What To Do When It Happens To You
You think it can never happen to you. You take appropriate pictures and post modest statuses. You follow family and friends, as well as the occasional yogi and chef. Your social media presence is boring in your eyes, so surely you are safe from internet trolls right?
It is hard to determine what exactly attracts internet trolls to one’s account. I blog about mental health and post pictures of my yoga journey, so I thought my social media life was not very interesting. However after sharing my post Social Media – Five Ways It Impacts Your Mental Health on Instagram, I began receiving very nasty comments. I was accused for being a racist white man (yes man, not woman) who tried to oppress black men. I was then accused of not acknowledging the movement “Black Lives Matter” and further perpetuating the racist agenda. All this from a picture that talked about mental health awareness.
I felt defenceless. I didn’t know this person, but they felt the need to harass me for their own enjoyment. I would delete and block accounts only for the individual to create another account to continue the harassment. I couldn’t hide. Every notification was a potential threat or insult for things I did not say or do.
I was officially a victim of an internet troll.
At that moment I realised that I did not know much about internet trolls and how to deal with them. Internet trolls are defined as “…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 (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement.”
The first thing that you have to equip yourself is the knowledge of how to identify an internet troll. When you can safely categorize someone as an internet troll, you can then go on and deal with them in the appropriate manner. Below are the five basic characteristics of an internet troll:
1. Poor grammar
The use of fullstops and commas seems irrelevant. They love to use ALL CAPS to emphasise their views, followed by many exclamation marks. Often their comments are longer than necessary sentences that make no use of commas or semicolons. See the picture for an example of such a sentence.
2. They refuse to drop a subject
No matter what you say, a troll will continue with their line of thought. They will not engage in discussion or listen to reason. Their posts are almost identical, in hopes to get a reaction out of more than one person.
3. Poor profiles on social media
If, like me, you want to see how your cyber bully looks like, you might be disappointed. Trolls have very poor social media profiles. Often their profiles do not have a complete bio, the profile pictures are of a poor quality, and their albums are not of a personal nature. It is as though these profiles were created for the sole purpose of harassing individuals like you and I over the internet.
4. Trolls have a history of deleted posts
Some trolls brag about how they have reposted a statement after the original has been deleted. Some go as far as creating multiple accounts so as to continue the trolling. They seem unaffected by the fact that many people find their comments offensive.
5. Unnecessary use of abusive language and threats
This is the easiest way to spot most trolls. They use abusive language as a way to get their point across. They also use threats to try and get a response from people as they love the attention.
So what do you do if you have found yourself victim to an internet troll? Here are a few smart ways to handle the situation:
1. Give them the benefit of the doubt
If you notice a comment that fits the characteristics of an internet troll, don’t immediately assume the individual is a troll. Respond politely to the comment and see what happens. If the person gives a reasonable response, then you were simply faced with a troll-like moment. However an angry, hostile response is an indication that you are dealing with a troll.
2. Turn of the comments on your post or make your account private
You don’t have to allow people to comment on the content you post. You can opt out of having people comment on your posts (e.g. YouTube). Or you can make your account and all your posts private (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and only allow close family and friends to see your entire profile.
3. Ignore negative comments
Simply ignore comments posted by trolls. Trolls want to incite anger in people, hence the use of abusive language. When you ignore them, you don’t give them the satisfaction of making you angry. You can go a step further and delete the comments from your thread. Use the feature that allows you to block the individual from viewing your profile on future; I may even go as far as saying you need to report the user to the site manager.
So remember: Do NOT feed the trolls:)