Be Better Than the Trolls

In rural America where I’m from, “trolling” is a fishing term. It’s where a baited fishing line is dragged behind a slowly moving boat in order to get a fish to bite. Although the internet is a different place than a lake full of trout, trolling is a very similar concept.

I could probably summarize this entire article with the following advice about internet trolls:

Don’t take the bait.

Shelby Hahn 500 Turns

You can stop reading now – but I hope you continue to read along and share your troll stories in the comments. 

Trolls in a Nutshell

Trolls have a special psychology that isn’t completely understood. If you’ve been on social media for any period of time, you’ve probably engaged with an internet troll at some point. If you are one of the lucky few who have safely avoided any troll encounters, here’s the deal. A troll posts inflammatory and/or malicious content, seemingly solely to provoke a response. And if you respond, they will lather, rinse, and repeat until you disengage or just block them. A couple screenshots from my Instagram account are shown below and honestly, they’re pretty mild. In extreme cases, it can easily escalate to racism, disrespect for the dead, and to extremes include terroristic rhetoric.

Troll Psychology

Disclaimer: Though I am a doctor, I’m not here to diagnose or declare these personality traits on a troll, I’m only building the profile and behavior typical of a troll.

So who is this troll you’re looking for?

  • He (yes, it is almost always male) is mildly sadistic and usually lacks empathy
  • Zero regret or remorse for his behavior
  • He thrives off of anarchy and negative social reward, i.e. he likes to disrupt and hurt
  • Some are outright psychopaths

All social media platforms are built on a community, and typical members of those communities seek positive social reward. Content creators and influencers who like “Likes” and engagement fall into this category, as does that random picture of your grandmother… I mean really, who doesn’t love grandma? The troll doesn’t – he’ll call her old and ugly. In reality, he may even like the picture. But hiding behind his keyboard, he likes the virtual neck punch he’s trying to give you much more. Imagine if your favorite celebrity (Michael B. Jordan, anyone?) liked and reposted a viral dad save video you posted. That joy and adrenaline rush that you feel is what the troll feels from mocking your fanny pack, dad bod, or Bronie t-shirt in that same video.

What Should I Do?

Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of effective ways to stop trolls from trolling. They need empathy development and social media isn’t the psychologists leather couch. Likely, unless there’s some societal or legal consequence, nothing will change. The best thing you can do is “don’t take the bait.” Ignore the comment or better yet – kill them with kindness. A simple “thanks for stopping by” will serve your purpose quite nicely!

Go ahead and share your favorite troll stories below, and let me know what you think!

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