Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Truth About Internet Trolls

There is a very real misunderstanding of the nature of Internet Trolls and, as a result, there is a incorrect belief about the way to "deal" with them.

Here is the fundamental flaw.

People think this is what Trolls look like:

Angry person online, fundamentally outraged by your words - possibly your very existence. 

Trolls give you that impression because they make very personal insults, they comment on your appearance or something you may or may not have said. As a a result you think trolls are about you.

And then you think, surely, this guy can be reasoned with. Yes, he's angry, but he is an adult, he can see the value in other perspectives. So you engage, thinking consensus is possible.

In reality, trolls are this:

Trolls have no idea what "skullfuck" means, it doesn't have to mean anything - it sounds nasty. They don't have any interest in reasoned dialogue - they haven't read your post/article/answer. It's for the lulz and the win - if they can silence you, they win the Internet. It's something to pass the time..

I'm not being ageist here - trolls are often actual teenagers, trying to be adults in a very childish way, they are also adults being childish, but they have one thing in common - trolls all treat harassment as a game. A game they can't lose, because there is no one to catch them, there's no punishment if they are caught. It's for fun. If you get angry, they win. If you react at all, they win. If you have to set up new rules for comments, they win. Block their IP, they'll change it - and they win.

So how can you win? Remember "sticks and stones"? Yeah, that.

Since the goal of the game is to silence you, all you need to do is ignore them and go about your business. Leave their comments hanging out there, ignorant and hateful as they are, unanswered. They will expose themselves trying to get you to react. All you need to do is...nothing. If they escalate - you win. If they take it to multiple spaces online - you win. The more they scream and rant and waste time thinking about you, and the less time you think about them - the more you win. Your toolkit is Report, Ignore, Block, Delete, Mute, depending on the site/platform you're on. Use all of the tools, but use Ignore the most.

Have pity for the trolls who spend hours of their day obsessing over you while you read books, go out with friends and have a life. Because the more you win, the more they lose.
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