The internet is a broadcasting tool that can be a positive way to share good news and life-changing announcements. Unfortunately, it can also be the perfect platform for broadcasting harm to a large number of people through offensive, controversial and harmful comments. Users who feed off this kind of negative attention are known as internet trolls. These are anonymous and disruptive internet users who enjoy hurting people to gain explosive, emotional reactions.
The definition of an internet troll
An internet troll looks to gain big emotional reactions by posting crude, irrelevant, controversial or hateful comments on community pages. They tend to target popular open networks like discussion forums, comment sections on Facebook and Twitter, blog sites, social networks, and multiplayer games.
How trolling affects victims
Trolling is completely non-personal. Trolls are typically strangers with no connection to you, or even a genuine interest in the topic they are ranting about. They are simply fishing for bait in whatever vulnerability they can find, but it sure feels personal enough.
While some are merely distracting comments made off-topic, others will dig deeper, tormenting people with illnesses, those grieving a loved one, challenging people on their looks, race or sexuality and seeking to expose differences.
The impact of this abuse can be high, especially if multiple trolls are present on the same page, or the attack is ongoing.
Remember, as hurtful and close to the heart as it might feel, these people do not know you, they only want to see you react. Be sure to get help and talk about your experiences with people who love and support you rather than take these negative comments on board.
Not being able to fire back doesn’t mean you are defenceless. The actions of trolls are illegal so be sure to talk to a legal representative about how you can take legal action.
How do I prevent and handle online trolling?
Instead of engaging with trolls, pretend the post isn’t there and ask your readers not to respond, “Just a reminder everyone I have a strict no-troll policy so please ignore anything not loving, kind or intelligent and carry on as normal”
Be sure to take a screenshot, report the comment to the provider and have it removed as soon as possible. Even unmediated sites will typically have an abuse report feature you can use to bump unwanted posts.
In terms of avoiding trolls and preventing trolling behaviour:
- Set your profiles so you can control who sees, shares comments and accesses your pages.
- Look for providers who can bump unwanted comments quickly and easily.
- Protect your personal information. Never give out your password, you should be the only one who has access to your accounts.
- If your blogs are being frequently targeted, disable comments and ask people to contact you directly to continue the conversation
- Switch your platform to a closed community group where you have administrator control over posts, comments and suggestions.
- In general, steer clear of online channels that are frequented by trolls. That might mean you read articles but not the comments section. This will help to get out of that negative space and away from toxic reading.
Where to go for help
While you can’t rely on the platform to gate against trolls, it’s worth sending screenshots and complaining about abusive posts.
If you are struggling to cope it’s important to reach out for support – out of sight from trolls. Talk to trusted friends and family members or look for a professional counselling service to help rebuild your self-esteem and trust.
If you want more objective advice, dial a helpline or open a discussion with a mental health professional.
Know your rights
Using Carriage Services To Menace, Harass Or Cause Offence is against the law. You can get legal help to support your case against trolls. Know your rights here.