Trolls, Trollin’ Trolls

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato

I’m sure you know some people who aren’t very kind. Maybe you work with them, go to school with them, or maybe… they’re in your family and you really can’t get away from them. These real-life trolls are bad…

but this post is about Internet trolls. They strike under the veil of anonymity, so it’s likely that if you met them in real life, they’d never admit to the heinous things they say online.

The best way to defend yourself from an Internet troll is not to take the bait. Don’t argue with trolls. It’s a waste of time. Remember that the troll does not know you personally. They don’t want to help you. They just want to get a rise out of you.

For example… I was looking through some posts in a fiction writing community on LiveJournal. Someone had posted that they were going through a period of writers’ block and wanted some advice on how to get out of it. I was going to leave my two cents, but I saw that the comment thread had been poisoned by a troll.

Basically, what the troll said was that the writer was lazy and was making excuses not to write. The tone of the comment was patronizing. And the writer did the worst possible thing: argued with the troll.

As Plato says, be kind. Be helpful. You don’t know anything about what that person might be facing to cause writer’s block. Don’t assume. Don’t give harsh criticism unless it’s openly asked for. Basically…

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Ever had an experience with a troll?

11 thoughts on “Trolls, Trollin’ Trolls

  1. I’ve been having experiences with online trolls for 20 years, since back on the dialup BBSs (bulletin boards). They were very similar then to now, usually not posting under their real names, picking fights, bolstering their opinions by citing credentials and accomplishments that are probably not real, figuring out how to get people riled up.

    “They just want to get a rise out of you.” This is, and has always been the key. And I find the best thing to remember is this: The troll says what will get you upset, and there is no point in arguing because that’s what he wants (I tend to assume they’re usually male, not that it matters). The opinion that he has just expressed, it was designed to piss you off, and it is quite possibly not even what he actually thinks. So, why argue with it?

    Unfortunately, in most online forums there is usually somebody who can’t resist feeding the trolls. So, they stay, hoping to get fed some more.


  2. I find that the best “defense” against trolls is to remember that NO ONE knows me like I know me. Then I say to myself, What you think of me is none of my business. and go on about my business. 😀

    But, that said, sometimes people apply the label of “troll” to someone with a valid position . . . just because they don’t like the position.

    Meat eaters label vegans as “trolls” because they don’t want to consider moral arguments against eating meat.

    Vegans label meat eaters as “trolls” because they feel that anyone who eats meat is ignorant and uninformed.

    Same goes for religious disagreements, political discussions, and even books and movies. Just because someone has a different view of the world than us does NOT make them a troll. They may be someone who is trying to share something they’ve learned . . . even if we are not ready to hear it.


    1. That is a very good point… how to properly identify a troll. 🙂 But no matter what side you’re on or what position you’re trying to show someone, there’s no reason for name-calling or verbal fistfights.


    2. I agree with you ~ no name calling.

      But I’ve seen people labeled as “trolls” (a form of name calling) for putting forth well-reasoned, though contrary, opinions.

      Some people do NOT want anyone to disagree with them. And, if someone does, they commence the “name calling” by calling the person a “troll.”

      People who are sensitive to mild constructive criticism should probably write in a journal rather than posting their thoughts on the internet. That way, “trolls” won’t be able to disagree with them.

      In the case you cited, if someone called me lazy and said I was making excuses, I would decide whether there was any validity to the observation. If there was, I would take steps to correct the situation and STOP being a victim of my own self-indulgent excuses.

      If there was no validity to the comment, I would ignore it.


      1. That’s true. If you want to put your work/thoughts out on the Internet, you have to be really careful and not get defensive. If it’s out there, most people are going to assume you want constructive criticism unless you explicitly say what kind of a critique you want – just praise or a harsh critique or a mild one. But… what may be a harsh critique to one person may be considered mild to someone else and vice versa. In other words… just be careful.


    3. Very good point, and you really have to be sure. One sign I’ve seen quite often is backing up opinions by boasting of personal accomplishments (“Well, I’ve been successful in this field for many years, and I’ve always found…”). Such accomplishments may or may not be real, and in any case I’ve met many people who were very successful in a variety of fields who are still wrong about a great many things.

      If I think somebody is a troll, I act accordingly, but I never mention my conclusion unless I’m 100% sure.

      The ironic thing is that sometimes you can have a troll on your side. That’s awkward. I was on a forum once where most of the people there were pretty conservative, and there was one liberal guy, but I quickly realized he was a troll, so I got out of there.


  3. I’ve never personally had an experience with a “troll”, though I have seen such things on sites I visit from time to time. Sometimes I can’t help but shake my head or roll my eyes as I watch the comments escalate. It will start with one mean comment and then everyone will begin striking back at the person. It’s just a waste of time and energy. At least if you want to say something back, you shouldn’t stoop down to the trolls level. Though I guess some people just can’t seem to help themselves. It’s a bit sad.


    1. It’s like watching a train wreck or an episode of Jerry Springer. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t look away sometimes.


  4. After reading your blog I asked myself whether today my words made others happy or sad. I had to scold someone for some genuine reason. After that I felt I should not have gone to that extent. Anyway, glad that I got the chance tell her something good after that incident and that brought a smile on her face.
    At times we may hurt others with our words but actually we are hurting ourselves. We lose our peace of mind.


    1. I always feel bad after I have to scold someone, too – even if it’s just my dog. Your words are very true. 🙂


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