The truth about trolls is, as Psychology Today confirms, they are narcissistic sadists who enjoy your pain. So, we no longer have to ask “What kind of person trolls other people online? Who are these internet bullies? Why would you want to make another person feel so small?” Now we know. They are terrible people who hide behind a screen and poke and prod others, giggling gleefully when they get a reaction.
As someone who suffers from a mood disorder, dealing with trolls was a hard lesson for me. When a troll first engaged me on one of my sites, I thought he was just confused, wanted to understand what I wrote and so wrote something snippy because he misunderstood me. I soon found out that was not true. He kept engaging me, calling me ignorant, tasteless, a no-talent hack. His insults hit deep. I am a depressed person. I struggle with self-worth, and his words confirmed something I thought about myself during my darkest times.
He also stalked an author friend of mine, emailed the author’s wife and did his best to get a rise from them. I had enough, eventually, and when the social site I was engaging in neglected to see his actions as harassment, I did the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do: I let it go. I decided that he was ugly on the inside, was an unhappy person and would never know real joy. That thought made me sad for him because I am an empathetic person, and empathetic people try to understand others, try to experience a little of their joys and pains. And he had no joy apart from causing pain. That was a truly terrible feeling to try to empathize with.
Thinking about a life that revolves around making others unhappy, well, that just made me see how lovely my life is. My biggest joys come from lifting a friend up, helping my children, writing, creating, praying, singing, pulling in the canoe, a hot cup of tea, weaving, sex (can I get an AMEN) and talking with my loved ones. The biggest joy for trolls: making other people unhappy. When researchers asked sadistic, narcissistic people what they most enjoyed they listed “online trolling” on the very top of their list.
As an empathetic person, I cannot understand treating another person the way that trolls treat me, other authors, my friends. I don’t have to. I can understand that my depression, my parenting, the issues that are so important that I lay myself bare in public, in hopes that other people who suffer will feel like they aren’t alone, are uplifting to some. And to others, they are just emotional soft spots guaranteed to get me riled up.
A troll(s) recently infiltrated a very important twitter chat group that a friend, mentor and badass woman I know hosts. It’s not important what the troll said. It is important that the group is one that welcomes those who have survived sexual abuse and tries to give them a voice. My friend said that this infiltration really hit home, and I know why it did. When it comes to her own trauma, the words of trolls slide off. But she hosts this chat in order to create a safe environment for people to speak, to open up, and she is worried that fragile people may have been hurt by the contact. Because she is a lovely person, the potential for pain in others brought her pain. You can control how trolls affect you, but you can’t control how they affect others who are struggling.
So, those of you who come across trolls, listen up! There are two things you do when a troll walks into your path. 1) You IGNORE THEM. Don’t engage. Ever. Act like your five-year-old sibling is being obnoxious and put up a brick wall. 2) Block and report offenders and ask others to do the same. They will come back, but if they have to create new identities enough, maybe they will decide their time is better spent elsewhere. Maybe not, but it won’t be your problem if you don’t engage.
Lastly, I was bullied a lot in school, and bullying and trolling are different. When a girl came up to me in Jr. High, called me fat ass, and spread rumors about me, I ignored her. Sure, I was fat, but she was narcissistic and mean, and that’s worse. You can’t change your personality as easily as you can change your weight. When she kept at it with the verbal insults and elevated it by shoving me, my anger hit level 10 (a very scary level to push someone with a mood disorder), I ended her bullying with a right hook and a kick to the stomach. You can’t give a troll a right hook because they are cowards hiding behind their screens. Trolls do not approach people in the daylight because out in the open they turn to stone. You cannot fight them, so do not try. When dealing with trolls, silence is golden. Let’s let them fight themselves into oblivion, shall we?
Interested in learning the science that supports my claim, see these related articles (clickable embedded links):