Your Quick Guide to Handling Online Trolling

Last year, Ghostbuster star, Leslie Jones was trolled on Twitter mercilessly with racist and misogynist slurs against the star. The abuse was horrific, to the point that she had to deactivate her Twitter account. The sad part? The troll publicly boasted about the abuse and has no regrets. That one episode was enough to show that internet trolling has gone far beyond general negativity.

We all have differing opinions, and luckily (or unfortunately), the internet offers us quite a platform to voice our opinions and express our concerns. But where do people draw a line between genuine freedom of speech and offensive trolling? The bigger question would be whether the line is actually drawn or not and can we control trolling? The sad answer is no. There is no specific definition of trolling and while some are quite obvious (hateful speech, abusive speech etc), others are very subtle.

So what does an average user do when they are victims of trolling? Here’s a quick guide.

1. Understand the General Psyche of a Troll

Well, we may wish to believe trolls would be psychopaths sitting behind computer screens having no life – but you would be surprised to know that some trolls are very normal people who actually make a career out of sparking controversies. There are many subtle designs behind this - they get negative publicity, become cult leaders and get to promote their own agendas behind anonymous screens. The first step in handling trolls lies in understanding their purpose and motive. Is it to spread hate? Is it to spread an anti-liberal agenda? Or is it simply someone who is frustrated and being a troll is their only escape from their miserable lives? The understanding of their general psyche will help you take control of the situation. You may choose to be firm yet empathetic with their negativity and feel sorry for them. You may choose to ignore them because you know better. You may choose to let them rant because you know that with no support, they won’t get anything much. But the moment you show anger, hurt and despair, it is laughing matter for them. Empathy is what trolls hate the most because they can’t easily feed off it.

2. Do Not Feed Trolls Until Absolutely Necessary

We may be inclined to set things right with an illogical troll, but that is just going to make them worse. These guys do not have a tolerant mindset and believe that whatever they say is the ultimate truth. And though we (the normal people), may want to tackle them head-on, we need to realize that it’s not worth our time. The internet empowers autonomy and, ‘free-speech’ with no consequences and they know this. Therefore, according to psychologists and online experts, one of the first ways to tackle trolls is to neglect them and avoid interacting with them until absolutely necessary. What do we mean by absolutely necessary? When they tarnish your reputation, falsely accuse you of lies, propagate hate speech based on your sex, religion or race, or when they start threatening you. This is where you either report the matter to a cyber-crime wing in your country or you fight back without losing your cool.

3. Be Courteous and Acknowledge their Presence

As mentioned earlier, trolls need attention. Whether it’s your blog, your Twitter/FB feed, wherever it is that you have to encounter trolls, never become them. If you absolutely have to answer them, use politeness and courtesy as your main tools. Do not engage using abusive or offensive language because then there’s no difference between you and them. Thank them for their comment, and let them know their concerns have been heard. Leave them with a dead end. Even then, there will be some trolls who just can’t believe that somebody can be nice to them and may get more ferocious. In that case, avoid re-iterative arguments. Your objective is not to convince the troll, but to avoid unpleasant occurrences on your personal space.

4. Block, Delete, Report and Make Use of Privacy Settings

Preventive measures work best when it comes to handling trolls. Make full use of your privacy settings, and do not allow open access to people who you don’t know. It’s not worth it when you have to fight days of frustration for a very eluded freedom of speech. Abusive profiles should be blocked and reported immediately. If there is a persistent troll, don’t try to convince them. Block them.

5. Never Get Caught Up Emotionally

Despite all the measures and countermeasures, trolls will still attack us unexpectedly. Anything you post online will attract both negative and positive remarks. Your best bet is to bank on the positives and ignore the negatives even if they are hurtful. That’s just how the world is and the sooner you accept that, the better chances of dealing with hateful people. Getting emotionally vexed over trolls will only make you suffer. Never get emotional over their presence because that is giving them the opportunity to prove to the world their views about you. Do not even for once, believe what they say is true and NEVER take it personally.

Trolls are usually attracted to controversial topics and actively seek people who have an active opinion different than theirs. Although you don’t have to curb your freedom of speech, it would still be better to avoid giving unasked opinions on Twitter or Facebook surrounding topics as politics, religion, race, etc. Keyboard warring hasn’t ever changed the world and all you get out of it is a sense of harassment and frustration. You can’t control trolling as long as there are people on the internet, but its power to affect, to harm can greatly be diminished if you don’t feed it. Collaboratively, it is only the sane voices in society that can make the internet a safer place for all.

Farah tries to keep up with the fast-paced tech world by writing about it. She covers latest tech news and writes informative pieces to help her readers make informed decisions about their tech preferences.