Unlike the fairy tale variety, these trolls lurk on social networking sites, provoking people, starting arguments and sowing discord for their own enjoyment.
Albert Ziganshin/123RF Photo
Annie called me, distraught. She’d posted something on her Facebook page that inspired commentary. Not everyone agreed with her point of view, so it provoked a lively, but civil discourse — and then, out of the blue, a scathing comment from someone she’d never even met. The commenter not only disagreed, but proceeded to eviscerate Annie for having the gall, the lack of humanity, the fill-in-the-blank, for having posted such a thing in the first place.
Annie, taken aback, replied, trying to be diplomatic and thoughtful, thinking surely this person had taken her original post out of context and misunderstood her intent.
But from there it just got worse… uglier, meaner, and downright vicious. With every comment Annie posted trying to diffuse the situation (which by this time had become a long stream on her Facebook page), the other woman came right back at her, figurative fists flying with fury.
Annie was beside herself. What was happening? How could she make this person understand? Why was this stranger being so mean to her, so personal in her attack?
“Because she’s a troll,” I replied, “and that’s what they do. She’s baiting you and the more you take the bait, the worse it’s going to get. You have to stop responding. You can’t win this one Annie. A troll will never let you have the last word – not ever.”
“But everyone will see and think I gave up. They’ll think she’s right, that what she’s saying about me is true!”
“It doesn’t matter,” I replied. “You have to find the strength to stop. You have to ignore it. Even better, since it it’s on your Facebook stream, just delete it.”
Internet trolls are usually mild-mannered people in the real world, but once their fingers hit the computer keyboard, they become creators of chaos. They’re experts at cyber-stalking and justify their cyber-bullying as being both a civic duty and divine right. As self-appointed arbiters of justice, they sit behind their computer, pass judgment based on a few crumbs of information, and write words they would never have the courage to say to your face.
It’s even worse when it happens on a website where you have less ability to manage what is posted for the entire world to see – when you can’t delete the troll’s venomous comments.
The amazing thing is, even after I told Annie to stop and do something positive instead (she’s a concert pianist and played Chopin for hours to keep her fingers off the computer keyboard), just a few months later, I couldn’t resist taking the bait dangled by a troll on another social networking site.
I dared to voice an opinion that contradicted someone, and by the next morning, I was beset upon like a rabbit cornered by hungry dogs. It wasn’t just one troll, it was an entire troupe! And instead of following my own advice, I responded to their attacks, which only provided them with more fodder to feed on. It went on like this for an entire week, at which point I was a nervous wreck, not sleeping and constantly obsessing and checking the site to see what horrible thing they had posted next.
Just like I rescued Annie, another friend rescued me. When I called him for advice he told me, “You have to stop. You have to get off that site.” These were the same words I’d said to Annie, and just like Annie, I resisted. How would I know what they were saying about me if I deleted my account?
“Get off that site,” he repeated. “Delete your comments, get off and don’t go back.”
Two days later, I finally did. I gave in to my friend’s advice, but not before taking a few more undeserved beatings from the “friendly” neighbors. The lessons learned? Sometimes surrender is the true victory and NEVER, EVER FEED THE TROLLS!
Copyright © Kim Calvert/2017 Singular Communications, LLC.
Kim Calvert is the editor of Singular magazine and the founder of the SingularCity social networking community. An outspoken champion of people who are living their lives as a “me” instead of a “we,” Kim oversees the creative direction and editorial content of the magazine and online social networking community. She secures contributors and is responsible for maintaining the fun, upbeat, inspirational and often-humorous tone of Singular, a lifestyle guide for successful single living.