The ultimate guide to troll control
There is quite a lot of need for troll control at the moment.
The BBC focused a lot on trolls with their programme about Jesy Nelson from Little Mix saying how excessive trolling towards her made her want to die. This was very upsetting to watch, but it was also an insight into how trolls work and how people react to them.
And I received a comment saying there was also a need for troll control in schools. In fact, not just schools, trolling affects people of all ages: those who do it and those who receive it.
This post will explore as many facets as I can about trolls and how to cope with them. I have touched on this subject before in this blog, but now I think it needs some more detailed explanation.
What is a troll?
If you've been fortunate enough not to have encountered a troll, thank your lucky stars. They are the most despicable of beings.
The normal image of a troll is a "spotty, sweaty, overweight geek" sitting with his laptop in his bedroom, or a similar misfit who doesn't belong in society and gets his kicks from spreading dissension throughout the web.
Yes, that's almost true. But avoid getting drawn into stereotypes. A troll can be anybody. It could also be you (let's hope not!). It isn't someone with a grievance or an argumentative streak (I explain why later), but anyone who produces a malicious response with the intention to hurt whoever reads it.
Let's have a look at the infographic below:
Obviously trolls enjoy being horrible
'Tis a sad world which is populated by such people. These traits are extreme. This could be referenced to cruelty as well as hatred. Trolls deliver harsh criticism to deliberately cause anger, upset, deception, sadism, psychiatric influences to lower self-esteem and even causing self-harm and suicide.
Do trolls have a personality disorder? Probably. We all have the ability to be horrible to people, and think nasty things about them. But do we immediately go to our computers to express this to the recipient to get a reaction? I certainly don't feel this is necessary or have the urge.
Perhaps the need for troll control should be directed to those who have no social boundaries. People who have yet to develop any sort of empathy or inner restraints. Trolling is done behind closed doors, away from prying eyes. It's the anonymity which almost gives them permission to say whatever they think, regardless of the consequences.
Why is the world so full of hate?
Another question could be: why is hate so prevalent nowadays? Is it though? Perhaps it's always been there, but because of the web it has the ability to come to the fore and get noticed more.
Jealousy is a common trait. It is one of the main ingredients of trolling. It is one of the reasons why those trolls made Jesy Nelson's life such a misery. They were jealous of the success she had achieved, how she looked, and her resulting lifestyle.
And there are many other emotions that trigger trolling. Trolls totally thrive on emotions. They use them to trigger responses, feed off the reactions and enhance them to exasperate and aggravate the responses that follow.
Do certain people attract trolls more than others?
There will be always people who are prone to being attacked by trolls. Those who are highly sensitive, emotional or reactionary. Trolls see this as a sign of weakness, which is fuel to their fire.
Trolls search for what is out of the ordinary. They can attack people because of looks, abilities and points of view, even sexuality, race and religion. If they don't agree with it, or are irritated by it, they will search for a way to troll it.
People who are stronger, more successful, better looking or more popular than the troll can be a particular target. It is almost because these highlight the troll's own inadequacies. In their eyes these achievements need to be brought down to the lowest level, and stamped on to reduce their ability to thrive.
An example of someone who attracts trolls
Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old environmental activist who is campaigning against climate extinction, receives a lot of negative feedback to her actions.
This is because people in power, especially in certain countries, refuse to face up to the facts she is highlighting. This make them feel uncomfortable, it conflict with their protocols and procedures, and they don't like this message coming from a mere child.
Greta receives comments saying she is mentally ill, because of her Asperger's, therefore nobody should take any notice. But people do, all around the world! And this exasperates the trolls and shows how useless their attempts are to undermine her.
How do you avoid trolls?
Unfortunately trolls are more likely to find you. If your blog or social interaction is based around a particular subject they have chosen to dislike, there isn't much you can do about it.
If you really want to avoid trolls, choose uninteresting topics nobody wants to read about. Fail to show a personality, or to state your point of view. Never succeed in anything or forget to tell other people about it. Come across as an ordinary person with nothing special about you. In other words, be really boring and useless, just like a troll!
A troll's aim is to sow discord, write inflammatory or provocative comments that stimulate a response, and spread hatred behind their disinhibited behaviour. However, you should continue being you and doing what you do, and stuff what the trolls think!
What kind of trolls are there?
Trolls come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and with different motives. Some are totally useless at what they do, whereas successful trolls can be quite sophisticated, almost professional in their approach.
You need to understand which kind of troll is attacking you. It is important in troll control for you have an advantage over them, so they appear less frightening.
I have noted down eight versions of trolls for you to recognise in the Infographic below:
Revealing their traits makes them look more stupid and ridiculous, which is exactly what they are. I've taken away their mystery, to lessen their 'super powers'.
How does a troll work?
Trolls lack empathy and guilt. They hate anyone with a stronger or different opinion than themselves. The concept of sharing anything is alien to them, unless it results in rousing hatred and anger.
They excel in antagonising painful reactions. The more you respond, the more vicious they become. Trolls can pick up on elements which hurt or upset people, and exasperate this to extreme levels. They will go out of their way to make things as difficult as possible for you.
Trolls take hold of the tiniest of anomalies and exaggerate it all out of proportion. And whatever you say, they are always correct. You can never win an argument with a troll; they always have another powder-keg under their belt ready to blow up in your face.
How would you counteract a troll?
Behave the opposite to a troll. The basis of troll control is by being kind and considerate, acknowledging your faults, thanking them for their point of view and when they say you're wrong on a particular point, asking them what is the correct version. In other words, keep your calm and be as pleasant as possible.
If you have to hand evidence that backs up your opinions, now's the time to bring it to the fore. Positively reassure yourself you're correct, as you have the facts and figures to prove it. Most trolls won't have this ammunition to validate their claims.
Or you can just ignore them. When you stop 'feeding' a troll, they soon lose interest. Your lack of reaction stops being fun, they fail to achieve what they want, and eventually they will go elsewhere. This may not happen overnight, but eventually even the most persistent troll will get bored and move on.
How does Greta Thunberg cope with trolls?
I mentioned Greta Thunberg above as an example of someone who is excessively trolled. Luckily for her, because of her Asperger's, she has her own method of troll control.
Greta doesn't react the same way as another 16 year old would. She finds the positive elements within trolling comments and uses them to enhance her message. Donald Trump's snide and mocking tweet was adapted as part of her Twitter bio.
Either Greta is oblivious to the nastiness of what is said about her, or she doesn't care and lets it wash over her. Her healthy approach to the negativity that surrounds her definitely enhances her message to make it even more viral, and command relevant support for her cause.
How to not comment like a troll
Troll control is a matter of providing the opposite. Unlike trolls, be helpful, appreciative and complimentary. Consider other people's feelings by being sympathetic and empathetic. Show your understanding by being relevant to the post's topic.
If you want to oppose a point of view, do it with tact, consideration and grace. View opinions from all sides before putting forward your perspective, and offer a reflective argument based on facts rather than maliciousness.
The infographic below will give you some helpful guidelines:
What impact can a troll have on your blog?
Trolls are out to cause mischief. If their antics result in ruining your blog, they will consider that a job well done. A troll can easily sabotage your audience's pleasure in reading your blog. However, if your blog has a strong fanbase who are willing to help police comments from undesirable people, be eternally grateful to them!
Trolls don't care about you or your reputation. In fact they will revel in destroying everything you hold dear. Therefore it is important not to react or retaliate to a troll, as this is exactly what they want and they will enjoy making everything a lot worse.
If you are beset by a troll, consider immediately growing a thick skin or getting in someone to help you. One troll control suggestion includes blocking the troll through spam moderators or by blacklisting their IP addresses. This will go some way towards lessening their impact on your blog.
What impact can a troll have on you?
Some people take what is said about them very seriously. The feedback they gain from their followers could determine what actions they do next, and they desperately crave approval to enhance their self-esteem. This is particularly so for Jesy Nelson from Little Mix.
If a troll gets wind of this, and you're prone to the above, you're lost. They feast upon lack of confidence and indulge in highlighting parts of your psyche, foibles, phobias or faith in yourself which you feel is inadequate or makes you vulnerable.
Certainly social media is somewhere to show off your personality, but you need to be strong or ready to cope with the consequences. Get help if you are tormented by a troll. There's no need to suffer in silence, as there are plenty of people who are on your side and will be able to help you overcome this.
When is a troll not a troll?
Not everybody who is a nuisance and causes upset and angst is necessarily a troll. They could be ordinary bona fide commenters who just fail to agree with what you've written.
There is this tendency to immediately paint any online dissenter with a tar brush and feathers and term them a troll. The traits of a troll have been explained above, so you know what a troll really is.
Trolling can be easily taken out of context. It is easy to give a disagreeing commenter this label, especially if it makes you feel better. However, sometimes it's worth really looking carefully at the comment to see it for what it really is.
The infographic below will give you some guidelines:
Troll control includes understanding your commenters
Generally if the comment is well written and presents a reasoned argument, it isn't provoking a fight or being really personal towards others, then it isn't written by a troll.
It's also a good idea to publish disagreeing comments. It shows you have a wide readership of your blog, full of people with individual points of view, who are willing to express themselves in your environment.
Only showing appreciation and approval in your comments is not only boring for other readers, it can also suggest these may not be valid or real. Troll control done well includes accepting a wide variety of comments to prove the diversity of your audience. This not only enhance your blog's popularity, it can also can be off-putting to a more hesitant troll.
How do you respond to a negative argument?
There will be some occasions when you cannot let an opposing commenter get away with it. Once you've established this point of view is not from a troll (see above), albeit even a very clever and sophisticated one, you may want to reply in your defence.
If you are angered by their response, never immediately respond. Whatever you write when you are antagonised you will certainly regret later. The answer is to dump your feelings somewhere else: in a Word document for example. This is therapeutic and beneficial to your state of mind, as getting stuff off your chest will help you to calm down and start to see sense.
Then go and do something completely different before returning to re-read and edit it. The time away will have subconsciously ordered your thoughts, and you may even start to see the other's point of view. If you do decide to publish your response, it will be much more considered and readable for your audience and will certainly preserve your reputation.
What is the difference between cyberbullying and trolling?
Cyberbullying is not necessarily trolling. It is technically online bullying, as it is usually targeted at a specific person. You could even consider the fate suffered by Jesy Nelson as cyberbullying, as it was focused principally on her.
The tactics may be the same: to undermine the victim and make their lives a complete misery. Horrible suggestions are made, even their privacy is compromised, and the attack is relentless, almost 24/7, on personal devices which the recipient cannot get away from easily.
Trolling is usually done on a wider scale: the maliciousness is broader, and comments tend to be directed towards particular concepts mentioned in posts. Whereas a cyberbully may know their target and will understand exactly what to say to get under their skin.
The infographic below will help make things a little clearer:
Individual focus on one victim is more distressing
We all know what bullying is. I certainly suffered it as a child, even as an adult. A year ago a woman verbally assaulted me because she didn't like the way I spoke; she felt intimidated by my accent as she felt it made me superior to her (which it didn't, but that was how she perceived it).
The world is not an equal place. Plenty of people have gripes to moan about, or chips on their shoulders that cloud the way they think. Social class has a major impact on trolling, along with what the world's ideal is for certain traits: fashion, beauty, musical taste, personalities and various demographics which may not fit into what a troll thinks is 'normal'.
I met a girl on a train who told me whenever her uncle was bored, he used to go online to do a bit of trolling. I wonder how many people troll without realising what they are doing. They obviously fail to understand the consequences of their actions. There seems to be a distinct lack of empathy and self-restraint amongst certain people who like to 'play' online.
How much troll control actually goes on?
Usually there are no restrictions to the ability to comment. Blogs do have the power to moderate comments before publishing them, and some commenting systems also guard against spam. But social media relies on their algorithms to accept or reject comments.
These can be quite stringent. I have occasionally written what I thought was an innocuous comment, only to find it banned by the social platform. And yet I also see comments that make me cringe happily being published and doing their worst!
The best troll control comes from those who have to read them. A blogger's loyal readership or a celebrity's social audience should have to power and confidence to 'police' trolls, make their lives a misery in return and ultimately oust them from the vicinity.
What troll control can you do?
The ideal situation would be to have maximum intolerance against trolls. And cyberbullying, though this is probably much more difficult. Trolls should be given short shift, or ignored en masse, so whatever antics they do have little effect.
We can't expect everyone to grow a thick skin overnight. There are always people with mental-health problems which trolls can take advantage of. But better recognition of what trolls are and what they do can only help to scourge out the detriment they produce.
I hope this post has highlighted the plight caused by trolls, given cause for thought on how to deal with them, and eliminated the 'power' trolling has on our social communities. Thus I hope you can put together your own troll control methods to help you have a happier and healthier online experience.