How to Deal With Internet Trolls

Understand the Difference Between Trolling and Cyberbullying

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When most people think about trolls, they picture the creatures from fairytales that live under bridges taunting people as they pass by. And while these trolls are only fictional characters, there are some real-life trolls that behave just like them. In fact, these real-life trolls live in the shadows of cyberspace with the sole purpose of making people’s lives miserable.

In general, trolls are people who intentionally attack others online by posting offensive comments, content, or pictures. When a person is attacked online for their beliefs, thoughts, opinions or physical appearance, this is called trolling.

Differences Between Cyberbullying and Trolling

It is easy to confuse cyberbullying and trolling. After all, both actions consist of mean behavior that is played out online. But while the cyberbully and the troll may use the same methods to hurt people, their goals are very different.

For instance, trolls want to create a disruption online and will target anyone to accomplish this goal. What’s more, they usually do not know the people they are targeting. Typically, they troll public comment sections, Twitter, YouTube, and public social media pages looking for opportunities. Their goal is to attract attention and disrupt conversations. The more attention they get, the happier they are. They find it enjoyable and entertaining to attack other people, create distractions, make people upset or hijack conversations.

Meanwhile, cyberbullying is much more personal. Cyberbullies target specific people with their mean words and hateful comments. Their goals are to shame, humiliate and intimidate the target in order to damage her reputation and her social status. In the end, cyberbullying is about having power and control over another person. And many times, a cyberbully knows her victim.

Another key difference between cyberbullying and trolling is how they view their hurtful comments, name-calling, and public shaming. In general, trolls do not think about how much their comments and posts hurt other people. Their primary goal is to get a reaction from the online community. They crave the attention, good or bad. And, the more attention they get, the happier they are. They also do not care if people hate them or say mean things. Instead, they find it funny. The more people say to them or engage with them, the more hate they will spew.

Meanwhile, cyberbullies do not want attention for themselves. Instead, they want all the negative attention to be directed at the victim. Their goal is to get others to join with them in targeting the victim. Their goal is to cause as much pain and humiliation as they can for that person. But if someone confronts them about their mean behavior, they are more likely to stop what they are doing or find another way to humiliate their intended target.

How to Recognize Trolling in Your Life

Trolling often occurs when you least expect it. What's more, the first time you encounter an Internet troll can be an overwhelming and confusing experience. Not only are you caught off guard, but it can even be frightening if the comments are particularly mean or threatening. Here are some ways to identify trolling.

Make personal attacks.

Once a troll has decided to target you, they zero in on you with laser vision. Everything you say or do online suddenly becomes ammunition for their attacks. They also insult you and attempt to make you feel bad about yourself. The goal is to humiliate you online and damage your reputation.

Pepper their comments with accusations.

They break you down and torture you by turning your words against you. They twist your statements and pound away at every aspect of your viewpoint. No matter what you say, trolls question you as a person. What's more, these accusations make you doubt who you are and what you believe. They also can damage your self-esteem.

Refuse to be nice online.

Trolls want to destroy you online. They will never acknowledge the points you make nor will they recognize anything good about you. Instead, they will find a way use those things against you. Their goal is to undermine you as much as they can.

Post assumptions about you.

For instance, a troll might start their post with something like: "Naturally, crazy people like you think..." Or, they might say, "Morons like you only know how to..." The point is that they are not only accusing you of something, but they are instead making assumptions about what you think and feel. This behavior is a type of character assassination.

Refuse to speak the truth.

Even when you, or others online, call out trolls for being wrong or not stating the facts, they will keep on trolling. In fact, the more you or others argue or engage with them, the more fun they have. They do not care about being right. They want to create chaos and disrupt conversations.

Disobey online rules.

Trolls do not follow online rules for commenting or posting. They also do not follow social media guidelines and have no digital etiquette. And, when they do get kicked off, they will just come back with a different username. Trolls do anything they can to change the course of a post or online discussion not because they care about the issue but because they enjoy the drama that it creates.

Use crude language.

When trolls use profanity and derogatory language, this is known as flaming. Their goal is to roast you with foul language. There is something very hurtful about being spoken to with curse words. It not only amplifies the attack but also makes it more painful. Trolls recognize the power that these words have and use them liberally.

Post at a rapid pace.

Usually, trolls have large amounts of free time combined with a love for starting fights online. They feed on the drama and devote large amounts of time to this activity. If you make the mistake of engaging with trolls online, you will be surprised by how quickly they respond to your posts.

How to Heal from a Troll Attack

Every day, someone is dealing online trolling. But it doesn't have to be the end of the world. Here are some ideas on how to deal with this mean behavior.

Acknowledge your feelings.
There is nothing wrong with feeling angry, confused and upset about what happened to you. You are not going crazy. In fact, your feelings are a normal response to the stress of trolling. Just make it a goal not to stay in this place but to instead work to overcome these feelings.

Talk to people you trust.
Do not be afraid to reach out to other people and ask for help. Keeping your feelings inside is not healthy. Find a trusted friend or counselor and share your feelings. Talk about how this situation makes you feel and ask for advice on how to heal from it going forward.

Take a break from technology.
Because trolling happens online, you need to make space in your life where you can be free of technology. Having a dedicated space in your home that is technology free helps. Then, listen to music, read or write in a journal. But be sure to avoid being online as much as you can. You need a break from the chaos. Trying to read the comments and respond to the troll is not only draining but it’s also not good for your emotional health.

Stand up for yourself.
Do not give a troll power over your life. Instead of dwelling on your embarrassment, stand up for yourself. This does not mean responding to the troll, but instead block him and report his behaviors to the proper authorities. Doing so will help you feel empowered.

Stop thinking like a victim.
Try not relive the trolling or reread all the mean comments. Doing so keeps you trapped in victim-mode. Although you do not have to forget what happened to you, it is important not to let it control your thoughts. Allow yourself to grieve over what the troll has done, but then force yourself to move on. Focus on finding ways to feel empowered and productive despite what has happened to you.

Take control of your thoughts.
Remember, your outlook on life doesn't come from being trolled but instead from how you interpret being trolled. As a result, take full responsibility for your feelings. If you have a positive outlook despite what has happened to you, the trolling will have less of an impact on your life.

Focus on healing. 
Trolling is painful. As a result, be sure to take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest. Eat nutritious food and try to exercise. All of these things are an important part of the healing process.

Find meaning in your experience.
While it is true, that what happened to you is horrible, it does not have to define who you are. Instead, try to think about what you learned. For example, did you learn to be more careful about posting online? Did this experience make you more assertive? The things you learned from your experience may help someone else in the future.

A Word From Verywell

Remember, when you experience trolling, it is not your fault. You did not deserve to be trolled. As a result, do not allow what happened to you define you as a person. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity online, including you. Leave the hurtful words, name-calling, and rudeness in the past. You have value and no troll has a right to diminish that. Remind yourself of that fact every day.