The Truth About Trolls

trolls

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):

Psychology Today “Internet Trolls Are…”

Metro “Men who abuse women online are total ‘losers,’…”

 

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11 thoughts on “The Truth About Trolls

  1. Oh I have the same problem with trolls that you have. Too empathetic. I want to help them understand. I am still learning the lesson. I still will encounter them commenting on news article, doing their troll thing. I do ignore, but I get so angry. And it’s hard to just move on and let it go.

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    • It is, but they aren’t looking for learning. They are looking for pain, and you can’t really counter it. It is really hard, when you’re someone who is empathetic and emotional because thinking about how terrible things being said are going to effect other readers upsets you. You don’t want people to suffer. Report them. That’s really all you can do. It’s a wonderful venue for cowards, this internet deal. Virtual hugs, Leslie.

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  2. Great article, Hannah. Trolls really suck. The thing I notice about them is that they tend to attack people who are trying to be kind, and helpful, and peaceful. In my town, we have a listserv in which hundreds of people participate, and for years, there was a troll who jumped in and attacked every time there was a good discussion about a problem in town. Of course, people would have different opinions, but the troll wouldn’t attack the ones who were being snarky or funny; he’d go straight for the ones who suggested listening to all sides, and being respectful, etc. Good for you for letting go of your troll. I know it’s hard to do, but it seems the only thing that will make them go away is not giving them attention.

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    • Yeah, that’s terrible, but true. They target peace makers because peace makers ruin the fun. Gross but true. It has actually become fairly easy to ignore them now that I have a mantra, “Poor little troll wants my pain. Well, he/she can’t have pain unless they are willing to talk to me face to face.” 🙂 Love ya, Mary.

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  3. THanks for this very honest post. I find that one of the very effective ways of dealing with online bullying (not trolling – as you say they are just nutters) is to have a good group of mates around you. They will leap to your defence…and give the bully the equivalent of that kicking. Happens to me..someone I wasn’t following and had never interacted with chose to make a personally critical comment about a tweet. 5 mates piled in. It was heartening. (Oh yes, I blocked the idiot, course..)

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  4. So far I’ve been lucky enough not to have encountered too many trolls. I did block one person on FB I had friended against my better judgement because we had been part of the same online organization and he sent me a friend request. I had also seen him attack people on email lists for booksellers, which was why I was hesitant to accept his request. He behaved for a while, but one day in a political discussion, although he left me alone, he attacked my cousin who supported my arguments, and I unfriended the man. I didn’t realize he could still see my posts because he was a friend of several of my other friends. So I had to block him. I’m not sure if he was a real troll or not, since only certain topics set him off. He would be brutal with anyone who disagreed with him. When people don’t play nice on my wall, they don’t get second chances.

    I find most trolls, if they are trolls, baiting people they disagree with on paid discussion sites. Perhaps they just want to extend the discussions for financial reasons. They constantly ask “When are you going to stop beating your wife?” questions which leave one cornered into another defense — or silence. I’ve opted for silence and haven’t gone back.

    It’s sad when they infiltrate private or secret groups designed as safe zones. I belong to a couple of such groups, but no one gets into them that the moderators don’t know. That’s about the only way to really control these cruel people.

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    • Yeah, there are some people who are just very impressed by their own ideas, so it’s hard to tell the difference, but I think most agree that trolls seek hurt, that’s the bottom line. Either way, we don’t need trolls or just negative people in our life, so blocking is a nice step. It is very sad when they find groups where they can do the most damage. I hope that never happens in your group.

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  5. Thank you so much for talking about this. I’m a Beachbody Coach, I help others by opening myself up, sharing my personal experiences, struggles and accomplishments. I’ve come across a few trolls and it’s hard to not take something to heart when it’s about something I’m going through, something real and about me. I know better, but it’s still tough when it happens. Thanks again!

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