If you weren’t a socially isolated, disaffected nerd who came of age in the internet era, then you don’t know how to deal with trolls. It’s not your fault- how could you know? You grew up in the real world. You didn’t form the majority of your peer relationships in a two dimensional, text based format. Instead, you learned to navigate sports teams, school buses, dances, and how to walk the halls of a middle school unafraid and unmolested. You know nothing of forums, message boards, chatrooms, and comments sections. So now the internet has gone mainstream, and you’re freaking out, because sometimes people are big ol’ doody heads. It must have come as something of a shock to you, huh fella?
So, here’s a quick primer. Trolls are people online who think it’s funny to make you feel bad. Some of them just want to poke you a little and get a rise, and others want to fuck up your world in any way possible. Many of the first sort are really lovely people who you’d enjoy socially, who are seeking nothing more nefarious than to make you think for a goddamn second before you spew an unconsidered, knee-jerk political position. (And yes, even Democrats like you can be guilty of spewing unconsidered, knee-jerk political positions. I know that may be hard to take on board, but you’re just gonna have to trust me.)
What trolls do is terrible, I know. After all, you’ve never condescended to someone just to make yourself feel big. You’ve never swapped insults because you’re clever and it feels good. You’ve never delighted in acts of mindless destruction, or felt so powerless and frustrated that you stopped caring whether the people you were hurting were the people who deserved it. Not you. You’re a nice person, so these emotions are foreign to you.
But, what you’re going to have to understand is that when you lose your shit, when you stay up all night arguing with strangers, when you complain loudly about the tone of online culture or write articles calling for the end to anonymity, you’re doing a thing that we, the socially maladjusted misfits who grew up online, would call FEEDING the TROLLS. Trolls want attention, disorder, chaos, and strife. When you make a big stinking deal about how horrible they are, and how somebody ought to do something about them, you’re giving them what they want. These are terrorists who hate our freedoms, and you’re playing right into their hands when you seek to curtail the freedoms of the rest of us in the name of stopping a few bad actors. You’re ruining the chance of everyone to have something amazing, and you need to cut it out, already.
Luckily we, your online forebears, came up with a better solution years ago, that doesn’t involve abridging anybody’s freedom of expression. Just STOP FEEDING THE TROLLS. When you realize someone is acting trolly, block them or ignore them. If they up the stakes or come up with creative ways to try to suck you in again, ignore those too. If there’s a place online where you know they like to gather, don’t go there. Go back to Facebook. Go back to Pinterest. Leave the wild west to us cowboys.
Trolls love food, and you are chumming the water. So just cut it out and stop feeding the trolls already.
I’m looking at you, Amanda.