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  • Don’t Feed the Trolls

    don't feed the trolls

    When The Trolls Find You

    We’ve all encountered trolls face to face in one form or another (middle school, anyone?), and it’s impossible to miss their presence in the comment section of online articles and social media posts. It’s easy to spot them when they’re trolling other people, and it’s easy to tell the trollee to just ignore them. When you’re the target, however, you’re more likely to feel their presence than to be able to clearly see what’s happening; you’re also less likely to be able to just ignore them. (Hint: That’s a good way to know you’re being trolled.)

    I’ve had plenty of brushes with trolls in “real life” but only recently had my first real brush with online trolls when one of my blog posts was shared on Facebook by a page with almost 8,000 followers. It logged 245 shares from that page and got over 1,000 shares via the share buttons on my blog. It was great! However, some people disagreed with my content and said so in the comments – both on the FB page that shared it and on the blog itself. That’s fine. They’re entitled to disagree.

    The fact that people disagreed with me didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was the nasty way in which some of them expressed their disagreement. They let me know in no uncertain terms what they thought of me. It also surprised me that I was surprised. I mean, I know what a comment section can be like.

    It was interesting to observe my reaction to the whole thing. I could feel myself being baited and challenged, feeling frustrated, being hurt, getting angry, and wondering if some of them had actually read any part of the post at all. At the same time, I sincerely felt that they had a right to disagree with me, to run their business differently than I run mine, and to have different boundaries than I do. They also have a right to make assumptions about me, judge me, and to not like me.

    When dealing with trolls, you often can’t win for losing. But not winning doesn’t have to mean losing. There is a middle ground. Call it a draw. Call it Zen. Call it agreeing to disagree. I like to call it maintaining my sanity.

    Do Not Feed The Trolls

    Here’s a not-so-secret secret: Trolls want to be fed. Some trolls know exactly what they’re doing and they’re intentionally baiting you. The rest don’t do it on purpose, but that doesn’t make them any less rude, stressful, or trollish.

    While their motivations may differ, most trolls want the same thing: Attention. They usually get that attention through some form of reaction or engagement. Engagement is troll food. Even well-meaning engagement (“I just wanted to explain, educate, etc.”) can be all the food a troll needs to take the trolling to the next level.

    This isn’t to say that trolls will never stress you out. Of course they will; but you can keep their influence to a minimum with a few simple guidelines:

    • Remember: What someone does and says has nothing at all to do with you. It has everything to do with them. Always.
    • People view the world through their own filter. This filter may be so different from your own filter that it causes them to interpret things in a way that makes you think “what the F**k?”
    • People who have nothing positive or constructive to say don’t deserve a response.
    • You’re not likely to change their mind regarding their biases and prejudices any more than they are to change yours. It’s useless to try.
    • Never stoop to their level by calling names or attacking their character or intelligence, no matter how tempting it is. And believe me, it can be sooooooo tempting sometimes. It’s also guaranteed to backfire.
    • Always pause before responding. Always.
    • Your knee jerk response to their trolling is probably best left unsaid or undone. (Unless your first response is to step back and pause.)
    • Opinions are not facts. Opinions are subjective. Trolls often express opinions as facts.
    • Be confident that your opinions and standards are right for you, but they may not right for someone else and that’s OK. Diversity is good.
    • Be confident that you are being the best person you can be and if that isn’t good enough for someone (especially if that someone doesn’t know you), tough cookies to them.
    • Let the other person know they were heard, especially if you know them and will need to have future interactions.
    • Agree with them – “Why yes, I am overweight. How astute of you to notice.” (Snark is not necessary, but it’s highly satisfying if their statement shows just how astounding their grasp of the obvious is.) If they can’t goad you into anger, self-pity, or self-doubt they usually go away.
    • You do not have a right to know what others think about you, and vice versa. (see #1)

    These have helped me deal with the trolls in all areas of my life. Don’t get me wrong, some of them still p**s me off, frustrate me, or have me doubting myself for a while. For instance, with my blog example above, even though I could clearly see the commenters biases and assumptions, it still rankled me. I sat with the comments for a couple hours before doing anything. I then decided to not reply to any of the comments. Was that the “right’ thing to do? I don’t know if there is an absolute “right” thing to do in cases like that, but I do know it was the right choice for me at the time. I had plenty of replies at the ready, but many of them wouldn’t have added anything positive to the conversation and the others likely wouldn’t have changed any minds. Since I don’t need validation from people I don’t know, I left it.

    What other advice would you give to someone dealing with a troll problem? Let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to share… There are handy buttons just below this post β†“↓↓



4 Responsesso far.

  1. Hi, Michelle:

    I often read your blog and always appreciate your invaluable insight and knowledge. I’d like to say it’s fun to see you veer off the path, so to speak, and discuss a topic that everyone from every walk of life can appreciate. This is awesome-sauce! (Yeh, I said it. :p)

    You provide great tips for freaking with trolls. I have a few in my personal life (a particular very small group of persons) and the advice you shared here really hit home. Thank you for validing for me that I’m (to the chagrin of my ‘inner child’ who wants to do otherwise) handling it in an adult manner by not engaging.

    Keep on keeping on.

    With admiration, peace out. πŸ˜€

    Hmmm, maybe that phrase ought to be updated to “Peace In.”

  2. Uuugh – I’d like to edit that last but can’t…

    freaking, should have been dealing

  3. New to your blog and love this. It’s soooo hard for me to not respond!! I want people to see my side and understand me and know I am a good person and it is still hard for me to just accept people can not like you for no good reason and that’s their right. It’s soooo hard!! It’s especially hard in a friend group when something is said. I will be saving this post to re read when egged on!

  4. “Thanks for your concern.” Is always a great response if you feel the need to make one πŸ™‚