The Rise of Internet Trolls

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You’ve probably heard the term ‘internet troll’ without knowing exactly what it means. Perhaps it still calls up an image of a funny, fairly-tale character who lives under a bridge. However, trolling on the internet is quite serious and even dangerous. Tangling with a troll can destroy your online reputation, putting your career and personal relationships in jeopardy. It can take months to repair the damage, even with professional ORM services such as those offered by Reputation Defender.

What is a Troll?

Trolls are people who try to disrupt online communities by posting ‘inflammatory, extraneous or off-topic’ content. Trolls appear in chat rooms, social media feeds (especially public platforms such as Twitter), comment sections for blogs and articles, and any other type of online forum. Trolls thrive on conflict, so their goal is to incite anger by posting controversial opinions and disagreeing with anyone who tries to interact with them. Trolling can sometimes escalate into targeted threats, online stalking and online harassment.

The average internet user is interested in communicating, sharing opinions in an equal dialogue. This is not the case with trolls. Myles McNutt, a US communications professor who specialises in new media, points out that internet trolls don’t want ‘discourse’ or debate. Their opinion is simply that ‘all other opinions are wrong’. Any attempt to reason with a troll is useless. They’re not interested in what you have to say; they’re interested in pushing your buttons and provoking an emotional response.

Handling Trolls

The best way to handle an internet troll is to stay away. Most attacks are random, but if trolls think they can get under your skin, they’re likely to pursue you purposely. The internet makes it easy to vent spleen and harass others anonymously. Trolls just need an outlet to become even more vicious and threatening.

You may not be able to spot a troll immediately. The first post may appear to be a regular comment or a genuine review. There’s nothing wrong with a quick professional response, but if the person continues to post negative material, stop replying. There’s no need to prove your point; this is impossible anyway since trolls don’t respond to reasonable arguments. You’ll only find yourself pulled into the angry exchange of profanity that trolls thrive on, and the thread will quickly start to hurt your reputation and make it seem like you’re the one who’s trolling.

Report What You See

Trolling incidents continue to increase as online communication becomes more mainstream. Everyone is on the internet now, and this means more opportunities for trolls to harass people who aren’t experienced with avoiding and blocking them. Trolls often violate site rules on Twitter and other platforms and it’s important to report them when they do. If you visit a chat room regularly, familiarise yourself with what is permitted and report any activity that seems suspicious. The more trolls find themselves held accountable for their behaviour, the less likely they will be to harass others.