I don't normally write about "on line" life, but I felt that in a show of solidarity to one of my friends, who fell victim to a troll on Twitter recently, I felt it was timely to write this post to help others. In this case, my friend is the sweetest, kindest person you've ever met, and took this troll at face value. A converstation then ensued that made her feel deeply uncomfortable and sad. Recently with Cybermummy11 and with the commencement of the Netmums blogging network, more people than ever are blogging, tweeting and promoting their blogs. And unfortunately, you need to know about trolls.
Now back in my day a troll was a hairy, smelly creature that hung around under bridges causing trouble. Later came the "troll dolls" in an attempt to give trolls an element of cuteness and respectability. And this, is in essence, what an internet troll is. A hairy, smelly creature, with a thin veil of respectability. The word "troll" in an internet sense, actually comes from fishing terminology, not smelly, hairy, underbridge dwelling catergories. Casting a net widely, dragging it along, and seeing what you get in the net at the end of your session. This is what trolls do.
An individual who chronically trolls in sense 1; regularly posts specious arguments, flames or personal attacks to a newsgroup, discussion list, or in email for no other purpose than to annoy someone or disrupt a discussion. Trolls are recognizable by the fact that they have no real interest in learning about the topic at hand - they simply want to utter flame bait. Like the ugly creatures they are named after, they exhibit no redeeming characteristics, and as such, they are recognized as a lower form of life on the net, as in, "Oh, ignore him, he's just a troll."
The natural habitat of the troll is the internet forum. They inhabit these places and either start posts or throw themselves into a discussion, in order to cause trouble. Some trolls are just fun loving creatures who want to stir the pot. Some trolls may feel they have a legitimate point, but approach it in the wrong way. Other trolls are deliberately setting out to cause relationships to fracture and ultimately seek about destroying the internet forum completely. And some have been successful.
Now, with the explosion of social media sites and blogging, the trolls are on the move. A well moderated forum, with savvy moderators, can disarm or even destroy a troll. However, social networking sites are unmoderated, and the trolls can move in with a lot more ease and efficiency. I think ultimately trolls want to destroy your confidence, make you stop what you are doing, and make you give up. Trolls, ultimately, are bullies.
So what can you do to be troll savvy?
1. Recognise the comment for what it is. If its on Twittter examine the account. What are their other tweets like? What does the bio say? If there's no bio at all, then that's a major warning sign. How many followers do they have? If their ratio of people they are following is much higher than the number of people following them back, that's a major warning sign. If you can, just ignore the comment and move on.
2. Draft in reinforcements. Twitter completely unmoderated as is Facebook, so draft your own moderators in to help you assess threats. Get some trusted internet savvy friends to look at the tweets or comments, and pass their opinion. My go to person is my sister who is very internet savvy and has had her own, somewhat devastating experience with these creatures. The same, of course, goes for your own blog comments.
3. If on reading back you've realised you've thrown the troll a biscuit, don't then throw it a 3 course meal. Back away. Unfriend, unfollow, report if required. Don't feed the trolls. I wouldn't report trolls except in serious circumstances. Trolls have a nasty habit of shapeshifting. If they are banned or blocked, they get a new IP address, a new identitiy and keep doing it. At least if they retain their current form, i.e. username, you know where it is, if you over react and ban it, it could come back in any form.
4. Trolls are often in fluffy sheep's clothing. Sometimes trolls are needy people with a lof of baggage, and you realise a bit late. It's never too late to walk away, and walking away from a troll should not cause you guilt. It will, but it shouldn't.
5. Keep doing what your doing. Life your online life the way you want to. If someone has criticised your blog, its very hard, our blogs are our happy spaces where we want to keep safe from harm, and share our thoughts, but they are open forums, unless we are careful, and we are open to these attacks. It's up to us to "troll proof" our own conscience.
For every troll, there's 1 000 genuine readers and supporters, so be troll aware.
Don't feed the trolls.