One of the most difficult parts of any hobby is dealing with those who for whatever reason are negative to hostile. Whether it is a personality thing, something lingering over a perceived past wrong, a dominance issue, envy manifest, or just a bad side that is hanging out, some of the people we end up sharing our hobby with rub a person the wrong way.
Particularly irritating are internet trolls – the negative folk who misuse the anonymity and impersonal nature of net communications to make a portion of their communication a personal attack. Often times they act in ways that would shock the loved ones around them and are outright evil compared to their real personality if you meet them in an eyeball-QSO (in person).
Some you end up meeting on the air – the QSO/Net troll is fairly common.
Others wreck havoc or display their negative side in person, usually in front of others.
Whatever the reason, these are people who take more from you than reading/listening to their communications is worth.
And the master rule for dealing with these people is “don’t.”
- Don’t read or listen to them.
- Don’t respond to them if you fail in the “don’t read or listen” rule.
- Don’t reply to them.
- Don’t “play their games” or stoop to their level.
- Don’t waste your energy on them.
When filtering is possible, do it. Examples are the “Ignore” button to filter out eHam forum trolls, creating a rule to chuck/quarantine their email, or adding their url to a filter list if your system supports it.
Don’t engage them in conversation. In person, walk away. Politely excuse yourself and walk away.
Don’t forget to be honest with yourself if you interface with them in any way, as then you too want to “play” troll games.
It is hard to be disciplined in this. Often a net troll has 10% real substance in their post – in some cases they may even be right – but responding to them feeds the troll side, not the good side.
Just because they use a bit of truth/insight in their attack should not change the “don’t” rule. A bank robber who says “Thank you” is still a bank robber.
Since you are not reading/listening to their stuff, you’re safe from the various games they want to draw you into. You don’t have to fret about their lies, insults, logical fallacies, attacks and needy egos.
My experience is that trolls will usually step up their attacks, call in their troll buddies to try a ganging-up approach to get your attention (or goat), maybe even create mocking web content, but in the end if you don’t reward their bad activities with the attention they crave, they move along to find something else with a higher troll-reward to do – unfortunately that may be just finding a new victim. Regardless, when they get ignored enough by everyone they are trolling they tend to go away.
There are the few that don’t disappear when ignored. Some are like undead Zombies – they keep on attacking whether ignored or fought against. These are the only ones to need a response.
Learn what you can about these sorts of ubber-trolls and customize a response. Don’t get personal, emotional or worry about making a point. Only deal with getting them out of your life.
Personally I have found compiling some of the bad stuff they are doing necessary, and then appealing to authority to get them to stop. Whether it is reporting them to a forum moderation team or an ISP, just do it. If you want quicker action, report them to their spouse. When they have made threats report them to the police. Be factual, timely and professional when you deal with them.
Don’t follow up unless the attacks continue. Remember your goal is to not have these energy vampires stealing time or emotional energy from you. If you are worried about settling a score, you’ve been bitten by the undead and joined their troll ranks, so don’t!
Here are some of my personal approached to the problem:
- eHam Forums – I use the Ignore button and have presently about eight trolls ignored. Unfortunately their comments appear as quoted material in those who respond to them, so disciple comes into play to continue the ignore regardless.
- Blog Comments & email reflectors – I use a 100% moderator approval process and any spam filtering available when I have a control role. Asa a reader I avoid “reading below the line” (reading the comments) and send list reflector emails to their own folder by list.
- Email Correspondents – several friends get their own folder but a few trolls have their email disposed of by the system just like any other spam. If you program allows it it can be useful to bounce their emails rather than even receive them. If your ISP has a email filtering system you can add addresses to that email filter. I put the worst into the hardware SonicWall and they are completely filtered out from then on.
- Troll Love Letters – at one point I had a few trolls so wanting my attention that a few anonymous letters arrived by US Mail. Throw them out if just troll fodder, or turn them over to the postal inspector if they are criminal.
Remember it is YOUR WORLD and you just do not have to waste time or accept their distortions. You do not owe them any time, consideration or respect. I would never suggest you disrespect even a troll, but they simply don’t count in your world unless you let them.
If they are really nasty, report them, turn them into the police if they are threatening, criminal or doing either to others, and otherwise “erase them from your life.”