“Trolling: to post inflammatory or inappropriate messages or comments on (the Internet, especially a message board) for the purpose of upsetting other users and provoking a response.”
Trolling is one of those things that has basically been around since the start of the internet. It can range from someone making mean comments to insisting they’re right with a completely insane argument to just saying totally nonsensical things over and over. Trolls want nothing more than to feel clever (whether they actually are or not) and to force you to react emotionally, and will be obnoxiously persistent in their attempts to make this happen.
So how do you stop them?
Don’t Feed the Trolls
Don’t respond. Seriously, don’t. Trolls aren’t in this to have logical, constructive conversations, they’re in this to wreak havoc and generally annoy people because that’s how they get their kicks. All they want is attention, so if you don’t engage, they’ll eventually get bored and move on. It’s not the most satisfying way of dealing with them, but it is probably the most effective, and the least personally taxing.
If staying quiet just isn’t your style and you do find yourself needing to respond, you can do so simply and without emotions involved. If they’re launching personal attacks and demanding you acknowledge them, say “thank you.” If they’re countering a statement you made with something incredibly and blatantly outlandish, state a quick and simple fact in response. Some trolls don’t know how to respond to people not falling for their provocation and keeping a level head and may, as is always our goal here, move on.
Kill With Kindness
This one takes a whole lot of patience, and doesn’t always yield results. Some trolls are just people having a bad day, or not knowing how to reach out for help, and bend under the pressure of compassion. This recent story about Ijeoma Oluo taking the time to engage with a racist on Twitter who revealed himself to be a troll and, ultimately, a lonely kid is inspiring. Sometimes reminding trolls that the people they’re aiming to provoke are human, and trying to understand why they’re lashing out is a rewarding and successful experience. Now, many trolls are just trolling to troll and won’t come around to a less troll-y way of thinking, but they may still taper off with their remarks after you refuse to do anything but be kind. But again: you really have to have the patience for this, because giving up halfway through or changing tactics could just end up provoking them more.
A lot of social networking sites will let you do this. Yes, they may just make another account, but it may also encourage them to just give up or move on to trolling someone else. If someone won’t leave you alone, it’s at least worth a shot.
Okay, so, no, don’t stoop to their level. Don’t be abrasive and obnoxious and expect that to do anything other than make you look as bad as they do. But you can often derail the trolling with a well timed awkward music video link. Or ten. (And no, don’t Rick Roll. There are so many more creative options available to us now, think outside of the box!)
At the end of the day, no matter how you or your trolls choose to react, just remember two things:
1. This is about them, not you. It’s something they do to fill the time, or feel clever, or bring other people down. It’s most likely not anything about something you did or said, so don’t take their trolling personally.
2. Trolling shouldn’t be confused with bullying or harassment. There’s a difference between someone just being annoying and someone constantly putting you down or threatening you or doing anything else that could fall under the bullying spectrum. If that’s what’s happening, take the appropriate steps allowed to you by the website you’re on to report them and protect yourself.
Share this with anyone you know, who needs to take care of the trolls in their lives.