How To Deal With Online Trolls

One of my friends (as in offline, tangible friends) recently “complained” to me she’s being harassed by someone in her Facebook. This person has been posting hateful, even foul-mouthed comments on her Facebook page.

(To think I actually avoided Facebook for the longest time, thinking it’s a time waster. I still do think it’s a time waster up to a point, but I’ve since signed up and learned its value over time.)

My friend told me she first kept rebutting the person’s comments. But…the person just kept hitting back.

Eventually she just deleted the person’s comments (and the topic she started on her page) as well as blocked that him/her out. That ended it.

At least, it seemingly ended it for a time. A few days after she posted another topic in her Facebook wall, someone else started attacking her publicly.

Again, she argued against the person. Again, she later deleted the person’s comments and blocked him/her out also.

Hopefully that’s that. But it must have really bothered her to finally tell me about it.

She said she also told some of her friends about it as well. All of them gave well-meaning advice, but she felt what they told her wasn’t enough or wasn’t satisfying.

I then asked her to think back if there was something done that might have “helped” or contributed to that. I deliberately asked her that way to not make it sound like I’m accusing her of something.

She later blushed and admitted that her arguing with that person could’ve started the exchange. She also said it – for a time – actually felt good because she was fighting back.

I reassured her that that was okay because we all feel the tendency to want to fight back at someone who offended us, especially if it was for little to no valid reason at all. Then I asked her if there was something any different with the second person who attacked her.

She thought for a moment, then answered that she eventually just deleted the attacker’s comments and blocked him/her off after a much-shorter exchange than the previous one. I asked her what made her think that, and she replied she felt it was time to ignore that person.

And from there, I pounced on that. I asked her if she can do that next time it happens, then she nodded, smiled and thanked me for hearing her out.

Now, I’m not active in Facebook as much as everyone else around and before me. However, I’ve been active online for a number of years, especially taking part in online discussion forums.

I myself have experienced being “attacked” by other people, especially those who seemed just too argumentative no matter how much you rebut them. Such people are usually called “trolls”.

In the Internet sense, Wikipedia defines trolls as the following:

 

a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

 

Think of the troll as a sort of an online bully. Like any bully, they mainly keep pushing people around especially to get attention.

Unlike the actual bullies we used to face in school, though, taking on them head-on doesn’t always work. This is because online, they feel anonymous and invincible, and don’t have to worry about being caught. (which many of them aren’t, sad to say…)

OTOH, one tried and tested “advice” on dealing with bullies also tends to work online. And that is simply…

 

Ignore them.

 

The reason for that is simple: trolls especially thrive on attention. Denying them that can cause them to make themselves look worse than they already are until they gradually get tired.

Like everybody, our attention on something or someone will (mostly) last only for so long. Eventually, someone’s going to get tired or bored, then just move on to something else.

Also, doing this can let the troll know what they’re really up to, or that people are on to their little “game” and later not play along anymore. Again, they’ll eventually just move along and give up their bullying or trolling.

I know that’s easier said than done, though. Like I said, we all tend to feel like fighting back.

I must admit, it can feel good fighting back against a troll and looking victorious if s/he especially doesn’t reply anymore. If you’re not careful, though, you might actually end up looking bad yourself.

This might also seem weird, but I notice that not too many people also like those who look and give the feeling of superiority; that they feel better than others, especially the trolls who started making them virtually look bad as well.

You might…might…be able to pull that off and get away with it if you really, truly know what you’re doing, especially if you’ve established yourself as some kind of expert on a field you and the troll argued about. I think you can do that if you’re able to argue or debate something without necessarily hitting the other person’s character (ad hominem attack) itself, but only if your position is mainly and mostly defensible.

Now, just because some people argue against you doesn’t always mean what they say has no merit. Some people might seem trollish or argumentative, but they also usually have something useful to say that might make sense if you give it some thought.

Finally, if it can be helped…

 

Don’t take it personally.

 

When I asked my friend how come she didn’t fight the second person as much as the first, she admitted she later felt it was pointless and that the attacks no longer affected her; that she felt what the person said wasn’t true anyway, so she found it easier to just block that person out.

I smiled and suggested she keep that in mind next time she encounters that again; that if she felt someone was being a troll or bully without saying anything true or substantial, she can just delete the person’s comments, not reply and totally block him/her out without giving a second thought.

After all, she has no obligations to anyone as far as I know except those she felt she has to. What more a bully?

One more thing: as defined in Wikipedia, trolls also tend to say really nasty things just to stir things up. Ignore them as well rather than angrily replying and rebutting them.

I read of a recent example involving one “Ahcee Flores” who wished a tsunami would wipe out the people in the Visayas. We had a recent earthquake in Negros where some people were killed, others injured and rendered homeless, and vast property damaged.

Honestly I was first tempted to join the fray. But I decided otherwise, thinking it’s not worth my time.

For all I know, the name is just an alias. Whoever said that must’ve gotten a really good (and maybe perverse) laugh at all the hoopla, and I hope that person doesn’t get anything bad coming in kind. (though I won’t be surprised if that happens…)

I eventually found a Yahoo! News article also on the subject. Similar to what I said here, the author suggested primarily ignoring or “not feeding” the troll at all.

The author also added to tell friends not to reply to the troll either, and just block them out. Social network sites like Facebook and Twitter give you certain tools to let you delete their comments and permanently block them out from your section or so.

At any rate, trolls and bullies exist online like every where else. Fortunately, we don’t have to do anything to or for them other than just ignore their attention-seeking ways and move along to more positive ventures.

I wish everyone well, including my friend.

(Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to an online forum where I’m a moderator to kick out some trolls…)

Source: Wikipedia – Troll, Wikipedia – Ad Hominem, Yahoo News – Ahcee Flores

Edit: It seems Ahcee Flores is real, after all, especially in Twitter. Oh well…

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