Today, I discovered a new kind of troll. “I don’t care and I didn’t watch the video.” We were arguing, or trying to have a conversation about, Serena’s 2018 US Open meltdown. But the “troll” was ill-informed and basked in that ignorance. Troll by accident.
The Troll Slayer’s Motto: Ignore the idiots. Cage the trolls. Never Accept Abuse.
It’s hard to read “tone” into a tweet or even an extended comment on a blog. But it’s easy to spot when a contributor has nothing but vitriol to spit out online. These folks are the reason so many web users are lurkers rather than participants. They are the reason Twitter is drowning under a flurry of spam and hate and mlm-marketing.
I am no Avenger for Right, but I do know a troll when I see one. And occasionally I take them on. It could be one of several reasons that I take up opposition to a troll:
1. I really hate what they are saying (mostly Faux News regurgitation)
2. Someone is just being plain mean. There’s no point in their name-calling. There is no logic to discourage them. Ignoring isn’t working.
3. For fun. Clearly, a jerk is pontificating but when asked to point to sources or links that confirm their “truths” they can’t cite one. Okay, maybe the Drudge Report. But hey, I don’t lead with HuffPo.
4. They’ve attacked me personally or professionally.
Do you remember the early days of “the net” when we used .alt boards to do FLAMES? alt.austin.flame.us (I don’t have the exact address) was a pretty fun place to get your smack talk on. It was harmless. There was very little bleed into our professional lives. And there was no LinkedIn or twitter to track stuff like this. So, we flamed. And it was a game. And it was fun. And it was a war of words and wit. And it was all in good fun. Contained within the FLAME board there was very little chance that your remarks and retorts were going to be taken out of context.
And there were some good flamers. People that could write circles around my arguments, even if I thought I was right. Mostly it was just playful hyperbole and name calling. But it was really some smart people letting off steam.
Then came Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, and all the rest. And Trolls became a nuisance.
And occasionally I would lock horns, or tweets, with someone who really didn’t know how to flame or argue or play by any rules of logic or fair play. It’s okay, cause it was a troll, but you’d at least expect a fair fight, a decent argument, a reasonable participant on the other end. Often you got a troll. Still, even rolling a troll off a bridge of his own making is fun. And as you can guess, it’s not hard to get under their skin. Obviously, something was prickling them already.
Facebook, in recent past, has been the most fun arena for troll hunting. Mostly in the political stances of the WAY RIGHT, TEA Party, and Fox News drones.
Here are the ground rules I set for myself when attempting a takedown.
1. Never be rude. Be firm. Ask for substantiation of facts. Refrain from emotional responses or retaliatory attacks.
2. Always have the facts on your side. Links, backup material, knowledge, first-hand experience. If they can’t show the truth they will have a hard time telling you that what they are saying is the truth.
3. Abusive or threatening behavior should be reported. (Most social networks have reporting mechanisms. If someone starts getting ugly, or vicious, don’t hesitate to alert the network of their unacceptable behavior.
4. Attempt to listen. (Sometimes it’s hard. You want to go in for the kill, before paying attention to the heart of the other person’s argument. If it’s truly a troll, there is no heart it’s all bear.)
5. Caging a troll is better than slaying one. If you can keep the troll in the discussion long enough for them to be bested (intellectually or verbally) it makes for a more satisfying experience.
6. When things escalate to name calling or threatening behavior, it’s time to either go for the kill or remove yourself from the fray. It can be honorable to walk away from the fight, when the opponent is in the process of self-abuse.
The Troll Slayer’s Motto:
Ignore the idiots. Cage the trolls. Never Accept Abuse.