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How to Identify and Defeat an Internet Troll
Have you ever met an internet troll? A troll is a special class of sociopath.
These nasty individuals are the sadistic ne’er-do-wells of the digital realm, the misanthropic misfits of information age. Unlike a normal person, when a troll enters an online discussion, he is not seeking truth or clarification. He usually doesn’t even know how to debate in an intelligent manner. All he wants to do is inflict pain, ridicule, and humiliation on a targeted person.
Encountering an internet troll can be a disturbing, even frightening, experience for someone who has not had to deal with one. It can be an unexpected event, a strange twist that takes the discussion to a whole other level. You are taken off guard and find yourself struggling to defend yourself, instead of exploring a topic.
You’re posting comments on a blog, forum, or social media platform like Facebook or Twitter. There are probably other people expressing themselves, some agreeing with you and cheering you on, others disagreeing with you and trying to debunk your assertions. The conversation is heated, or passionate, but civilized. Strong opinions are stated and countered with other strident points of view.
Suddenly, someone, usually anonymous or using a nickname (pseudonym), starts attacking you. They may use filthy language, wild insults, and crazy misinterpretations. Often they will put words in your mouth, along the lines of “So what you’re saying is….” or “Nutjobs like you are only interested in ….”
The main tool of the troll is accusation. It’s a form of psychological torture, to break you down by turning your words against you, twisting your statements and pounding away at one aspect of your viewpoint. No matter what you declare, the troll will question you as a person. Understand this immediately: it’s you as a person that they are attacking.
Personal attacks are often banned in forums, and not tolerated in blogs and social networks. Administrators tend to block and remove anyone who engages in trollish behavior.
The troll doesn’t care. Trolls don’t follow the rules or terms of service. They jump from one platform and one conversation thread to another, causing as much damage as possible. If they get kicked off a site, they’ll try to return, using a different username or a different computer.
Trolls are easy to recognize by their mode of operation. They will never compliment you for a smart statement, or admit that your question is difficult to respond to, or tone down the rhetoric with a smiley emoticon.
Trolls accuse and insult. Trolls needle you relentlessly. They love to flame others. They enjoy causing grief, making another person feel bad. Trolls will quickly move from serious discussion about an issue to a sustained personal assault.
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