Do you willingly feed trolls who are trying to obscure their identities?
I’m not talking about the cave-dwelling, ugly beings depicted in folklore as either giants or dwarfs. Those trolls aren’t yet online.
I want you to focus on the more insidious demons known as the “Internet trolls” (aka troll-holes as in a-holes). Troll-holes are devoid of any moral compass. These sorry-excuse-for-humans seek to ply discord on the internet. They post hateful, anonymous comments on anything from blogs to newspaper sites to Amazon and Yelp.
They want to argue with you. They want to demean you. They want to attack you. They want to provoke you. They want to upset you. They want to emotionally gut you.
Don’t take the bait….
Here are some comments posted by troll-holes on Above The Law last week:
1. You suck and you are boring.
2. This article was a shambolic disaster
3. Here’s some express criticism: you write like an a**hole.
4. Another potentially interesting story destroyed by unintelligible babbling.
5. This is what happens when pseudo intellectuals have too much time on their hands.
Did any of these comments add any value to the conversation? No.
Sure, these comments can be “extremely upsetting to read, but they do minimal damage in a world of sophisticated web users who view them as little more than noise not worth paying attention to.” I delete negative anonymous comments on my blog Leadership Close Up, but that’s easy because I control the platform. If you don’t control the platform, take comfort in the knowledge that the commenters are neither representative of nor influential toward the “vast majority of readers.” For example, last month ATL had 1.1 million readers but only 900 commenters. That’s 8 commenters for every 10,000 readers.
As John Suler, a cyber-psychologist at New Jersey’s Rider University, explains, “People can’t see you. You can’t see them. You can’t see if people are cringing or looking uncomfortable, and so trolls continue to say things they would never say in a room full of people.”
It’s not a surprise that anonymity leads to less civil discourse. Arthur D. Santana, a journalism professor at the University of Houston, studied online comments in newspapers. His findings?
53 percent of comments were uncivil in papers that allowed anonymity. That percentage dropped to 29 percent when newspapers required names or links to Facebook accounts.
Troll-holes are much more than lily-livered cowards hiding behind a thin veil of anonymity. They also possess these unsavory characteristics:
- Motivations vary from boredom to personal grudges to the more sinister.
- They are sadistic, psychopathic, and broken, according to studies.
- They show no concern for what is right — being unethical, unscrupulous and immoral is easy for them.
- No surprise, but troll-holes display oodles of narcissism.
- Unchecked or unpunished behavior can escalate from mildly offensive to serious abuse to criminal activity.
Why would anyone get worked up over an anonymous comment by a troll-hole?
These are people full of ego. They are obsessed with deceiving you. They derive great pleasure from seeing you hurting. They don’t care about you. So, why would you care about what they say? No one else does…
“[T]rolls…enjoy making others suffer, lack remorse and empathy, and have no problem with manipulating and lying to people to achieve their ends.”
Whatever your internal reaction, the worst thing you can do is to engage an anonymous commenter. Ignore troll-holes. Do not acknowledge their existence. The din of their negative anonymous commentary is babel that doesn’t deserve your attention.
Be a stalwart about that.
Kevin McKeown (@KevinMcKeown) is president of LexBlog, which empowers lawyers to increase their visibility and accelerate business relationships online. With LexBlog’s help, legal professionals use their subject matter expertise to drive powerful business development through blogging and social media. Visit LexBlog.com.
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