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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dealing with Trolls

If you aren't familiar with the term, 'troll' when it comes to the internet, allow me to enlighten you. A troll is someone who posts annoying, frustrating, abusive or inflammatory comments online. If you've spent any time commenting on any website you've probably come across a troll. They might be the person who argues with every point you make or just says things that are infuriating to you.

Trolls are a symptom of the internet. People can think they're anonymous online and so some of their social inhibitions will drop and they might say things that are offensive. In real life they might never be so abrasive, but being online behind a keyboard allows them the freedom to say more than they otherwise would.

Trolls are not necessarily bad people, but they can certainly elicit some bad response. I know that I've gotten pretty mad at some comments made online and put my foot in my mouth more than once. It's my responsibility to deal with my emotional reactions, not to censure the comments of other people that might offend me. The lack of any body language or tonal queues online makes it very easy to interpret comments in the least positive way possible.

Troll Handling Tips:

  • Don't feed the trolls
    If you find yourself getting angry at what someone says online. Stop. Wait. Don't respond right away. Take time to cool off. Ask yourself if this conversation will help anyone. If the answer is: No. Then stop. Ignoring a troll is the best way to get them to go away. 
  • Don't bait the trolls
    Certain types of status updates and blog posts are perfect troll-bait. If you post something about politics, money or religion be sure you know what you're saying and what you're getting yourself into. Those flavors are especially tempting to trolls. Read your content before posting and look for ways that it might be divisive or offer a platform for offensive comments.
  • Love the trolls
    They might be saying some frustrating things on your Facebook page or blog posts, but trolls are people too. They have reasons for what they say. Take the time to understand them. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. If you read your comment out loud in the most sarcastic tone of voice you can muster, how does it come across. Maybe you started it. Now read their comment in a sweet, nice tone. Changing the tone can make a huge difference. Don't assume that everyone is out to troll you. 
  • Fight the trolls
    As a last resort, you might need to stick your nose out. Don't fight trolls on your behalf. Take any abuse they heap on you. Don't delete them as friends. Don't delete their comments. Those actions would constitute troll baiting. Don't, however, allow trolls to abuse other people. You won't be able to foster good conversations online if people are constantly afraid of being trolled on your site or page. Your weapons are simply these: block, delete and ignore. Don't point out why they're wrong, or try to defend your actions in any way (more troll-bait), just don't allow trolls to abuse other people on sites that you control. 
What tips do you have for dealing with trolls online? 

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