Imagine that a stranger yelled a cruel insult at you in the middle of the food court...
Your first thoughts are most likely to be, “What kind of person does that? What is their problem?” - Those who are victims of online trolling experience the same bewilderment and astonishment, as do the rest of us when we witness someone being viciously attacked online.
The relationship between an troll and their target is one of the most toxic relationships online.
Trolls roam the internet looking for a fight, and those that happen to fall prey to their tactics will soon find themselves in an impassioned argument in a public setting with a person they’ve never even met. Worst of all, once the argument catches fire, even more trolls eagerly join in. When one troll is successful, a mob is quick to follow.
In mythology a troll is often defined as an ugly being that hides under bridges or in rocks, has claws and harm humans whenever they get the chance. An internet troll is a person who posts hateful mean comments online while hiding under pseudonyms and anonymous identities to avoid real-life repercussions. The dangers of becoming the target of an internet troll are worrying. Besides the uncomfortable aspects with immediate reactions of anger and being aghast that one might shake off, these trolls spread spurious accusations, ruin reputations, and have even caused cases of depression, withdrawal and suicide. This article will look at how it feels to be on the receiving end of trolling and what can be done about it.
It’s the question we all want answers to: if a troll should appear on our social media feeds, how should we respond? Should we engage with them, attempt to reason with them? Or should we ignore them entirely? Well, it all comes back to the same thing: trolls want attention. And refusing to get angry, frustrated or uncomfortable (at least publicly) is the best way to deny them this - you don’t have to reply to every troll out there.
The first rule of thumb is to never, ever, ever “feed” the trolls despite the knee-jerk reaction we have to hit back.
Don’t respond to a troll’s comment, even with logic. Let it go, but don’t let that experience stop you from putting yourself out there online. For every troll that exists on the web, there are dozens more kind and caring people like yourself. Take a technology break if you feel overwhelmed, then dust yourself off, and get back to enjoying all of the good that the internet has to offer.
It can take a troll 10 seconds to comment but end up creating a bigger impact on the person who they are trying to troll. The mental damage from this vile kind of online bullying is almost similar to that of being bullied in a physical setting despite being received in a different setting of horror. While traditional bullying leaves the victim shattered, physically at times; trolling establishes itself deeply into the victims leaving them decapitated of their individuality and questioning themselves and their opinions. Research has shown increasing symptoms of depression in online bullying compared to traditional bullying. While we cannot compare the severity of the two situations, it is important to understand that trolling is indeed a pre-manifestation of bullying and should be considered so by the authorities, as trolls characteristically relate themselves to bullies.
If trolled, it is important to understand that it is best to not to respond to them. It is advisable to report or flag the troll’s comment if you can by flagging it to the social media site. This may not get the troll banned from posting ever again, but it may hide the comment so that you and others don’t have to see their hateful words. While you report their hateful post, try to not let perpetrators of trolling get to you. This may be the hardest thing to do. Another way you can look at this is that while their comments may seem personal, they would have said the same thing to anyone else. Trolls get their kicks in knowing that they’ve really gotten to someone, so it’s best not to let them know that their plan worked. In these instances, it helps to talk to someone you trust, whether that’s your partner, a friend, or a therapist to alleviate your upheaval of emotions.
Let’s conclude by looking at the flip side as well - while we feel enraged and furious with the hate we receive, it is important to try understand the basic nature of a troll. They are not super villains, but rather broken individuals struggling with their own hurt, anger and emotions. While you feel angry with them, feel sad for them too. If they did not envy you or feel that you are impactful then they would not be reacting to you. Remind yourself that the more trolls you have, the more important and influential you actually are and the more perturbed they are getting with the idea that you are sharing a logic which is making them uncomfortable. Think of the trolls as a lonely, sad soul living under a dank bridge, while you and your internet presence are living in the light of day. So next time you are being trolled by someone else, say a little prayer for them and focus on the people who support you. If a troll hurts you remember it could be worse, you could be them.
Written by: Vedica Podar