Let’s talk about trolls, and I don’t mean the mythical creatures you find under bridges, I mean the trolls found in every corner of our digital world. As humans we each have values and opinions, but too many people have something to say about everything and everyone. These self-appointed critics think they should share whatever they’re thinking and they do so without thinking – about the impact or consequences.
Trolls behave in many ways, including –
Distracting with off-topic comments
Exaggerating, using absolutes (always/never)
Referencing random sources as facts
Trolls + Cyberbullies
Trolls are similar to cyberbullies, but the main difference is trolls want attention so they’ll make comments to start a fight, and they usually troll random people. In contrast, cyberbullies want to humiliate and control people, so they send hurtful messages usually to people they know, and try to get others to join in. In this episode I’m focusing on trolls, episodes 18 and 19 feature bully expert Nate Webb.
Don’t be a troll, too
Now I need to pause for a public service announcement: If you have been cyberbullying or trolling others, even when responding to another troll, as the Michael Jordan meme says, “Stop it. Get some help.”
Don’t be a troll, too. Not just with replying to a troll, I also mean don’t retaliate and tag or @ them in your own separate post. Trolls want to ruffle your feathers and cause a disruption. Don’t give them what they want. As former First Lady Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.”
How to Deal with Trolls
Here are some ideas to help you deal with trolls and critics.
When you receive a trolling message, the first thing you should do is … nothing. When you read that troll’s message, you’ll likely have an emotional and physical response. Immediately a bunch of thoughts could pop in your head about what the troll said, whether it was true, what you want to say back. You’ll likely also feel multiple emotions: shock, offense, anger, pain. And you might feel a physical response: increased heart rate, clenched jaw or fists, stomachache, face feels hot. If you reply when you’re all worked up, you’ll likely say or do something you wouldn’t do if you weren’t all worked up. Do not respond when you’re upset. Give yourself some time to get in a better headspace so you can think clearly about how you want to move forward.
Don’t respond, at all
You don’t have to. You don’t have to feed the troll. In episode 36 Sharon McMahon @sharonsaysso talked about how to turn confrontations into conversations. And one thing she pointed out is the need to consider whether that fight is worth having. And if it’s not, Sharon said to refuse to play the game. Quote, “You cannot lose what you do not play. I can’t lose a hockey game today because I’m not playing a hockey game today. Right? Refusing to get into the argument means you cannot lose the argument.”
You don’t need to reply. I’m not saying to ignore it. I’m definitely not dismissing it like, “He’s just being mean because he likes you,” or, “She’s just jealous.” Unkind behavior is never justified and shouldn’t be tolerated. You don’t have to respond, but you can document it, delete the message, mute/block/report if needed (more on that later). You don’t have to hang on to this and let it weigh you down. Set it down and move forward with your life. Honestly, in most cases, this is your best move. But if you have to respond …
Respond with respect and stand up for yourself
(not defensive that you attack back, remember don’t be a troll)
You can assert yourself: “I know who I am,” “I like myself,” “I don’t need others’ approval.”
You can establish your boundaries for what’s ok and what’s not ok with you: “It’s not ok to post that on my feed,” “if you can’t be respectful, I’ll have to block you.”
You can recognize that you each have different viewpoints: “I see that we have different views on this” “It’s ok that we don’t agree.”
Invite a discussion
If you truly want to understand this person’s point of view, like you already have a friendship with them and you feel like there’s potential for a deeper conversation, you can get curious. Ask them to tell you more about their views or what led them to feel a certain way about the issue. As Brene Brown said, “People are hard to hate close up.”
Whether you respond or not, take screenshots of your exchange, in case you need documentation or evidence now or later on.
Change your settings
In most apps there are settings you can change so the trolling doesn’t continue. You can Mute the troll or even Block them so they can’t see your feed or make comments. If they went too far, Report them – both to the app and to a trusted adult.
Talk to a trusted adult
Share what happened with a family member, teacher, or counselor. At the very least it can help you process your feelings. And if the situation is serious enough, they can help you handle it.
Make your profile private
To prevent random trolls, set your permissions to only people you know. And don’t chat/DM with people you don’t know–for multiple reasons.
Take a Break
Turn off notifications, limit app screen time, or delete the app for a few days (or more). Give yourself time to reset, and hopefully the troll will move on.
Even though trolls are part of our digital world doesn’t mean you have to put up with them. You can refuse to play their games, respectfully stand up for yourself, or not reply at all. Remember, you go high and move forward with positive people in your life.
How to Deal with Trolls Flowchart Poster Printable
To help you with this, I created a “How to Deal with Trolls Flowchart” poster for you to print out, personalize, and post on your wall where you’ll see it, remember it, practice it, and believe it — that’s the important part.
If you have a topic suggestion, I’d love to hear from you! Send an email (tweens get the OK from your parents) to [email protected] .
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