I feel bad for trolls. No, not internet trolls but their namesakes, the ones of my childhood that hid under fairy tale bridges, and later became a shirtless, shoeless good luck toy with crazy rainbow hair. I feel bad for those trolls as they are now forever associated with the act of internet trolling and no longer seem to turn to stone in the sunlight as they once did when I was a kid. Even Hollywood tried to revive their good name by making the recent “Trolls” movie. Those trolls even pooped cupcakes, a sure sign that they couldn’t be all bad.
Sadly trolls now seem destined to go down in history known only for the act of spreading ill will – or as defined by Wikipedia: “A troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community”. Also known as “haters”. (Which at least never had a toy named after them.)
We may ask ourselves, why? Why has someone made such a terrible comment on our agencies blog, or newsletter or social media post? How could they hate us? In fact how could anybody not like us? What possible reason could exist for such nastiness?
Paul Jun, an admitted former teen troll turned self help guru says a troll’s behaviour is actually all too easy to understand. In fact it is dead simple. Trolls are human, (Wait – What? Can they still turn to stone in sunlight?) Trolls are bored, Trolls want attention, and our reactions usually give them exactly what they are looking for.
Of course we want to defend our work, we try to block them, we respond to their comments, because generally we humans don’t do well with criticism of any kind. Especially when it is done in public. That’s why we have complaint systems and grievances, which are all usually carried out in private. I think one of the reasons we respond so vehemently to haters is the public nature of trolling and it can be difficult to let go of a public shaming, once it has happened. Theoretically we have as a society progressed from the stocks and pillories, but perhaps not as far as we think.
One approach to dealing with haters and trolls can be to ignore them completely and post a simple statement online, one that puts the ball back in the readers and trolls court. Something along the lines of : While we encourage readers to share thoughts and opinions on our social media pages, we expect that this will be done in a respectful manner. We do not agree with or endorse every comment that individuals post on our pages. Our goal is to share ideas and information with as many individuals as possible and our policy is to accept the majority of comments made to our profiles: We understand that social media is a 24/7 medium; however, our moderation capabilities are not. We may not see every inappropriate comment right away, and we are trusting in the maturity of our community to ignore personal attacks and negative speech or respond politely.
Rachel Suri from The Social Media Examiner has the following advice for responding to trolls, that is if you must respond:
- “Be nice”
- “Set Boundaries”
- “Use humour and facts”
Finally the former troll Paul Yun says it best, and yes, it applies to the good work of non profits as well.
“As we become more vulnerable online, the chance of being trolled increases. The more you put yourself out there, the more likely you will come across people who despise or don’t understand your work. Because technology is maturing faster than we are, trolls will always exist and will feel compelled to sabotage you”.
Is a world without trolls possible? Highly unlikely. So we must stop asking the impossible. Instead, we can follow the one principle that safeguards our creativity and productivity, and keeps the troll at bay. Whatever you do: Don’t feed the trolls.”
Not even cupcakes!
You can read more confessions of a former troll here.