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What is a Troll?

Yes, I’m jumping on the troll bandwagon. Not because I’ve been trolled, but because I’ve seen people I care about victimized. I’m writing to define the troll – to go through it in black and white for not only myself, but for those who have been trolled and may not even realize that’s what’s going on.

You see, the troll can and usually does, start out very subtly. And indeed, there is a fine line between trolling and stating one’s opinion most sincerely. I’ve been on that edge and though I was never labeled a troll, I believe it was a close call.

A troll, as I see it, will pick on a nuance and run with it. Take a blog post that is clearly about Point A. Point A is written about in great length with small details to back up the facts and/or story of point A. One of those details, X, is introduced as a sentence or even a phrase. The problem is, detail X is not entirely accurate. In comes the troll.

The troll will focus on detail X and make it a matter of greatest importance, and major insult to his (or her) or someone else’s person or group. He will introduce paragraphs of facts to back him up. He will make the writer regret jotting down detail X without checking the facts or worse, regret writing the post in the first place. But the kicker? The troll will end the discourse by finding something to agree with the writer on, thus causing the writer to wonder if the troll didn’t have the best intentions. This throws the writer off balance and, in some cases, the writer will allow the troll back in.

On the other side of that thin coin, is the commenter who is genuinely taken aback by a point or detail made in a post, as I was. In my particular instance, the gist of the post was that relationships often end because one person can’t accept the faults of his or her loved ones. It went on to say that (paraphrasing) “this is why marriages break up and children are abandoned.” Allow me to note here that the post wasn’t actually written by the poster (note – I didn’t say “writer”). It was one of those copy and paste “pictures” with a quote on it. The person posting it didn’t elaborate, except to say she agreed with what the “picture” said. My point in the comments (I couldn’t help myself) was that no one abandons a child because he or she can’t put up with the child’s faults unless they have serious issues of their own. I was then accused of harping on something that wasn’t the overall point of the “picture.”

So what’s the difference between me and a troll you might ask? First, I could have said, “This part of your picture hurt me because I was abandoned as a child because I cried too much,” which would be a blatant lie. A troll will lie or exaggerate, I would estimate, 90% of the time to either strengthen his argument or to get the full attention of the writer. The troll will make himself out to be SO pathetic that the writer dare not call him on it, just in case it’s true. Second, I could have said, “I would NEVER do that to my two special needs kids – and they have so many behavioural issues that sometimes I could slap them,” which would be the truth. But that statement would have made my comment about me, which is the other thing a troll invariably does. A troll’s main objective is to find a place to whine, either on his own behalf or someone else’s if he can’t make it about himself.

My advice

Trolls attack anywhere and everywhere. They pick on both little guys and big, and while you may be tempted to retaliate, it’s best to politely blow them off, just once, and then ignore them. If your other followers want to get involved, and chances are they will, ask them to ignore the troll as well. There’s no point trying to defend yourself because it only gives the troll a reason to keep commenting and whining – and that’s what he lives for.

You know you are within your rights to make an error and so do your readers. If you want to apologize for it, do so once. None of your followers who know you and care about you are going to think less of you, in fact you are probably your own worst enemy in that regard. Trolling is a psychological attack – have the confidence in yourself to know that you are not the one with the problem. The troll is.

You may have heard the phrase, “starve the troll.” Ignoring him is by far the best thing anyone can do. If he can’t get you to interact, he’ll move on. It’s important to be able to identify a troll, however. Again, the stating of one’s opinion without involving personal issues or those of a cause (i.e. most of the “ism”s) is more than likely just that. An opinion. If you can think of any other characteristics inherent to a troll, please say so in the comments. It’s something I sincerely wish we could put an end to, and something that needs to be discussed in the absence of an actual troll.