Trolls are rife on Social Media. Once upon a time I’d read a mean tweet and get myself all hung up about it. I’d think to myself, am I really THAT bad. The thing with trolls is, they’re exactly that, they’re trolls. They feed off being grade A bullies who get their kicks out of putting others down for their own messed up gain. You might find yourself wondering, who are these people? Chances are you’ll never find out because they hide behind fake profiles & stolen pictures and identities. They’re cowards.
Trolling, who does it and why?
Think about it, in real life, it would be an incredibly rare occurrence for someone to stop you on the street and be all like “Lay off the pies!” That’s because people wouldn’t dream of being so cruel to your face. Well most people, some people are rotten to the core. Anyway, my point is, people, hide behind these made-up fake personas because they are cowardly. They’d never in a million years dream of using their real names and selfies. Why? Because that makes them vulnerable to scrutiny and there’s no way they’d put themselves online for all to judge.
Why you shouldn’t care:
The thing with trolls is you’ve gotta look at the bigger picture. Firstly, who are these people? Honestly, they’re probably individuals who have a serious lack of self-confidence. They waste a considerable amount of time sending others abuse in a really messed up way to make themselves feel better. When you think about it that way it’s kinda really sad. These people quite clearly need some form of help.
However, on the other hand as someone who has suffered from self-confidence issues, I’d never ever send someone such hate. Nor would I use my personal struggle as a way of justifying such cruelty sent online. As the saying goes “blowing out someone’s candle doesn’t make yours shine any brighter.” But sadly some people don’t think so rationally. They couldn’t give two hoots about anyone else and ultimately there are grown men and women who simply get their kicks out of being awful. It’s as simple as that.
Are trolls all the same? Do they share a trait?
Obviously, a lack of confidence isn’t the only thing that can drive people to troll. Over at The Conversation a team from Stanford University shared some research into exactly why people troll. They found that basically anyone is capable of becoming a troll. One thing they did discover was that those who were put into negative moods were much more likely to start trolling. They also found that trolling can be spread from person to person. They discovered that one troll comment in a discussion can lead to an increase in troll comments. The scariest part? This can then lead to troll comments being posted elsewhere online and thus the cycle of negativity continues.
But back to the question, I asked previously: Who are these people? To you, they are absolute nobodies. Their opinion shouldn’t matter to you. One of my all-time favourite quotes by Dr Seuss is “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” That quote is so very true because the opinions of random people who ultimately want you to feel like rubbish shouldn’t matter at all.
Why am I being trolled and targeted?
One thing I used to ask myself is “Why do I get so much hate” I used to have at length conversations with two very important people in my life. I used to say to them “I don’t get it, I’m nothing but nice to people. I’m always supportive and myself yet I constantly get abuse hurled at me. Why? Am I a horrible person? Do I deserve it?” The thing is I didn’t and don’t deserve any abuse.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a super supportive person. I like to try to be there for everybody and anybody. I know what it’s like to be down in the dumps and suffering from poor mental health. Because of my experiences, I never want anyone to feel that way and I would listen to a completely random person if it meant that they’d feel that little bit better. Honestly? I care too much about the wellbeing of others. Some might say it’s a personality flaw but it’s me, it’s just who I am.
Another side of me can be incredibly witty, quick-thinking, funny, creative and clever with words. This makes me pretty damn good at creating content that is engaging and gives people a chuckle. Because of these factors, I am able to create content that, dare I say, people like and enjoy. It’s content that people find amusing. Because of this people interact with me and on social, my tweets get shared and often reach many people. Although on my personal account I don’t have thousands of followers, my engagement is high. I have myself a circle of people who I love and have built relationships with.
The bigger reach you have, the more of a troll target you become
To me personally, engagement will always trump follower count and I wish more people would realise that. Seriously, a small amount of loyal followers who engage is far greater than having 50k followers who don’t even interact with you. This last month my tweets received 2M impressions. In the grand scheme of social media that number is nothing. However, my engagement rate is what many would consider being high. This is what makes my account vulnerable to nasty pasties. Think of it this way, the more impressions and interactions my tweets receive, the more exposed to these individuals my account becomes. And you know what? there is nothing trolls love more than trying to target people who they think are reaching many people on the bird app.
There’s also a growing pattern that I’ve noticed and that is that when a tweet of mine receives lots of likes and retweets the trolls come out in force and they come in waves. They’ll reply to me with abuse. They tend to either do one of two things. The first is that they aggressively disagree with whatever I’ve written regardless of whether its a fact or an opinion. Seriously, I could tweet about a cold hard undisputed fact and a troll would take it upon themselves to tell me that I’m wrong. The other go-to trolling technique that I see often consists of hurling really unoriginal insults. Nine times out of ten make zero sense. I think this is the funniest kind of trolling tactic as it proves they’re clutching at straws and you’ve somewhat really rattled their cage.
Trolls crave attention
I’ve already touched on the fact that trolls do their trolling because they’re trying to make themselves feel better in a really messed up way. However, another thing that gets trolls rilled up is seeing others being successful and receiving that attention that they oh so crave. So if you look at it from a different perspective you could potentially say that getting trolled is a somewhat backhanded compliment as you’ve done something successful i.e your tweet has reached a big audience and they’re jealous and bitter that it’s not them who has experienced that success. That and the fact that they target tweets that do well because they think they’ll further their own reach and get them noticed.
How to deal with online trolls
Dealing with trolls can be a difficult task but there are a few steps you can take. Firstly? Grow a thick skin. Now I know, I know, it’s not as simple as that. People used to tell me this all the time and I’d say “It’s not as simple as that!” Trust me I used to incredibly sensitive whenever someone sent me a nasty comment. However, now I just don’t care, if anything I find it kinda comical. Every time I receive a hate-filled message I remind myself that I’m not the problem, the person doesn’t know me and what they say is a load of old trash. Sure it still baffles me that these people waste such a large amount of time carrying out these petty little acts of toxicity. However, you won’t find me getting all upset.
Don’t be afraid to block and report
Aside from growing a thick skin? Become besties with the block button. By blocking these accounts you prevent them from being able to interact with you, thus instantly shutting them up and removing them from your mentions. Some people say that you shouldn’t opt for blocking. Instead, you should just ignore them and move on. But honestly? It’s your account. If you want to block them, you damn well do it. I personally block these accounts because they clutter up my mentions and they shouldn’t be given the privilege of seeing my awesome content.
Also, it’s good to keep in mind that if at any point you feel like these trolls are being particularly abusive you are well within your rights to report their tweets and even report harassment to the authorities. Usually, trolls give up and move on but sometimes these people can turn particularly nasty and you may find yourself feeling in danger. If this occurs, contact the police. No one should be made to feel like this. Also, if you receive abuse such as death threats, threats of criminal damage and if you’re stalked I’d highly recommend having a chat with the police because according to the CPS these are all potential criminal offences.
There need to be consequences
All in all, I find the act of online trolling both baffling and disgusting. I am baffled at why anyone would want to spend large amounts of their precious time doing such a pointless act. I am disgusted at the hate they spread and the vile language that they use when targeting individuals. Will the world ever be troll-free? I highly doubt it. However, I hope that in the future we see a rise in punishment for this vile behaviour as there really needs to be consequences so that people realise that they can’t get away with trolling.
And to the trolls out there: Just because you’re behind a keyboard with your identity hidden doesn’t make the abuse you send acceptable or less revolting. Please take a step back to ask yourself what’s really going on. Ask yourself exactly why are you doing what you’re doing. Maybe then you’ll understand how unacceptable this behaviour is. You might even begin to realise that spending your time being a pleasant human being is a lot more wholesome.