How To

How To Deal with Internet Trolls

By Sydney Butler / April 5, 2018

Is there anything as hateful or annoying as an internet troll? These repugnant miscreants are a scourge anywhere a public platform lets them voice an opinion. Unless you literally live under a rock, you’re going to run into internet trolls from time to time, so it’s best to be prepared with a set of tactics that will get you out of the situation and be going on with your life, rather than letting these vile people get under your skin.

What’s a Troll?

Nordic Troll

Before we get to that however, let’s clear up what a troll actually is. It’s not someone who is stubborn, argumentative or otherwise unpleasant on a forum or comment section. That’s perfectly valid and normal. No, a troll is someone who wishes to provoke anger and unhappiness through calculated abuse and manipulation. They take joy in making other people lose their mind and become emotionally distraught. Perhaps “troll” isn’t the best description. Rather these people are more like psychic vampires. The point is that a troll is someone with an agenda and you are being toyed with.

Recognize That You Are Being Trolled

There’s a constant arms race between trolls and the rest of the internet community. Trolls usually go away once they’ve been unmasked. Once people perceive them as trolls whatever they have to say loses its bite. So trolls have developed all sorts of strategies to prolong the torment. They can play the long game and hang around as a seemingly reasonable and normal commenter for days or weeks. They can practice something known as “concern” trolling where the troll pretends to be on the side of others in the community but has certain “concerns”, which are then used to draw out arguments.

There are several tell-tale signs of a troll:

If a commenter ignores your points, keeps changing the subject and shows the characteristics above, you are probably being trolled.

Don’t Engage

No Entry

Once you do realize that someone on a particular site is a troll, your best option is not to engage them in the first place. Think before you comment and try to gauge whether this person wants to have a genuine conversation or just waste your time. No matter what they say or how much you want to “school” them, there’s no point to it. What they are saying probably isn’t even a real opinion. It’s once crafted to bait people on that site. So don’t take the bait.

Failing That, Don’t Respond

If you didn’t realize the person is a troll in time and made the mistake of engaging them, you should simply stop responding as soon as you do realize you’re being trolled. This can be particularly difficult when we have a natural tendency to want to finish the fight. What’s important is realizing that nothing you do will let you “win” because there never was a debate. You’re almost literally shouting at the clouds since the troll is pretty much indifferent to what you say as long as you’re angry and upset.

Make Use of Reporting and Blocking Tools

It’s hard to walk away when you can still see the actual tirade, which now includes bait aimed specifically at you, going on without you. Which is why you should make use of website functions that let you block a person so that you can’t see anything they have to say and they can’t tag you. You should also report them to moderators with the hope that they will be banned. If only for a short time.

Don’t Give Out Personal Information

Be very careful not to let the troll tease personal information about you if you speak with them at all. If you give away too much about your personal identity then it might lead to a doxxing, which has much more serious implications. For example, a troll might call you stupid or uneducated, to which you might respond with details about your profession or education. Give away enough breadcrumbs and your real name and location can be pieced together.

Use Technology (and Common Sense) to Protect Your Identity

VPN

Apart from the above, it's also a good idea not to use your real name and you should hide your IP address as well. Some trolls might trick people into letting them trace their IP address, so give them nothing by using a good VPN service. We really like ExpressVPN, which is one of the best all-round choices. That will hide both your location and IP from the rest of the world.

Involve the Authorities

Arrest

If a troll turns into a harasser, especially if they've discovered information about you, then it might be the time to get the authorities involved. Laws are now evolving to provide protection against online harassment. Depending on your local laws, and provided you gather some evidence, you could get legal help to have a troll's information handed over. If you're lucky, that troll might just get their comeuppance.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

In the end, the real battle against trolls is a psychological one. If you let them into your mental space it's very hard to come back from that. The most important thing to remember is that ultimately winning an argument on the internet is like beating a video game. Sure it feels like you've accomplished something, but that's where it ends.



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