Don’t Feed The Trolls

By Jaime Nava

What Is An Internet Troll?

I remember sitting in a chatroom on AOL back in the day when AOL had chatrooms  (Do they still? I don’t know). The computer would make its loud dial up squeals and the wide world of chatrooms was at my fingertips. You could pick a username of any stripe. You could join a plethora of chatrooms. I recall one occasion where I joined the French speaking room. I didn’t know French (and still don’t). I remember grabbing a shampoo bottle from the bathroom with the directions for washing one’s hair. It was in French. So I typed out the directions in this French chat room. People found themselves rather unhappy at my intrusion. It fueled my delight. This, ladies and gentlemen, is an internet troll.

Internet trolls are found all over. You’ll find the ugliest ones where religion or politics are involved (find any comment section). A troll loves the anonymity of the internet. He can hide behind a false identity (or many) and lob his words from any distance in the world. The main goal of a troll is to upset people. He wants you to be offended. He’ll say whatever it takes to get you worked up. He wants to build your anger to a fever pitch. When you’re all irate and upset, having taken the bait, you’ll read the words “U mad bro?.” A troll feeds on anger. It digests into glee. He doesn’t care what you have to say. He doesn’t use logic. He will find the thing you are most passionate about and disdain it with all he has.

Why You Should Avoid Them

Besides the fact that a troll’s aim it to upset you, there are many reasons to avoid them. Trolls are a waste of time. For some reason people take the bait. Someone will write and write and write a response to the troll showing how wrong he is. Should you do this, you’re falling into the troll’s snare. Suddenly you have wasted an hour (or more) of your life waiting for a response from the troll or writing one. Trolls don’t care about you. They don’t care about your words. Don’t waste your time on trolls. Trolls should also be avoided for the fact that they are like gremlins. When you feed a troll it’s like dumping water on mogwai. Suddenly there’s trolls everywhere. Not only that, as you feed them well past the time they should be fed, they only get worse. They turn into horrible creatures that will turn any discussion into a chaotic mess. The best thing to do is not feed the trolls.

Actually, not feeding trolls has a positive effect. Trolls have a voracious appetite. They also cannot stand being starved. Oftentimes, trolls will remain trolls but starving them out will cause them to look for greener pastures. So the best way to handle a troll is to simply ignore it. As badly as you want to respond, don’t! Just let it go. Otherwise you will only make things worse and you will utterly waste your time.

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How To Have An Actual Discussion of Opposing Beliefs

Here’s the truth, you could be a troll and not even know it. Ask yourself these questions. Do I want everyone to know what I believe? Do I shove it into people’s faces even if I already know they will react with anger? Do I get a form of pleasure when I show that someone else is wrong? Do I enjoy stirring up trouble on the internet? Do I respond to people I disagree with quickly and with vigor? Do I listen to others carefully? Do I practice actual logic? These questions might reveal to you that you are an unknowing internet troll.

Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between a troll and someone who actually wants to have a conversation. How can you determine which is which? It doesn’t take a lot. First, listen. Ask the person you are speaking with to clarify. Gather information from them. If the responses are clear the other person doesn’t really have any real data to support his opinion, that may be a red flag that you’re speaking with a troll. If you see thought out ideas and logic connecting these ideas together to form an opinion, we might actually have a real human discussion on our hands.

We’re not too keen on having real conversations as a culture. We’re in a bumper sticker society. This kind of culture agrees that you are entitled to their opinion. This is apparent on social media as well. You scroll past so many bumper sticker statements throughout your day as you read Facebook or Twitter. Since this is our case, we need to be extra cautious and take time to listen better. We need to learn a little bit of logic. For example, two opposing truths cannot both be true or just because someone, who is a bad person, said something doesn’t make it untrue. There’s some easy ways to learn.

With patient listening and logic at hand, we can now have a calm discussion. It can even be between two people who are completely at odds politically or religiously. One person will lay out why he believes like he does. He uses facts to back up his beliefs. The next person may respond with facts of his own or point out errors in certain conclusions on previous facts. It doesn’t have to be heated. It doesn’t need to be in ALL CAPS. When the discussion is done everyone will have learned something, such a satisfying feeling. This technique has been used in the past when people spoke face to face. Even today it has still been proven to work quite well. With your help we can transform trolls into upstanding members of the internet community. We can even speak together as civilized people.

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