However, not only is it important to recognise a troll (and not just someone with a bit of a gripe against you), but to understand why they are in this unfortunate position.
You don’t have to pity them, but it’s worth being aware of how they work so you don’t fall into the same hideous trap they are in.
And here’s some code you could paste into your own posts (via the text mode) if you want to share this Infographic with your readers.
What is a troll?
A troll is a very sad human who finds it hard to integrate in real society, and prefers to hide in the virtual world.
They are social misfits that can only operate behind their laptops in their bedrooms, hiding behind an anonymous persona with the aim to solely cause havoc on the internet.
A troll doesn’t have to be that spotty, sweaty, overweight geek that finds it difficult to look you in the face if you ever have the misfortune to bump into him in the street.
They could be ordinary people like you and me, which is a bit of a frightening thought. People who don’t know how to comment properly on the internet.
They enjoy being horrible
A troll excels in making other people’s lives a misery. If someone else is having a bad time, they like to exasperate it by lashing out with their vitriol. This then that make them feel a bit better from their own feelings of lack of self-worth and loneliness.
This means they continue doing more of being nasty and cruel to whoever and whatever they come across on their journeys through the blogosphere.
Trolls like to pick on particular subjects, like female bloggers or writers of a different race or creed. They enjoy provoking certain topics that are related to emotion and sharing stories.
They hate people opening themselves out to their readers. Since they find it difficult to relate to people and how they feel, being forced to endure another person’s problems is too much for them. So they ridicule to make themselves feel better.
They hate anyone that’s ‘stronger’ than them
A troll is also intensely irritated if anyone else has an opinion that isn’t the same as theirs. They think how can anyone dare to even utter what they think on a blog or in a comment. This is because they don’t understand the concept of sharing and empathy.
They also enjoy provoking anger in others. It’s like a drug to them. The more you rise to their prompts, the more vicious they can be in return. They go out of their way to find something that can aggravate the situation solely to your detriment.
Trolls are experts at manipulating a conversation to their own ends. They excel in finding fault in anything that’s been said, real, true or not, and will exasperate the tiniest of things if they know it can exaggerate the most unpleasant atmosphere possible.
And they are always right! It doesn’t matter to what lengths you go to prove them wrong, they will always have something up their sleeves to counteract the argument and make you lose in the end.
How do I counteract a troll?
Well, the answer is to do the opposite. Behave like a ‘normal’ person, one who is kind and nice to bloggers and what they write.
Focus on the positive. Realise what is good from the post. And if there is any bad bits, relate to them in a positive and constructive way, not detrimental and slamming like a troll would.
You can learn from my Infographic what you should do when your comment on a blog or social media. I have highlighted the extremes, but basically it’s about being helpful, sympathetic, empathetic (not the same thing!), appreciative, complimentary (though not smarmy) and if you want to oppose what was said, to do so with tact, grace, consideration and understanding the other’s point of view.
Back up your argument with facts, scenarios, relevant stories others can relate to. Even though past experiences are fodder to a troll, as they enjoy picking these to bits in order to make you feel bad (or worse), ordinary readers and comments will want to read about them.
And stick to your guns. Do this sensitively and firmly. Don’t be put off by a troll’s harsh words, they’re not worth reading in any case.
What happens if I get a troll?
First thing is to have a suitable moderation system in place on your blog. This allows you to ‘vet’ each comment before it is published. Even though you may be the first person to see the horrible things written about your blog, at least you have spared other people from it.
Now if your troll is a spammer, usually the ‘spam eaters’ like Akismet will deal with them first. However, if you get a persistent troll giving you trouble, you can block their email address or their IP address from your comments settings page. This means whenever they try and comment again, their comment will not be accepted.
If your blog is the kind that would attract trolls, depending upon your subject, your writing style or the kind of blogger you are, you may have to grow a thicker skin. Alternatively you may have to hire somebody else to help moderate (vet) your comments, if you are the sort of person who reacts badly to a troll. Getting help at the beginning to give you moral support can be very helpful to learn how to cope with them.
Now you can either ignore them, or respond. But be careful! Remember the most obvious reason why a troll is what he is, is because he is jealous and/or inadequate. You could laugh at them, but that might make them worse. You will need to acquire some skills before you attempt to tackle a troll.
What should I do or not do?
If you get a particularly nasty comment which really upsets you, or makes you angry, STOP! Don’t respond at any cost. That is what the troll wants you do to. If you have to have your say at that moment, do it elsewhere, like on a Word document. Here you can spit as many feathers as you like. It’s very cathartic to write your anger down, or express how upset you are.
Then walk away. Leave it for 24 hours. When you come back to it, you can delete it or shove it in the bin, because you will have calmed down. And you will have denied that troll his perk, the reason why he wrote that horrible comment in the first place. This is a perfect way to discourage a troll, because you are not giving him what he wants.
If you don’t want to ignore them (by deleting your immediate response to them), be very careful how you continue the conversation. Respond clearly, calmly, reasonably and tactfully. I remember putting one particular troll in his place by stating the facts, carefully repeating what was true and highlighting what was not. Basically showing him up for what he really was. He didn’t respond again.
Keep your cool, select your words carefully, don’t lose your rag and keep to the point in a calm and composed manner. You will eventually make that troll look stupid and useless, and they won’t bother visiting your blog any more.