Today, if you want to cross a bridge online, you better beware of the trolls.
I'm not talking about having a healthy debate of differing opinions handled in a diplomatic way. No - legit trolls are lurking everywhere to jump out with their teeth gnashing...and nothing is safe. Your thoughts, comments, feelings, pictures, lifestyles, opinions, requests will be appetizers to fuel their seemingly relentless hunger to tear other human beings down all for a cruel laugh or two.
Pretty sad, right?
WHAT IS A TROLL
For those new to this term, Wikipedia defines this as, "...anyone who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response." The scariest part? They really get off on this action.
HOW PREVALENT IS THIS?
It's pretty bad out there today. TIME Magazine recently had an article by Joel Stein titled, "Why we're losing the Internet to the culture of hate" and not only does he describe the fueling of this hateful addiction as, "...leaving bears a pan of baklava" but he also reminds the prevalence is, "...seeping from our smartphones into every aspect of our lives." Not very promising, eh?
CAN WE MAKE THEM STOP?
Of course, we can't. What we can control is our fuel to their gasoline. In 2014, Dr. Jennifer Golbeck published an article on Psychology Today which basically said Internet trolls are sucky people.
One of the personality trait markers used in defining a troll in Dr. Golbeck's research was the Dark Triad (sometimes called the Dark Tetrad) score. (You can actually take the test here: http://personality-testing.info/tests/SD3/ to measure your dark trait personality scores.)
Dark Triad looks for evidence of:
Internet trolls have high Dark Triad scores and they are ruining our online experiences.
You are never going to reason with a troll either. They feed on personal attacks because they do not care. They do not follow conduct rules on forums. They do not obey by the terms of service. Like a bull in a china shop, they run from one conversation thread to another to cause as much damage as they can.
If you are depending on the social media sites to monitor or deal with Internet troll behavior - think again. Trying to get someone banned from a site is like finding a lock of lavender hair from a virgin mermaid in your above-ground pool after a fourth harvest moon. The social media platforms are slow to respond and so it leaves us to police our own behavior/response to a situation. What is one to do?
The best thing you can do is STOP FEEDING THE TROLL! Trolls comment hard and heavy, phishing with lures to get nibbles and bites, ultimately egging on the affected individual for the pleasure of hurting them. Instead of biting, scroll past the pissy, hateful, and hurtful comments. Don't feed their hunger for more attention. If a comment is truly one of deep concern, contact the webmaster, community manager, even the police to shut them down.
Do not put yourself in the position of feeling responsible to police conversations. It will cause you to feel tight and terrible. (And the troll would just LOVE to know that - gag!) The more we do this, the more we can diminish the presence of the trolls and their hateful behavior.
Be bigger, better, and more BIONIC today!