewed laid the claim they did trolling because they wanted to teach people a lesson about the harshness of the online world, while others said their actions were a result of their difficult and troubled past lives.

2. Shield of Anonymity

For most of them, it’s not an one-off event. Everywhere they roam online, they take their habit along. Almost all trolls are repeat offenders. You can be pretty sure if they trolled once, they’ll do it again, and again.

They don’t change because they know they won’t be marked out in person after hurling an insult from behind the safe space of their screens. They are sure they live behind an impenetrable shield of anonymity.

Their trolling comes from a certain conviction they will walk scot-free in the real world after maligning anyone in the virtual world.

Final Words

People troll because they think they wield the power to do so. By trolling, they feel they have taken over the controls of the conversation. They troll because they want to burn your glory down.

But when you ignore them, you tell them without actually telling them:

No, you don’t have control here. I have taken away your spotlight and you can slink back to your dark hole now.

And the troll slinks back to its dark hole.


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Author Bio: Sandip Roy is psychology writer, happiness researcher, and medical doctor. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related topics.


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