Let’s face it: The Internet is filled with opinions, and several of them are undoubtedly wrong. Generally, most mature people will take these opinions with a grain of salt and move on. The other half of the population absolutely must respond. These responses are often less-than-friendly, and some of them are just trying to anger the original poster. We call these people Internet trolls.
When you think of a troll, you might imagine an ugly little creature with a wrinkly face, sharp teeth and claws, and a foul temper. Others might imagine a cute little guy with crazy pink hair. The truth of the matter is that while Internet trolls might not lurk under bridges and steal from passerbyes, their personalities are just as ugly as the creatures of legend. According to everyone’s favorite online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, an Internet 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, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.
So, in other words, a troll is a jerk who blatantly goes on the Internet with the intent of upsetting someone, usually the poster of the topic in discussion. Unlike other forms of online threats, the troll can’t be blocked by antivirus or firewalls. They can’t be eliminated with the click of the mouse. No, the troll attacks your business’s blog or social media posts, hoping to incite some response with their “trolling.” If your business fosters interaction with its followers (like it should), you risk feeding the trolls, also known as giving them firepower to do some real damage to your business and its reputation. These trolls are so dangerous that Britain is even considering up to three years of jail time for abusive Internet behavior.
You Need to Pay the Troll Toll
Why would anyone go out of their way to do such a thing on the wondrous Internet? Probably for the same reason hackers steal personal information from individuals, or infect systems with malware; for the sake of causing strife and chaos. Or, perhaps they are simply immature and looking to add some sort of meaning to their insignificant existence. Though, there is the possibility that they are just simply offended by the post and feel the need to correct you, but those individuals are few and far between. No, the main reason anyone will troll you is for the thrill of it. Anonymity plays a big role, as well; nobody wants to slander their own name when the Internet provides them the perfect medium to be exactly who they want to be.
Dealing with Internet Trolls
Dealing with trolls can be difficult, especially if they hit a nerve and really push you the wrong way. If you get mad at them, and respond without thinking about what you’re saying carefully, it might have a negative effect on your company’s image. Ultimately, the best way to deal with Internet trolls is to reassess how you deal with criticism (which is what trolling is, in a sense). Discuss what your friends, coworkers, or close relatives think about your ideas. Approach the trolling with an objective view after giving yourself some time to think about it.
Whether you should deal with the trolling is another matter altogether. Letting these people gang up on your posts, blogs, or whatnot will let them believe they can spout whatever nonsense they want without any repercussions. On the other hand, ignoring them can send a message that their actions and outcries are inconsequential and you don’t care.
If you do choose to respond, rather than defend your ideas, technology consultant and writer Jeff Reifman argues that it is better to only address parts of their personal attack which are unwarranted or inaccurate, and “only if you have good intentions.” You don’t want a response to turn into a social media war by stating that they are wrong. This will almost never work in your favor. If people are angry for no reason, they will stay angry for no reason.
In the words of Reifman, “Say your peace, [and] let go of the reaction.” Don’t let Internet trolls get to you. Take your time to formulate a proper response, then let it go. Don’t turn your responses into personal attacks, lest you become no better than the trolls themselves. All you need to remember are these wise words from an anonymous Twitter user: “For every anonymous idiot trashing you online, there are thousands more that quietly love you.” And whatever you do, don’t feed the trolls.
Have you ever been a victim of Internet trolling? How did you deal with the situation? Let us know in the comments.