Does talking about trolls seem so last-decade? It shouldn’t, because trolls are still alive and well on the internet – as anyone who comments or chats online, unfortunately knows. According to Wiki, an internet troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people. Okay, now you have a name for them! Those annoying people that post in chatrooms or comment on blogs seemingly for the sole purpose of trying to get a rise out of people – whether it’s by being inappropriately controversial, nitpicking, lying, or making off-topic comments – are considered to be internet trolls.
Who has time for this?As a busy business person, you’ve worked hard on your blog and social media profiles, making sure there’s fresh and relevant content on there for your fans to enjoy – on top of actually running your business and having a life. The last thing you would ever have time for is starting weird arguments with total strangers. But for a cyber-bully, trolling comes naturally. It’s easier to attack online because the filters provided by in-person interactions just aren’t there. For example, how extreme would it be to poke someone on a crowded bus and say “You’re ugly”? Even in Canada, where concealed handguns are a rarity, most people wouldn’t dare. But with the anonymity buffer of online interaction, insulting (and personal, juvenile, mean) posts are common. If you post, expect to be attacked at some point.
So who goes looking for a fight like this?
Bored people looking for excitement and attention, even if it’s negative
People with a grievance against certain companies, people, or the world in general
People looking to exploit a weakness for their own benefit
People with low self-esteem who feel better about themselves when harming others
You’ll notice that in each case the internet troll is actually a person. They may not act like one, in that their randomly cruel and hateful comments can seem positively inhuman; but internet trolls are people, too. And therein lies the secret to dealing with them.
How NOT to cope with an internet troll. The fact is that internet trolls are looking for some kind of emotional response from the people they target as well as from a broader audience. So the secret is just to ignore them the way you’d ignore a three year old’s tantrum, right?
Wrong! Very, very wrong!
Unfortunately, just as you can’t really let a three year old thrash around on the floor of Walmart for very long without there being some concerns, you can’t simply ignore comments from an internet troll; first of all, do you really want to give someone the power to silence you? Secondly, do you really want to be seen as too cowardly to handle the situation? Thirdly, do you really want to delete the comment and let the troll keep coming at you again and again, while your potential customers witness your inaction?
You do need to respond to internet trolls, but not with comments that are defensive, angry or childish. As much as you might want to descend to the troll’s level (and beyond), that is exactly what he or she wants: to draw you into a fight where no one is going to come out looking good. Don’t be seduced by the troll, no matter how easy it might seem to counter-attack; you’ll just end up right under the bridge with them.
Turning trolls into groupiesThe best way to deal with that smelly old troll is to remember to treat him or her like the person they really are under that warty exterior. Even if what they’ve said is an obvious goad, you can disarm a troll who’s actively trying to embarrass, humiliate, or shame you, by keeping calm and acknowledging their comment quickly and tactfully. If the poster has a valid point but has couched it in rude, nasty language, thank or even compliment the poster for bringing up the point, and address the issue itself while ignoring the hate. If everything about the post is false and provocative, acknowledge the audience, not the troll – calmly. You can say something like “It looks like this comment was meant to derail our conversation. Let’s continue the discussion in a respectful manor.”
Refusing to ‘feed the troll’ by escalating the argument definitely requires patience and restraint. You may have to work on your ability to take things less personally; it’s the price you pay for being in the public eye. But if you show internet trolls the same respect you’d show to one of your customers, they WILL go away – and may even turn into your biggest fans.
Remember, don't feed the trolls.