The entire internet is teeming with trolls. You cannot escape them without being off the grid.
Internet trolling is more than just an unprovoked attack on others. It is a dangerous form of online antisocial behavior, and its victims often suffer from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Learn how to deal with them.
What Is Internet Trolling?
Trolling on the internet is the practice of responding to content or comments on social media in a disruptive, destructive, or deceptive way. It typically serves to let the perpetrator feel in control. A study by Claire Hardaker (2010) found four major features of trolling: aggression, deception, disruption, and success.
Dr. Hardaker, a senior lecturer at the Lancaster University who researches aggression and deception, says trolling frequently causes conflict, highly emotional reactions, and disrupts communication, for the troll’s own amusement.
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, a television celebrity, attempted suicide after battling a horde of Twitter trolls.
How To Deal With Internet Trolls?
Trolls are a plenty on the internet. They spam Facebook comments and jam Twitter feeds, causing chaos and irritation. They can frustrate any normal stream of conversation. Here is a list of top strategies for dealing with trolls.
1. Ignore The Internet Troll (#1 Effective Strategy)
The expert strategy we are talking about comes from Angela Saini, a British science journalist who has authored three books. Her book, Superior: The Return of Race Science, was published to widespread critical acclaim and named The Book of The Year by the Financial Times, Nature, The Telegraph, and Sunday Times.
Her previous book, Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong, has been translated into thirteen languages. Both are on university reading lists across the world. She is currently working on her fourth book, on the origins of patriarchy, to be published in early 2023.
Angela Saini prescribed from her Twitter handle (which does not exist anymore):
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.
Her advice can be distilled into 3 words:
This action is the most effective one, especially for the newbies. Most veterans who have handled online trolls for years say that it is the only right way to respond to trolls. Trolls must be ignored, not engaged in a conversation.
Let us repeat it, so you remember: Do not indulge a troll. A troll who gets no response has failed.
2. Don’t Let Them Grab The Spotlight
Trolls are mostly unknown persons who desperately seek the spotlight.
There is nothing they hate more than having their attention stolen from them. Ignore them, and you suffocate their sinister plans to death.
However, engaging them, even with your best intentions and the kindest words, their plans get lifeblood. Once you do that, their vitriolic selves come alive in truly demonic shapes.
Now they attack you, your family, your relationships. They come at your past, your race, your beliefs, your credentials. Your education, your intellect, your nature, and even your very existence become their dartboards.
This last part sometimes takes the form of a gruesome provocation repeated over and over, “Why don’t you kill yourself?”
That is the most evil aggravation to be thrown at a depressed person. Amanda Todd and Charlotte Dawson were two early victims of this kind of horrific trolling.
3. Don’t Get Into An Argument With Them
Getting into a long thread of argument with a troll is a self-defeating idea.
The trolls get what they wanted in the first place—public attention. But it is you whose professional and personal brand gets tarnished.
So, do not play their game. Do not step into the virtual fighting arena set up for you. You would most probably lose in a humiliating way because they have a long experience of hitting below the belt.
The best way is to let them never have 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 disaster. If you do, that is when the worst thing starts to unfold.
Each time you play equally dirty as them, replying with the same toxicity and rage, you gift them an extra boost of life. Remember, what happens next is under the watchful eyes of your fans and followers.
Suddenly, they change tracks and point out you are the vile offender they “knew you were from the beginning.” They become their loudest, trying to prove to others what a mean person you are, and always were, by quoting you and even attaching screenshots of your comments.
Congratulations! You are the troll now.
You got your pound of flesh, but now everyone sees blood on your hands. Your hands, not theirs. They are the victims now, as the public sees.
You are the fish out of the water now, wondering how on earth did it come down to this? How could you let yourself stoop to their level? How could you let yourself stoop to their level?
So, stand a strict guard long before you reach this stage.
4. Don’t Respond To A Troll With Anger
Remain calm and civil at all times. Do not lose your temper.
If they get your goose, the least harm they would do is make a joke out of you. Even with that, the community could hold you as someone whose buttons any random stranger might push at will.
Do not take the tiniest step to indulge them—no matter how much they tempt you.
Take the high road and let those of their first troll-words baiting you roll off your back.
5. Press The Delete Button.
If it is your timeline they are trolling on, delete the offensive comment before it flares up. Unfriend and block that person from your timeline. Delete their identities from your social media.
And if you cannot do any of those because it is a group or page where you are not the admin or the moderator, delete your original post. This strike always works—it quietly steals the carpet from under their feet.
Then go out and mind your other businesses.
6. Report The Troll To A Higher Authority
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. They may not even bother.
You could also report to Facebook or Twitter. That, though effective at times, can take days to reach any resolution. The storm would have passed by then, with the harm done.
7. Respond To The Troll With Humor
This strategy is dicey, at best. It might or might not work, and you cannot be sure which way it goes.
You may be able to defuse the trolls with a hilarious or even mildly humorous comment. You might even thank them for being a part of the discussion and the community while asking them to be polite. But none of those tactics are ever a guarantee.
You might also try laughing off their comments. However, that would not make sure they are any milder towards their next victim.
8. Troll Back The Troll
Interestingly, trolls are also calibrated by users for their degree of success both in relation to the quality of the trolling, and how others
respond to the troll.
One way to bring down a troll is to launch a counterattack by the group. This “trolling the troll” can criticize their low-quality and failed attempts, and take the form of comments as:
- “Folks, this is a newbie troll; don’t feed him.”
- “The worst troll we have seen in a long time.”
- “S/he needs a lot of practice at his trolling. Right now, it’s not good.”
- “In the history of the trolls we have had here, s/he is the least entertaining.”
- “Haven’t we used all the troll food yet? S/he’s really dumb, no matter what s/he says.”
This strategy has a precondition: it better come from an entire group, or at least a subgroup within the group. It does not work very successfully when a single person, usually the marked victim, mocks the troll.
Trolls believe they can grab control of the conversation because they have the authority to do so. They troll because they think they can take down your honor. To counter a troll, you only need to ignore them.
When you ignore them, you tell them without actually telling them:
No, you do not have control here. I have taken away your spotlight. You can slither back to your dark hole now.
And the troll does just that.
• • •
Narcissists, many of whom troll in anonymous avatars, are people who love themselves too much. More accurately, they are in love with a godlike version of themselves. Find out how you could spot a narcissist.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, chief editor of its blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.
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