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Breaking the Habit: How to stop being a troll

Once a troll, forever a troll? Or is it possible to break out of this vicious habit?

When behind the computer screen, it’s easy for people to engage in behaviours they would never do in real life.

The anonymity of the Internet offers a shield because of which some people feel as if they can be aggressive, and in some cases abusive, toward others because they don’t feel as though they are hurting a real person.

One strange thing about the Internet is that while we are incredibly connected digitally, we are very disconnected interpersonally. The fact you can’t see the people you interact with online makes it easier to “other” them. When we “other” people, we don’t necessarily see them as real people with real feelings, and that makes it easier to disconnect from the reality that our words can cause actual harm. There is also a sense of the Internet being consequence free; since trolls are largely anonymous, and unless someone is really motivated to find them, they likely to get away with this type of behaviour. It is easy to see how slippery the slope can be when these two factors are combined. Those things we do when we feel anonymous are often impulses we have in daily life that are socially unacceptable or that we have been told are not allowed. When trolls are making these comments and “trolling” people, they likely have at least a couple of people who agree with them, which may make their behaviour seem more acceptable. Trolling gives trolls a different kind of ‘kick’ when they put out nasty comments on the internet and this additionally gets fed when the individuals at the receiving end engage with them. While trolling might seem like a difficult habit to break out of, it is not impossible.

Trolling stems from unhealed hurt - those who aren’t able to heal from their own hurt try to pass it on to others to feel good about themselves by bringing others down. To end this vicious cycle of hurting others to feel better, it’s important to understand that if you are a troll, try to the help you need because spewing venom on others on the pretext of sharing your pain won’t heal it. Talk it out with friends, your partner or a professional.

Keep a check on your mood and mental state before you post a comment online. If you’re feeling angry or upset, your post may not come across the way you want it to and might be something you will regret later, particularly if action is taken against you. Once something goes on the internet, it cannot be taken back. Furthermore, remember that anyone might see your post. If it has the potential to offend people (even people you don’t know), reconsider whether you should be posting it. Always post as if the world is watching you and whether you would be willing to accept being linked with those comments should your identity be revealed.

Calm yourself down before you post. It can often help to count to 10 before you post that comment - then is a good time to ask yourself, do you need to post this comment? Take a deep breath and think about it before you hit send. While doing this, please also think about how you would feel if you were the one reading your post and consider if it could sound threatening or aggressive in any way. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes - if you would not like to be at the receiving end of that comment, don’t make it.

The internet is a force which can be used for good. Trolling can make the internet a vile and unsafe place for people. Instead of being nasty, you can try to be positive and build people up when you comment and post online by using constructive language. Instead of making personal attacks, why not base your points on rational and logical explanations.

While it may seem hard, it is possible to break the habit of trolling and these are some ways in which this habit can be overcome. There are better things you can do with your time and energy than spill out venom on others on the internet who often are not even at fault when being at the receiving end of displaced anger.


Written by: Vedica Podar

September, 2020


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