Thursday, March 17, 2011

How To Defeat an Internet Troll: a collection of barbs

An internet troll is a frightened little boy who posts abusive, offensive, and mostly silly tweets, messages, and comments, to get you to pay attention to him. He's jealous. He's lonely. He's angry -- but not angry enough! Oh no, not nearly angry enough, you see, and there's a level of anger that we, as competent social media pros, wish to accelerate him to, so he's nicely frenzied.

Your chief goal in blogocombat against an internet troll is to make them so angry, they engage in self-harming (destroy their stereo system, kick their car door, slam their fist through a Gameboy console, or smash their iPad).

Trolls are funny. They got no followers, no fans, no accomplishments, so they try to bother successful people. Ankle biters, these little Internet trolls -- their weak and amusing attempts to be abusive are most assuredly cries for help, which is not forthcoming. They can't have normal social relations online. The only way they can get any attention is to be obnoxious, and, like I said, they love to get angry.

"I begrudge, therefore I am" is the internet troll's slogan. "Will criticize for food" is another motto you'll see posted on their little Dreamweaver or Joomla websites, or maybe a code spaghetti WordPress blog. They will post negative remarks for a certain fee. It beats flipping hamburgers at McDonalds.

Trolling is a source of income for surly, bitter, mediocre people. They get about $1.00 for every troll rant, so they post a lot. If you enter a debate with the troll, they score more points with their employer, they have proof that they're doing their job. Thus, keep your interactions with them at a bare minimum. Just enough to cause them to hurt themselves or damage their own property.

Sometimes they get paid by word count, which is why they try to post long comments at your blog or the blogs of your clients. If you are stupid enough to try to post a comment on a moderated secure server blog of my client, you are really half troll and half clown. As a general rule, if you cue up a 2,000 word essay in one dense block of text with no paragraph divisions, I won't post your troll rant comment on any blog I moderate.

A word of advice for trolls: Long, prolix, overly wordy troll comments can be trimmed if you spend a lot more time on the dreaded Twitter learning to be concise! 

Trolls generally hate Twitter and blogs, and spend a lot of time on Twitter and blogs, talking about how "broken" Twitter and blogs are. Since they only have bitter things to say about others, nobody wants to fan or friend or follow them in social networks, which exasperates trolls to further extremes of self-pity and pious critique of their betters.

In blogocombat and other forms of online discussion and debate, you must turn off your human feelings and turn on your logical analysis. In reason machine mode, you forge ahead, doing battle one sentence at a time, one deleted moderated comment at a time, reducing the troll to soiling his bad boy pants in utter frustration. His goal is to make you angry, but you keep laughing at him, until thoroughly bored, at which point you ignore him and move on.

You remain stubborn, fully persuaded of your rightness and your clear superiority over the little troll. Having no sense of wounding or flinching from his funny little blathering, on and on he goes, trying to rake you over the burning coals of his infatuation with you, you are offended that he has no real online following, and feel cheated.

Remember: in online debate, it's never one human person against another human person. You must take the higher ground and see it as simply text vs. text. Your online text triggers a troll reaction via text and you respond with more text and he replies with more text. Rinse. Repeat.

When a troll accuses you of "idolizing" someone, simply because you said that person quoted you in their book, you tell the troll that actually you idolize them, they are so big and strong and smart. Ridicule them by feeding their fragile egos praise and adulation. Vaunt them to the sky, heaping up compliments, then lash him with the whip of insincerity. It's fun and nobody gets hurt, you know, since it's just text responding to text.

The more the internet troll attacks you, the funnier you get. You get even their allies to chuckle at your finely honed sense of humor. The troll is serious, but you're a comedian. When they lay into you, praise the trolls for being so smart as to know who their biggest enemy is. Feed them morsels of absurdity, which they'll quote and denounce hysterically, while everybody laughs at them.

To thwart and irritate a recent troll on Twitter, for example, I tweeted "Why do I spend so much time on Twitter reading tweets in foreign languages I don't understand?" because I knew they supported poor old Jakob Nielsen in his senseless attack on Twitter. (They mock Twitter, even as they "Use It" -- but have these trolls and pundits ever invented a tool that helps people overthrow totalitarian regimes?)

"See?! Twitter really is broken & not as good as a website!" the troll will then cry. "Mean old Vaspers confessed to reading tweets in languages he doesn't understand!"

The more hostile and cruel the troll tries to become, the more you knock the rug out from under his feet by wisecracking, joking, and comedy. 

Good luck. 

Now go out there and stomp on some nasty faint-hearted little internet trolls! 


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