So, you’ve been attacked by your first online troll! Congratulations!! You have officially arrived! Haha!
Chances are, if you are on any type of social media platform, you have been the victim of online harrassment. Be it a person leaving an unfriendly comment on your Instagram picture, or a Facebook frenemy leaving snarky comments on your wall, internet trolls are alive and well, wreaking havoc and ruining your day.
Before we look at how to deal with these miserable types who feel big and powerful hiding behind their keyboards, let’s define the term “internet troll”.
Internet Troll: An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.
“You rich c*nt. So you have a Birkin. Who cares? F*ck you.” – actual comment left by Anonymous on a YouTube Birkin Bag review video.
Great examples – Jimmy Kimmel’s Celebrities Read Mean Tweets
I think I’m a strong person, but I’m a human being who deserves a little respect. Every now and then, someone will leave a nasty comment on one of my social media platforms and I usually laugh it off. Sometimes though, an offensive comment will really get to me and frankly, ruin my day. I think this is the goal of the internet troll…feeding off of someone’s insecurity, usually to feed their own insecurities by projecting their own negative feelings on others.
I am noticing a greater backlash against online bullying lately. Those who leave nasty comments online are usually attacked themselves by groups of positive people pointing out trollish behaviour. At the very extreme end, the troll is outed and can be the victim of online harrassment himself.
So, what can you do to properly deal with trolls? First and foremost, take the high road. Keep your online reputation intact by not engaging (more on ignoring trolls below). This is the single most important piece of advice I’ve received when it comes to trolls. If the harassment really bothers you, block and report the offender.
Now – on with more tips!
1. Ignore Them
Trolls thrive on attention. Their goal is to anger, frustrate and make you feel uncomfortable. I know it’s hard, but simply ignoring trolls is normally your best weapon of defence. When you don’t engage, they don’t receive a response, and they’ll most likely (hopefully!) go away. Keep your good online reputation intact by not responding and most importantly, by not typing something that you’ll later regret.
2. Establish a User Comments Policy
Set some house rules! When setting up your blog, one of your first steps should be establishing a policy for leaving comments. A comments policy should clearly outline what kind of comments are acceptable and allowed on your website and various social media accounts. Check out the Huffington Post’s Community Guidelines on Comments for a great example.
3. Use Moderators and Online Tools
Stealth banning is a practice used by some online community managers to block content added by spammers and Internet trolls. The practice involves making a user’s contributions invisible to all other users, but visible to themselves, making them less likely to create new accounts to add the same material. Often this blocks the problem user’s contributions while making it look like they were “lost” due to a website error, thereby enforcing the community best practice of “not feeding trolls.” It is used to lower the likelihood of trolls or malicious users from registering new accounts to continue trolling.
Comment ghosting is where an individual comment is rendered invisible to everyone except the poster in order to stop the disruption their negative comments may cause.
4. Get Rid of/Moderate Your Comments Section
If you have a particularly bad situation, or don’t really care for comments of any kind, you can opt to “switch off” your comments section. That eliminates the problem altogehter, but I am not a fan of this solution as it can make growing your blog or website in the online community very difficult.
Also, moderate your comments section. You don’t have to approve any comments you don’t like. Go ahead, delete and ban trolls altogether!
5. Make Light of the Situation
Humor is one of the best ways to handle trolls. A great example is when an English grocery chain used humor after an unsatisfied customer reported on Twitter that they had purchased chicken that tasted “like it was beaten to death by Hulk Hogan.” They replied with an apology and handled the situation brilliantly.
6. Expose the Troll
Many a troll thrive on anonymity. Rip that away! By taking away their cloak of anonymity, you are taking away their power and hopefully make them reconsider leaving any further nastiness on your accounts.
Now, you don’t necessarily have to post their name and address (don’t!), but do a little research on them. Maybe they have a terrible, laughable blog and you could in turn, pity them. Haha!
7. Create a Strong, Unified Online Community
Build a loyal following full of happy supporters. If you have a loyal online community, you may not have to worry much about trolls, as your totally awesome followers will take care of that for you. Want to see this in action? Tweet something negative to sweet, little Taylor Swift. I guarantee you that you will summarily get a swift online ass-kicking.
Keep an eye on your army of loyal supporters though. You don’t want it to get too out of hand.
Here is a basic, helpful tip. Listen to the troll. Maybe their insult says something about your “brand” and could be a form of constructive criticism. Did the troll post: “Your website SUCKS!!”. Maybe it’s slow to load or it’s laid out badly. This is an opportunity to improve it.
Have an online store? Maybe the troll is simply an unhappy customer who just wants to be heard. If you answer their complaint with grace, they may just thank you publicly.
If a troll also points out mistakes on your website, blog, etc., take the time to correct the mistakes. They are doing you a favour (their delivery is terrible though – I know). When you are done correcting the error, take the time to respond and let him or her know what you did to correct the situation. They may appreciate hearing back from you.
9. Fight Back With Facts
If you find yourself the target of rumours or someone is spreading misinformation online, fight back with the truth and solid facts.
A great example is The Honest Company’s sunscreen debacle that unfolded at the beginning of August. Users of the sunscreen took to social media in droves to complain about the sunscreen’s apparent lousy protection and posted countless pictures of painful looking sunburns.
Jessica Alba, founder of The Honest Company, blogged about how terrible it was to read about this situation and posted test results of their product adhering to government regulations and requirements. She also tried to put a “human spin” on the problem by admitting that she used the sunscreen frequently on her own daughters without issue.
10. Reward Good Behaviour
Foster your online community into the type of online space you want it to be. Be positive, respond to your comments and thank everyone for commenting, supporting and encouraging you and spreading the word through their own online tools!
Try not to focus on battling a troll. Always remember the great followers that take the time to spread their own positivity!
11. Take Time for Self-Care
Now, we all know that it’s the troll with the problem, not you. Knowing that doesn’t always make dealing with their nasty, hurtful words any easier. Online bullying and harassment is particularly dangerous because words can cause scars that take years to heal, if ever.
Take the time to take care of yourself and heal after a particularly nasty attack. Surround yourself with positivity – reach out to friends and family, and have them tell you over and over that nasty comments aren’t true, that you’re awesome and that a troll’s comments do not reflect on you. Love yourself and keep in mind that the troll is a sad, little, jealous person projecting their own crap onto others.
Have any tips and tricks on how to deal with trolls? Please share in the comments!