16 Essential Troll Busting Techniques
by Virginia Hoge
I have been very heavily trolled for the past four years. There was no way to escape this trolling, I had to deal with it. I have dealt with some of the most difficult trolls in the Country on one of the most violent forums – Topix, a virtual hate-machine – a forum where there was no option to block the trolls or to quickly remove their worst comments. I have learned (the hard way, making lots of mistakes along the way) techniques in how to counter and how to handle trolls in this time.
There are so many practical applications to learning how to counter-troll. For instance, so much has been invested in trolling, and this has not been enough reported on. Learning how to counter these pundits, is an important lesson for the year 2013. Cyber-bullying is ending too many lives and a lot of this could be halted with more training in countering/resistance techniques. I originally began this list 2 years ago, to help gay teens being cyber-bullied. Too many kids are dying and they could learn from learning how to fight back.
These are the techniques I use in dealing with trolls. There are those who would disagree with me, but these are the ones I use.
One: A show of strength: I think the most important thing with trolls, is to be like a brick wall against them. You put up a verbal wall that says: Nope, you are not going to get away with this. No matter how much you threaten or insult me, I am not going to back down. A show of strength is important with them, they are less courageous than you are. Nothing anyone can say can get to you if you don’t let it. Trolls work to get under your skin, don’t let them. When dealing with trolls, you need to learn to take control of your own perceptions. This is hard and takes time so be patient with yourself.
Two: All trolls can pretty easily be tripped with their own words. They are illogical and all you have to do, is to point out the illogic of their posts. Turn what they say around, work into it. You leave them frustrated with nothing to say in doing this.
Three: Humor is a great tool with trolls. Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand. The importance of playfulness and humor, cannot be over-estimated. A collection of funny YouTube videos, of songs etc., is also a good thing to collect to have to use against trolls. A YouTube link makes a funny reply, also links to funny pictures.
Four: Handling insults and lies. The natural response when insulted or when a troll tells a lie about you, is to say “No I am not” or “No I did not”. This ironically, becomes a way they have caught you up in a troll game. They will keep saying “Yes you are” “Yes you did” (because you have shown them what they said got to you). The best way to counter insults, is with humor and irreverence. Make a joke about it, show humility even, laugh at yourself. When a lie is told about you, say one time only “No dude, I didn’t do it”. And walk off. No arguing.
Five: Never show anger. This is a hard one. They are working very hard to make you angry. Showing anger gives them what they want. Stay as calm as possible, as irreverent as possible, but still being firm. It is very important to recognize when it happens, that a troll has gotten to you, and then to back off of the debate. Walk away from the computer. There is always another day. Time is something you can us in your favor.
Six: Never show hurt. The natural response when a troll has hurt you, is to appeal to the “audience”, be it the troll or a number of viewers of the thread on an open message board, about your hurt. Its called crying in trolling. Again, it shows the troll they have got to you and you cannot expect conscience, from the troll, you cannot expect them to feel sorry for you and I have found, you can expect very little sympathy from other audience members also, even if they are your friends. People are very uncomfortable with hurt feelings and your “crying” about them will not elicit the response you seek. Keep your hurt hidden, stay a brick wall. Walk away from the computer if they have gotten to you.
Seven: Mocking. This is when it gets ugly, but is needed sometimes for stubborn, professional trolls. Mock them, they cannot stand it, and it shows them that you are as adept in their tactics as they are.
Eight: Ignore them. When trolls keep posting hateful crap, when it gets the most ugly, ignore these comments. When they get really mean, you know they are putting their “all” into it, and your ignoring these comments will drive them the most crazy. I have likened it to a game of tennis. If they hit the ball to you and you do not return it, there is no game. They don’t get the perverse pleasure they seek in getting to you.
Nine: The LOL. Learning the different meanings of lol (laugh out loud) are important when dealing with trolls. Lower-case “lol”, shows humility – important – it shows you are not being “preachy”. In the example above, adding a lower-case “lol” to “No dude, I didn’t do it, lol” helps to better convey your meaning, as strange as that sounds. It works. “Lol” is used for stronger emphasis and best used on its own. “No dude, I didn’t do it. Lol.” Its stronger so use it carefully. Upper-case LOL means the full out “laugh out loud”. This is used in mocking the troll. When the troll says something ridiculous, sometimes the best thing you can reply is “LOL”. And leave it at that.
Ten: Back up other posters they are attacking. Back up is important with stubborn trolls, don’t just defend yourself, defend others. Agreement is a troll tactic, they often work in pairs, agreeing with each other. We can do that also.
Eleven: Persistence. Trolls have all day and night to post away, and will and do. You need to stay on them, not just make one comment and leave, you need to debate with the troll to turn the argument into your favor. Time is something you can use in your favor, take time off, make the troll wait for you, don’t reply to every comment of theirs, be selective, reply to none sometimes. Talk about something completely different. That puts you in control.
Twelve: Love. Trolls are human beings, as mean, ugly and nasty as they get. Do not hate them, your hatred will only hurt you, not them. You need to see beyond the front they are putting up, into their humanity and always remember it. It can be called on, especially with trolls you are countering for a long time. But do not use it early on, do not try to “win the troll over” too soon. That will not work. Only keep it in the back of your mind and in time, it can be possible to break through and find your common humanity. I have made friends with some trolls who used to troll me.
Thirteen (related to the above): Reconciliation/Understanding. Trolls are often hot-headed people and say hurtful things quickly, often have short tempers, have been hurt themselves by hurtful words and are lashing out. Its important to distinguish between a troll that has a good person underneath and a malicious hater, because one of the most under-looked but important tools in troll busting is Understanding. It is possible to make peace with someone you do not agree with, to find common ground and this is often very productive.
Beware of biases in yourself, understand that there are going to be people you don’t agree with, don’t make every disagreement a cause for combat. Laugh off minor insults, don’t be too prickly. Again, stay calm, don’t get angry.
Fourteen: Keep your replies as short as possible. Your reply to the troll is what they will base their “ammo” on for their attacks. The more “ammo” you give them, the worse it is for you. Keeping your replies as short as possible gives them less to work with and nails your point more efficiently.
Fifteen: Troll Crying. Crying, in troll terminology, is over-complaining, crying about someone (if the troll is your combatant, you). Its a show of weakness and I find it all the time in the biggest bullies. The biggest bullies are the biggest crybabies. This is a Win for you. Once a troll starts crying, you know they are weaker than you are and falling back, capitalize on this.
Sixteen: Have fun with it. In essence, countering trolls is a cyber version of the Great Art of Debate. Read up on debate tactics, study the masters. Importantly: study how trolls fight with each other, find ones that are good at it. Trolls will often call trolling playing.
You can learn to play too.
© Virginia Hoge, Dec. 2013. All rights reserved.