Written by Edel Cayetano, as originally posted at the Philippine Online Chronicles
Trolls thrive on your attention, and their only satisfaction lies in annoying you.
Beware: if you’re not too careful, you might fall prey to the despicable tactics of an internet troll. Internet trolls are anonymous users with nothing to say but rude, off-topic, or annoying comments intended to make you lose your nerve. You know you are better off not wasting your precious time on these creatures.
According to Life Hacker, the word “trolling” comes from a fishing technique in which one casts out bait to catch the fish—and that’s exactly what internet trolls do. They barrage you with rude statements to “lure” you into getting angry or giving them attention. Why? Because aside from seeing it as an escape from boredom, it’s their only way of making themselves feel more powerful. This is also the reason why persons of influence and power are more susceptible to trolling.
Nowadays, social media trolls are everywhere – internet forums, blogs, YouTube, and even Twitter. This makes anyone a possible victim of trolling – not just those powerful enough to have their own blogs. And the more emotionally invested you are in the things you do and say, the harder it becomes to ignore the trolls.
Here are a few tips and tricks on how to handle and beat a troll frustration-free from sources all over the web.
- Make sure you’re dealing with a troll.
The Guardian describes a troll as someone who “persistently seeks to derail rational discourse through mindless abuse, needling, hectoring, or even threats of violence.” Analyze if the person who appears to be a troll fits the said qualifications. Sometimes, who may appear to be a troll may just be a stressed out person. Know how to differentiate a troll from an idiot.
- Kill the troll with kindness
Whether you’re dealing with trolls or just plain rude people, the best way to disarm them is to kill them with kindness. Do your best to keep your cool and try to ask kind questions. Make kind suggestions before assuming the worst. A troll does exactly what it does to infuriate you. If you give in to your anger, guess who wins?
- Use humor and wit tactfully
Another effective way to catch a troll off-guard is to counter his annoying comment with a funny remark. If you think there’s a need to address the troll’s comment, recognize the problem, apologize (if needed) and offer a witty reply on the same level as the criticism. United Kingdom’s grocery chain Sainsbury’s did this when it responded to a user’s tweet that said their chicken seems like “it was beaten to death by Hulk Hogan.” After apologizing for their “bad chicken,” Sainsbury said they are going to “replace Mr. Hogan with Ultimate Warrior on our production line immediately.” By doing this, Sainsbury turned a negative comment into an engagement opportunity.
As the Social Media Examiner says, when you make light of a troll’s comment, you simultaneously acknowledge and defuse the situation. Just laugh it off – a positive attitude can get you through anything.
- Counter fiction with fact
If trolls are spreading rumors and wrong information, disprove their tall tales with facts. For example, when #bendgate broke out – the rumors that the phone could bend in your pocket – Apple took a stand and responded to this crisis. Apple admitted to the media that the phones could bend, but clarified that it wouldn’t typically happen with normal iPhone use. By doing this, they were able to stop any further controversy.
- Don’t feed the trolls.
In other words, ignore the troll. As Life Hacker says, it’s the cardinal rule of being in an internet community. Trolling is one of the problems best solved by ignoring it and if you do, it usually dies a natural death. As The Guardian explains, trolls thrive in your attention and “feed on your impotent rage.” If they’re trying to be funny, your tendency to rise to the bait provides the punchline. “If you don’t, there’s no joke.” Be consistent in ignoring the trolls and remember, they’re probably just children.
- Don’t welcome them.
Trolls are not allowed on most moderated sites, bullying is a violation of Facebook policy and Twitter has rules against making threats. After ignoring the trolls, click those Report Abuse buttons.
If you host your own website with a forum or comments section, don’t hesitate to delete offensive and abusive material or block the troll. Some people may tell you that this is either a violation of free speech or a cowardly way of gagging debate, but what the heck, these people are trolls.
When dealing with trolls, keep in mind that they’re attacking boredom, not you. A complete lack of reason is one of the most obvious traits of a troll, so if you find someone lashing out and being purposely offensive to draw you in, draw the line. If there’s nothing of value in what the troll says, don’t put any weight on it. It’s not about you having done something poorly, it’s about them being bored out of their wits. They are not worth your time or your energy – and the same goes with people of their kind in real life.
As the Taylor Swift song goes, “haters gonna hate, but I’m just gonna shake it off.”