What Is an Internet Troll and How to Deal with Them

The Internet Troll Is Your Friend and Wants the Best For You

The internet troll is a vicious little monster. It will lurk on social media networks, online forums, and blogs hunting for prey. They will stalk a herd of sheep, looking for the weak. When one of these vicious critters pounce, they attack with far worse than sharp teeth and slashing claws. It will use words to cut its victim to the bone. Moreover, a successful internet troll will leave you with your confidence broken and beliefs shattered. How can anyone, in their right mind, say that internet trolling has positive benefits? 

Before we get started, let us clearly identify who we are talking about. An internet troll is a person who injects themselves into an online discussion or will post comments with the specific intent of causing a disruption or getting a person or people upset. Their only purpose is to get everyone unsettled, shocked, and frazzled. However, they do not threaten physical injury or cause real harm. Their focus is chaos only. Regardless, how can any good come of them?

The Mind of the Internet Troll

Psychology Today reports that those people who said “trolling was their favorite Internet activity,” also scored high for narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism. They found an internet troll will  lie, exaggerate, and offend just to get the desired response. Essentially, they are bullies who make themselves feel good by making others feel bad. An internet troll is likely someone who feels less-than in their own life, and will use trolling to feel powerful and exert control over others.

However, on the dark web, there are trolling groups organized with the mission of “purposeful anarchy”. They will start poking at a target, escalating over time, with more hateful and belittling comments. Nothing is off-limits: race, religion, sex, disability, gender, and so on. Take for example, Lena Dunham, who quit Twitter back in 2015 because of “verbal abuse.” Dunham had posted a photo of herself in a sports bra and men’s boxers. The response was wave after wave of “the most rabid, disgusting debate about women’s bodies” and “body-shaming.” The occurrence was so upsetting to Dunham, she had to leave Twitter, at least until her publicist told her to go back.

Lena Dunham, by any measure, is a very successful person. She is an actress, writer, producer, and director. Moreover, she is the creator, writer, and star of the successful HBO series Girls. Nonetheless, she is also a bit of a paper tiger. Dunham is very vocal on social and political issues. It would not surprise anyone if she posted her photo online hoping to make a statement that all women are beautiful, no matter their size or shape. Regardless, when the response was not praise, she fell apart and did not have the strength of her convictions. Ultimately, the internet trolls exposed her as weak and pathetic.

Benefits of Internet Trolling

While we may see their behavior as overly harsh and cruel, the role of the internet troll is vital to the health of the internet ecosystem. I will not argue that they are not predators. However, while many will cringe watching a lion take down a zebra, they do have a place in this world. And, of course, no one wants the lion turning on them. Nonetheless, the internet troll will mostly target the self-righteous and self-important, who are usually weak and thin skinned. It is not so much an attack on the target’s actual point of view, but the person or group itself.

The good accomplished by internet trolls is separating the wheat from the chaff, high quality from those that are not. There are many people on the internet spouting their political, religious, and social opinions. While everyone is entitled to their personal beliefs, it is typically not good form to publicly promote your ideas as the only true or correct positions. Therefore, whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, if you want to stand on a soapbox, you should be able to intelligently argue your position using facts, without demeaning those who disagree, and without losing your mind if you are challenged, even if it is aggressive.

Kinds of Internet Trolls

1. Grammar Nazi – One of the more pathetic incarnations of internet trolling, the grammar nazi just cannot help pointing out a grammatical error. Moreover, it is a tactic to prove you are too stupid to have the correct position.

2. Frenzied Flamer – This troll loves to target group-think and will ignite otherwise peaceful forums and conversations on fire. They will take an extreme, often controversial position to get things going.

3. The Griefer – Inflicting pain is the only point of this troll. They will work to shame and embarrass you. The goal is to expose your more personal insecurities and exploit them.

4. The Rager – They are angry about absolutely everything and the more they rant about what makes them angry, the angrier they get. There is no reasoning with this guy. You’ll only make him angrier.

5. The Victim – Your opinion victimizes this internet troll, and diminishes them as a person. She will publicly demand moderators ban you and force others to take sides. Then they will sit back with some popcorn.

6. Saboteur – Most likely for professional reasons or a personal grudge, the role of the Saboteur is to destroy an internet community from the inside. They will make friends and network, all the while sowing the seeds of discontent.

7. The Hater – There is no other motivation other than this troll woke up one day and decided they hate you. They will just pick, pick, pick until you lose your mind. Once victorious, they will find someone new to hate.

8. The Spartan – The motto of the Spartan is “return with your shield or on it.” They will win their argument at all cost, taking no prisoners, and using a scorched earth strategy, if necessary. You will not win.

9. The Crazies – Obsessed stalkers and harassers can make your internet life hell. They will create elaborate narratives in their heads about you, your goals, and what you are really doing.

10. The Contortionist – These trolls are the equivalent of political pundits, taking a single line out of context to prove you are a horrible person. They don’t care that their own position is weak and baseless.

11. The Saviour – If the Saviour perceives that a person or group has been unfairly targeted or criticized, this troll will jump into action. They will not rest until your bigotry or racism is exposed.

12. Holy Warrior – The Holy Warrior has drunk the Kool-Aid. They can be a religious nut, conspiracy theorist, extreme leftist, right wing lunatic, or subscriber of any number of ideologies. They will shock and shame you into thinking correctly.

13. Ted Cruz – A champion debater, the Ted Cruz troll knows all the rhetorical tricks and how to exploit logical fallacies. Moreover, there are very well versed in the art of persuasion, but are arrogant and extremely annoying.

How to Handle an Internet Troll

Most of the advice online is to block or report internet trolls. You are not going to find that here. The best way to deal with an internet troll is not to make yourself a target. This may come across as a bit of victim shaming, but many targets themselves are aggressive and demeaning to others, even if it is unintentional. An internet troll is often fire fighting with fire. Moreover. if you need a “safe space” to express your beliefs, the internet is probably not the place for you.

Step #1: Make Sure You Are Dealing With an Actual Troll – The label “internet troll” is tossed around too freely. An angry comment, or an aggressive challenge to your idea, does not automatically equate to a person being an internet troll. The person may have simply had an emotional response to your statement or position. Don’t start assuming the worst.

Step #2: Don’t Engage Genuinely Controversial or Abusive Language – Every social site and online forum has either a block or ignore feature. I suggest initially ignoring angry or foul language. People are entitled to a bad day. However, you don’t have to tolerate someone who is unwilling to have a reasoned conversation. Use the tools that websites give you.

Step #3: Before Engaging, Make Sure You Are Secure in Your Beliefs – This is a big one. One of the best ways to defuse an internet troll is clearly expressing not only that your statement is just your opinion, but that their point of view is equally valid. Keep in mind, this does not work if your opinion starts with something like “all intelligent people agree”.

Step #4: Employ a Strategy of Self-Deprecating Humor – Don’t take yourself so seriously. Internet trolls just love to devour those people who have a high opinion of themselves. Lena Dunham lost the battle with internet trolls because she takes herself way too seriously but is also not comfortable in her own skin. She knows her body is not the cultural standard for beauty. Why was she shocked?

Step #5: Aggressively Defend Your Position with Real Facts – Use easily verifiable facts and statistics to support your argument, and cite reputable resources and websites to bolster your position. It is an unfortunate reality that many people hold opinions based solely on other opinions, and then want to preach to the world. If you are one of those individuals, you may deserve to be troll food.

Step #6: Ask Your Troll to Defend Their Position – Once you cite the facts that support and form the basis of your opinions, your internet troll may still continue to pick you apart. At this point, it is time to flip things back on them. You have already defended your position. Demand they support their opinion with verifiable facts and figures.

Step #7: Maybe it Is Time to Agree to Disagree – This is not walking away with you still believing people who disagree with you don’t have a valid opinion. Agreeing to disagree means that each side has equally valid points of view. This is often difficult if both sides can’t agree on the facts. However, the whole goal of an internet troll is often to take you down a notch. Suck it up and admit you may not be right.

Fundamentally, an internet troll is like any other bully. As a method of propping up their own self-esteem, they pick on those they perceive as weaker than themselves. In most cases, simply standing up for yourself, being secure in your own beliefs, and keeping your cool will have the troll moving on to find an easier target. Regardless, some are relentless. When all else fails, contact moderators, support, or the webmaster for help.

Why Internet Trolls Are Effective

More and more, we live in an echo-chamber, where our own beliefs are amplified and reinforced while competing ideas are filtered out. Conservatives watch Fox News, whereas Liberals will consume MSNBC. Facebook has created algorithms so that our news feeds are filled with only those posts we are most likely to “like”, share, and reply. Twitter is following with their own timeline and notification changes. Therefore, we no longer live in a world of competing ideas.

As a result, the internet is fertile ground for trolling. The information echo-chamber both empowers the internet troll and creates targets. Nonetheless, don’t confuse an online tantrum or threats for internet trolling. Trolls are not in the business of creating terror or causing violence. Their ultimate goal is chaos and creating discord. However, they are extremely mean-spirited and cruel. Moreover, internet trolls crave attention and a feeling of self-importance.

Consider the dynamics of Batman and the Joker as an analogy. Comic book fans know the Joker doesn’t really want to kill Batman. Where is the fun in that? He wants to expose the truth about Batman to the world. In the mind of the Joker, Batman is just as twisted and demented as he, and they are two sides of the same coin. The Joker receives joy by pushing Batman to his limits, hoping he will eventually crack. The internet troll has the same goal, to push you to your breaking point, exposing you to be as small and insignificant as they feel about themselves.

Ultimately, internet trolls tend to be self-righteous and closed-minded. Yet, they see their targets the same way. An atheist troll may comment on the memorial page of a small child because it talks about heaven and angels. A pro-life troll may post graphic images of fetus body parts on a liberal forum. The more anger, sadness, discord and confusion they create, the more joy they will receive. Therefore, an internet troll’s effectiveness is completely based on our reactions.

Popular on Koffee-O-Matic Right Now!

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
cthebigpic
Member
cthebigpic
Two of the most classical cases that attract internet trolls are any piece on Android vs iPhone or Real Madrid vs Barcelona. People just go crazy and loose it. Maybe it’s just that I’m into football and technology. What do you participate in online that really attracts trolls? And why did you make the troll female when talking about the ‘victim troll’? Hehe, hope I don’t get you into too much trouble. I’m a guy btw. Personally, I think the solution is, “If you want the world to change, then you must change.” Maybe I’m too much into personal development?… Read more »
fern2x2001
Member
fern2x2001
I believe one way of dealing with internet trolls is, do not deal with them at all. Simply because internet trolls are firm on their goals on the internet and they will keep doing it no matter what you say to them. They will not listen or change their course just because you made your point. If they’re not going to stop, engaging with them will only, more likely, result in damage on your part. If you continue dealing with internet trolls, it wouldn’t take look for them to look for more and more points to attack you which is… Read more »
mdbree17
Member
mdbree17

I had this ex and his girlfriend kept on trolling on me. Creating fake accounts and messaging everyone I know and tell them things. So, I do not have an idea whose been doing it. Until such time I tried to open my ex account and BOOM! I read all their plans and conversation. Yet, I screenshot everything and gave them a dosage of their own medicine. That ex begged that I should stop. I didn’t even created those fake accounts and messaging everyone they know. My friends did that, not me. haha.

Timothy Alexander
Guest

Sometimes you do need to fight fire with fire. 😉

Shellyann36
Member
Shellyann36
Oh yes, the internet if full of trolls and I often wonder exactly what they do for a living if they are spending all of their time trolling online. I recently watched a Youtube feud unfold on the Tube and behind the scenes at a private forum. It was amazing the rumors one Youtuber started about the other and the false information given by this person to her followers. It eventually backfired because the person who was targeted stood her ground and set the record straight. Before the record was set straight though, several people had jumped on the proverbial… Read more »
Timothy Alexander
Guest

Trolls often cry victim when someone gets the better of them. Thanks for sharing the story.

Dlankulit
Member
Dlankulit
Some trolls do it for fun, make themselves feel good to bully, humiliate and harass people in public. Some are paid to do it to achieve a certain goal that they’ve been asked to. One should be prepared in taking harsh words and expect the worst in battling against a troll. There is a lot of people who get affected even if what was said against them is not true. If you become a target and they noticed that they can easily take you down, they won’t stop until they succeed in doing so. But if you know how to… Read more »
Doadex
Member
Doadex
I like the humor in this article. And very informative in bringing the awareness about these internet trolls. Internet is a vast place where anybody can do anything, because they can be anonymous. Obviously, there is a psychological issue with the people who behave like this. Maybe they have some insecurities, mental issues, emotional instabilities due to peer pressure, family problems or any other. And the sad thing is that some people fall prey to these predators. I think we are not doing enough to stop the trolls from ruining the internet and we need to implement a law or… Read more »
GanduraChururut
Member
GanduraChururut

In my country, most internet trolls became a source of memes. No one actually takes them seriously, unless they are attacking a certain celebrity or politician with a huge fandom. Their main goal is to butthurt a group of fans by exposing the dark side of a prominent people. In most cases, their post evokes humor and insult. However, what was written on the post is actually right, internet trolls enable us to see another perspective by exposing lies and negative side to a particular people or event.

Titojon
Member
Titojon
Trolls are everywhere in social media. They’re like a rat trap waiting for a mouse to take the bait. Like surveillance cameras waiting for you to make a mistake. Lucky enough for me that I can still manage not to fall prey with their annoying presence. But sometimes they really getting into my nerves that I will take some break for a couple of days before I open my social media accounts again. But sometimes also, they teach me some valuable lessons along the way. I learned that I have to be wiser everytime I leave a comment or write… Read more »
Flex
Member
Flex
I always heard this trolling on internet lately specially when we are discussing our country’s politics. This is because the opposition uses a lot of internet trolls to bring down the government and misled the people. But also there is an internet trolls that are pro-government and defending the trusted people in government. And all these trolls are bringing their good or bad intentions online, mostly in social media. This is quite alarming but in real life there are also trolls. I just don’t engage to them online or offline because I believe that I don’t need any approval from… Read more »
szerjhex18
Member
szerjhex18
Because internet now is very powerful, people now can say whatever they want in just typing on computer, their feeling about everything about how politics works, about the government that they not want , about the celebrities that they don’t really like. Because of that freedom of expression people didn’t realize they are becoming one of the annoying trolls. Sometimes it’s personal like one trolls giving hard and rude commenting about the celebrity or politician and the other was defending the them because she/he is a fan?. In the end they are fighting words on each other. It’s alarming because… Read more »
Timothy Alexander
Guest

Very true. A troll only has the power we give him/her.

Lexa
Member
Lexa
People are trolling without even realizing it because they see it everywhere and push those boundaries of what is acceptable and what isn’t. I have a Facebook group and in my rules I state no trolling as in being mean or to provoke someone deliberately. One member was pushing things swearing when I had warned her not to, and started deleting her posts. In the end others were messaging me saying that they couldn’t cope with her over dramatic posts and muted the group. I made a few comments such as, ” Where is the drama queen emoji for …?”… Read more »
stunayoshivongola B.
Member
stunayoshivongola B.

The best way to deal with an internet troll is just simply not to deal with them at all, because the fact that you bait with them they will more aggressive but if you ignore them they will just get bored because no one cares about them and move on.You will always have the will to mute them.Just think about happy thought do not entertain bad vibes.

kingcool52
Member

I never really understand why people want to get one over someone on the internet. Does trolling someone really make you feel a lot better than someone else? For me, it’s the exact opposite really. I think the best thing to probably do is to just ignore them. Trolls crave attention so if they are just ignored then they will eventually get bored and go somewhere else to find someone that will bite their bait and respond.

Haley
Member
Haley
Cyber bullying as its finest. I’ve read in the comments that “The best way to deal with troll is to not deal with them at all”, I cannot agree more! I personally experienced it on facebook, I am proud to myself, how I handled the situation. I remained calm and let her say anything and everthing she wants. Troll is someone you can not talk to nicely or give reasons they would accepts, they are close minded who thinks they are superior than you. So just letting them be is the best way for me, I was never affected for… Read more »
xobe
Member
xobe

Internet trolls is very annoying and it demotivates individual morale. Jealous is one major reason why a person acting like troll or some type of monster that might destroy you for whatever reason. They became so aggressive when they feel that the person is affected and have no chance to defend their status. I’m not seeing any benefits nor useful tips for being an internet trolls, much better if they will provide good commendation or suggestions based on their observance.

Lisa (@Lisapatb)
Guest

Great info on the trolls here Timothy. It amazes me sometimes how some people just love to argue and fight online. They will pick on anything to accomplish that. I try to respond always in a positive manner and in the end politely agree to disagree if we can’t come to any type of agreement. If they persist I may ignore but that’s a last resort.

Timothy Alexander
Guest

I know, right?! People seem to want to argue about absolutely everything… from politics to the color of the sky.

stunayoshivongola B.
Member
stunayoshivongola B.

To be honest trolls ruin the internet for everyone else.They have nothing better to do than to waste everybody’s time.Most of them mindlessly follow the crowd and post ridiculous insults because they think its fun.

Martinsx
Member
Martinsx

I absolutely agree that internet trolls are a menace to online activities. It can cause a lot hitches that if you aren’t carefully enough, it would ruin ones who work. Not making yourself a target for internet trolls is definitely a best way to go about avoiding the crisis that comes with one.

The information embedded in this write up is quite informative and educative as well. It definitely going to be come in handy in adding an online business freelancer or blogger etc to know how to tackle internet trolls.

szerjhex18
Member
szerjhex18

yes indeed, that’s why don’t give them the pleasure. Negative thoughts will stick around as long we believe in them.