Don’t feed the trolls

Don’t feed the trolls

In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chatroom, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. — Wikipedia

In these days of social media many people tend to share everything; their politics, religion, sexual preferences and acts, and many other tidbits that, oftentimes, are better left unsaid. Certainly these things should be discussed with caution in a public forum.

The problems with having online discussions and posting about extremely personal beliefs, conditions and thoughts are (among other things):

  • Regardless of your “privacy” settings, it is possible, albeit with some effort, for your employer, spouse, friend, enemy, or whomever to see what you have written. This can effect your employment, credit, insurance, friendship, marriages and any other part of your life.
  • Personal beliefs tend to attract trolls. Especially strongly held beliefs.

There was a man I knew, let’s call him Tim, who delighted in replying to posts all over the place with both covertly and overtly negative responses. He was the perfect example of a troll.

You’d post a paragraph about Obama, for example, and Tim would reply with a covert response, something that begs for an answer, but isn’t exactly negative. This is the hook to get you (or others in the thread) to reply. You reply, perfectly logically to explain your position or respond to Tim’s question or whatever. He’d reply, a little more negative this time, and this pattern would go on and on until you are ready to explode, and Tim is rubbing his hands in glee.

If the troll really knows what he is doing, he’ll make it appear he is innocent because he’ll stir up so much negativity in the conversation that no one knows who began it all. His comments may appear totally innocent on first glance, but if you follow things back and read carefully, you’ll find Tim covertly egging on the responses, ensuring that the argument feeds upon itself until there is so much negativity and anger that the thread is deleted or the conversation dies in frustration.

A less skilled troll simply posts negative responses or pointed questions designed to enrage the members of the conversation.

Responding to posts by trolls in any way is called “feeding the trolls”. This is what they want.

It is important to understand you can in no way win in any conversation online with trolls. They don’t care about you. They don’t care about the conversation. Their goal is simply to upset anyone they can upset, to enrage people and to destroy communication.

Now, if you ask them outright, they’ll plead innocence. They will tell you they are just trying to help educate you, or to keep you from harm or some other mindless justification. Do not be lulled into complacency by their lies. They exist to make anyone and everyone they can wrong, upset, unhappy and depressed.

The best thing to do is to ignore them, and if you spot them, delete them from the conversation or, better still, ban them entirely. On platforms such as facebook, I’ve found the best solution is to block them permanently.

I know it sounds cruel and sounds like censorship. But there are people in this world, and the internet seems to make them far more bold than normal, who exist only to sow discord and to destroy any attempts at reasonable communication. Your conversations will be better without them, and your sanity will be aided by removing them from the scene.


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