At first, I didn’t think that I could make this post more than once sentence:
Internet trolls are the worst.
But that isn’t really enough to convince people who think that internet trolls are harmless, or that if people ignore the trolls, they’ll just go away. Those people have clearly never had an internet troll come after them.
The internet is supposed to be a great equalizer: everyone can talk about their own opinion and theories, especially in like-minded niche type forums. The internet should be a free exchange of ideas and opinions, silly cat videos, and those recipe videos I can never recreate no matter how hard I try. It is a great way to spread information (or alternative facts).
Internet trolls, for whatever reason, feel like the internet belongs exclusively to them. They often hide behind fake names and anonymous accounts, and often have more than one account in case one gets shut down. These trolls want nothing more than for people (and let’s face it, their targets are usually women) to be afraid to express their thoughts and opinions. If you disagree with some belief of theirs, no matter how far out there it is, they’re going to come after you quickly and relentlessly. They’re not going to come at you with logic or intelligence, either. It’ll be a lot of “go kill yourself,” threats of violence, or insults.
I was listening to the radio a while ago in my car and a reporter was talking about how he wrote an article—backed up with lots of sources and was found to be factually accurate—but it was an unpopular idea. This reporter suddenly found himself to be under attack by internet trolls. They didn’t just send him death threats. They threatened his entire family. They even went so far on Twitter as to send him photoshopped pictures of his young daughter being tortured. Just because they didn’t like what he said. And it was the truth!
It can, and does, happen to people who aren’t reporters, too. Anyone who posts on social media may find themselves the victim of a troll attack. It could be a post you make on facebook that gets a larger audience than you originally intended. It could be a tweet that isn’t on a private account. It doesn’t even have to be an opinion. It could be a picture that you’re tagged in that they happen to see and, for whatever reason, they decide you look like a good target.
Trolls have nothing better to do than sit around and look for people to belittle and mock. They feel much better about themselves when they are sitting safely behind a screen, using their keyboards as the ultimate weapon. And because they’re usually hiding behind fake accounts, their victims often don’t have much recourse to avoid them.
If you’ve ever had to fight with one, you’ll know: it’s worse when you engage with them. It’s hard to report them and get them blocked—they often know the end-user policies and are able to skate a very thin line around it, or they simply create a new account and continue their assault.
I’m not saying that you should avoid being online. Just be safe and be smart out there. My best advice to avoid internet trolls is to protect your own privacy. If you’re writing and posting online, be sure to take the geotag off your camera. Keep a dedicated email account for the social media accounts you create. Read the privacy policies on the sites you use to post and comment. Make your accounts as private as possible. Finally, be sure that you understand what your options are if you are a victim of a troll attack.