How to Catch an Internet Troll

internet troll

Ask not for whom the internet trolls 
It trolls for thee

(apologies to Hemmingway)

Trolling is easy.

Look at any social media site and you will see examples of it. Wikipedia defines it as “a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people.”

Too often, a discussion that starts out as a healthy debate with valid concerns transitions into a “slinging match” with someone finally activating Godwin’s Law. (Godwin’s law being where someone accuses another of being Hitler or a Nazi)

Trolling is nothing new. It has been around on the internet since the 80s with discussion boards rife with it. New technologies equated to new forums for Trolling. Politicians seem to have been trolling for years.

The shifts in to a more self-centred society seem to be a breeding ground for more trolls and troll like behaviour. Even people we know, who seem so polite and rational have succumbed to trolling. Some may say that road rage is a form of trolling, so are we surrounded by trolls?

Truth be told, most of us have a relative (typically being an Uncle with drinking issues) who seem to troll our family events. It is even more likely that you have some kind of troll at your workplace. The worst case is when the troll is your boss.

So how do you catch a troll, or at the very least, minimise their impact. As with most things, it is easier to catch a troll when they are small and before they get momentum. Once they have been activated they are almost impossible to catch.

Here are some Troll Hunters Guidelines for you:

Never Ever Feed the Trolls

A troll’s power increases with their feeding. What feeds a troll is attention. They don’t care if it is good or bad, any kind of attention will do. Godwin’s law is usually activated when two or more trolls start a flinging match with each other. Trolls cannot hear rational argument or a different perspective. It is not worth even trying. You can prevent significant damage just by following this guideline.

Set Boundaries for the Trolls

If you need to have a conversation or you are about to communicate something you know may be a little contentious, set the rules. If you run a page, group, or site set the rules up front. Trolling escalates when the commentary becomes personal so set the rules that you welcome comments about the idea or concept but unsubstantiated comments about a person or entity will not be tolerated. You can say something about their behaviour or ideas but not about them. Ensure that you also state the consequence of that action. Whether the comment will be deleted or the user will be blocked, it is up to you.

Never Tolerate Trolls

Should troll like behaviour start, shut it down quickly. Whether it is a conversation with the person, a direct message or a preventative deletion of the comment, do what it takes to kill the troll behaviour before it even starts.

Yes, the internet and life would be better without the trolls. Unfortunately, they are here to stay. What these guidelines will do is help you minimise the impact of trolls in your life.

Happy hunting!