Profile of a Troll
I have recently had the same conversation with two different friends who are stepping into the public eye and are encountering those lovely, sneaky little energy vampires affectionate known as “trolls” on the internet. You know these people, the ones who come into a conversation and then take it into the abyss of hate and discontent. They argue just to argue. They say inflammatory things just because they can. They don’t know you, but they hate you anyway and they want everyone else to hate you too.
How to Identify a Troll
Some of these trolls are easy to identify, like the one who recently attacked my dear friend David Franklin Farkas. This troll went onto a major site and not only denounced David, he also denounced anyone who liked David or had found his work to be valid and valuable. This is a primary marker for a troll. Some more examples are:
If any of these sorts of things happen to you, congratulations! You’ve discovered a troll!
The Sneaky Approach
But some troll are more sneaky than this. Another dear friend got into a conversation on Facebook a few months ago. This troll clearly had some experience with being shunned and ignored for his actions, so he took the time to engage her in positive conversation for a few minutes to get her invested in the conversation before he turned on her. Out of the blue the conversation went from friendly questions sincerely looking for answers to angry accusations and insults being slung. My poor friend was so unprepared that she spent half an hour trying to talk this troll out of being upset. Little did she know, he was just trying to steal her energy and he never had any intention of being talked down from his righteous perch.
What NOT To Do In Reaction to a Troll
Now most people will tell you that their first reaction is to refute, point-by-point, the issues presented by the troll. They want to forward testimonials. They want to have their friends come to their defense. But this is the WRONG approach. Why? Because it fuels the fire. By reacting at all, you are giving credence to the conversation – and prolonging it. Remember, these people don’t want to be made to feel better, they want to make you feel worse. That is their only goal. So long as you engage, you are just making yourself available for more abuse.
STEP AWAY FROM THE TROLL
To both of these friends, I said the phrase above over and over again. Step Away from the Troll. Winning an argument with a troll is about as likely as winning an argument with a crazy person. You’re not going to win the argument because it’s not rational, it has no basis in fact. And, if the Troll (a.k.a. Crazy Person) did offer you something rational and solid to argue with them about, the minute you start to win the argument, they’ll change the conversation to another topic (without admitting defeat on the first one of course) and the whole process starts over. There is no winning. It’s like a nuclear war – the only way to win is not to play. Step away from the troll. Let me say that again – STEP AWAY FROM THE TROLL! Do not engage. At all. Not even a little. And tell your friends, family and clients to do the same. Shun the troll. Turn away and don’t look back.
Let It Go
You DON’T have to set the record straight. You don’t have to do damage control. Yes, the information is out there and indexed for anyone to see. So what? The person is a troll. Any rational person who reads the information is going to see that and discount it based on the source. If they don’t, do you really want them as a client anyway?
Contact The Moderator – Next Week
If the person has said things that are truly damaging and which aren’t obviously written by a troll upon first glance, then wait a week and ask the moderator to remove the thread of conversation from the list. Why do you wait a week? Two reasons. First, you’ll be calmer and more able to make a coherent argument for why the thread should be removed. The second reason is that trolls will come after you even more if they know they have hit a nerve. So removing their thread immediately can result in them finding another avenue to attack you through. If you wait a week, by then they are likely to have moved on to more responsive victims and they won’t even notice that their vitriol has disappeared.
Step AWAY From the Troll