Don’t Feed the (Internet) Trolls

When I say the word “troll,” you might think of the children’s stories where a troll hides under a bridge, just waiting to surprise and take advantage of innocent passersby. In reality, “trolls” on the Internet are much subtler and more insidious than this.

What Is An Internet Troll?

The definition of an Internet troll is a person who posts inflammatory comments on articles and websites just to start fights or disagreements, not to express a valid opinion. Trolls often take advantage of an already-heated discussion, or pester people who strongly believe in their opinions. Basically, they want to feel important–this is why they do what they do.

What Doesn’t Work: Asking Them to Stop Posting/Arguing With Them

As a victim of many Internet troll attacks over the years, I at first responded to them with bewilderment or anger. I had no idea why they were saying such horrible things to me, nor did I know why they kept coming after me and attacking me. Thus, I kept trying to battle them back with either pleas for them to stop or logic to try to debunk their arguments.

Neither of these tactics works against a troll–it actually just feeds them, giving them more amusement and more fodder for trolling. Remember, they are only doing this for laughs and/or attention. They aren’t interested in your opinion, only your reaction. The larger and more dramatic your reaction, the more they laugh and the more they keep coming back to get it–as I unfortunately found out.

How To Beat Trolls: Ignore Them and Devalue Them

The way to handle and defeat trolls is twofold:

  • Firstly, if you are a member of a forum/website where the troll is posting, ignore the comment entirely. Remember, they just want attention, so don’t give them any.
  • Secondly, if you are an admin of a forum/website where a troll is posting, delete their comment(s) and block their IP address from posting on the board. Don’t make any announcement about it, since you don’t want to draw attention to the troll’s attacks–just do it quietly, as if the troll never even existed.

This strategy may just seem like a revision of the tactic “Ignore them and they’ll go away,” but it’s not. What I’m suggesting is both ignoring and devaluing their commentary, silently telling them that their words are not even important enough to keep around on the Internet, much less react to. This is about the only way to get rid of trolls, because you’re not giving them what they want: a reaction, either for laughs or to make them feel important.

A Final Note: This is Not Cruelty, but Self-Preservation

This may seem cruel; for years I resisted following this course of action, because I felt bad about treating another person this way. But what we have to remember in dealing with trolls is that they are entitled to their opinions, but you are also entitled to yours. On your own forum/website and in your own world, you don’t necessarily have to keep their opinions around to look at, nor do you have to let their comments influence your life.

The bottom line: trolls are basically Internet bullies, and both bullies and trolls are sad, pitiable individuals who try to make themselves feel important by stomping on others. Pity them, sure, but pay no attention to what they say. You’ll have a much better time on the Internet if you do so.

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