After yet another senseless shooting – this one murdering five people in a newspaper office – one of my Facebook friends offered a fairly straightforward, soft-core post about how sad it was that these people were killed.
Scrolling through the responses to his post, his friends chimed in with similar heartfelt expressions of grief and compassion.
Until one that really stood out. That comment was something like, “Why do we have to turn a tragedy into a political statement?”
Umm…what? There was nothing in the original post about politics, gun control, fake news or anything of the other trip-wire words that often move a simple comment into the realm of inflammatory politics.
I wasn’t the only one scratching her head. The person who posted the original comment came back to deny there was any overt political content.
A few comments later, déjà vu all over again. Different Facebook account, almost identical comment.
That’s when I knew my friend was being blasted by trolls.
How to spot an internet troll
- Go to their timeline and chances are nearly 100% that this individual has festooned his page with patriotic images: Majestic eagles superimposed on American flags. Members of our armed forces on the front line, looking noble as they clutch their weapons in the fight for freedom. Sometimes cute little kids and puppy dogs with soulful eyes. But no clear mugshots of themselves (they don’t have the nerve to do that) and they have very few friends.
- They aren’t very bright. They cherry-pick keywords and then respond to those words with highly inflammatory rhetoric that may not have anything to do with the original comment, as was the case with the newspaper shooting post.
- These people – if they are people at all, and not bots – are agents provocateurs. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I’m beginning to wonder. Because if they were real people instead of bots, their remarks would more closely align with the content of the original post. (Either that or refer to No. 2.)
- They have two objectives: To show the world that they are not insignificant losers and to sow discord, elicit an emotional response and drag the discussion away from facts and into polarizing name-calling.
- When they are called out, they lunge into attack mode. Weapons in their arsenal: Shaming, blaming, taunting, name-calling, ridiculing, humiliation, manipulation, lies and whatever other ugly stuff they can sling.
How to deal with internet trolls
The best way to deal with these people?
- Don’t feed their egos.
- Don’t give them the satisfaction of engaging, because the attention (even negative attention) is exactly what they crave; it makes them feel important.
- Don’t defend yourself or explain or try to reason with them because they are immune to reason.
- Delete their posts.
- Unfriend them or block them.
- Report them to the social media platform you use.
Don’t feed the trolls.