This post is less for the kids than it is for the adults. I keep getting people emailing me about how to handle internet trolls. People who are rude and name call instead of discussing issues in the public forum that is the internet.
I’m afraid, most of the time these people don’t like my response. But it’s based in the behavioral science of how to get unwanted behavior to stop and common sense.
I am a denizen of the internet as much as anyone else and I do engage in political discussions Here are my rules.
1. Ignore the Trolls
You do not have to respond to everyone. In fact, it’s best that you don’t.
The other day I responded to something my local paper posted on mask usage in the time of Covid. The trolls came out in force. In less than 1 hour there were over 200 responses, most calling me out by name to call me names and imply any manner of things about me. I didn’t respond to any of those folks. There is no need. They are showing themselves for who they are. Trolls.
2. Understand your motive in posting
If your motive is to defend yourself, don’t post a reply. Just don’t. It isn’t necessary. In the post the other day, I had just as many people like it as laugh at it. My comments didn’t need to be defended because I posted factually correct information. People could read my post and read the idiots responding to it in rage. And me, not responding.
Think about what you think when you come across someone who posted something polite and rational and kind and what you think of the people who respond in rage in the comments below. You don’t need to defend yourself.
3. Know Your Audience
I never respond to the trolls. I will, however, occasionally correct misinformation. I don’t do this to educate the trolls. They are not interested in learning or in rational conversation. I post it to help the rational people know that what the trolls are saying isn’t correct.
My audience is the readers, not the trolls. This makes a huge difference in my response. All I have to do is post correcting information politely, without calling anyone names. People reading the comments, will see mine and see that it offers helpful information. That is literally the only reason I post. For those people looking for correcting information to see that in fact, there are factual challenges to the false narrative being presented. It let’s those people know, they aren’t alone. That’s my audience.
Does this work?
Yes actually it does. Kindness always works. I just made a new friend actually from this. One of my rather smart friends has gone done a conspiracy rabbit hole. So, I keep posting fact checks or post a link to the media bias fact check on the source. I don’t argue. I just post that this isn’t true and here is the correct information.
So far, my friend is not too happy about it and his conspiracy friends REALLY don’t like it, but some of his other non-conspiracy friends have reached out to me to thank me for a) being so kind to this guy and b) for not giving up on him and c) for doing it in a way that is respectful and dignified.
People who are reading the comments, may not always comment themselves, but they appreciate people who can be rational and kind and dignified in the face of some pretty crazy and mean things.
Being attacked on the internet can be unpleasant. But understand the people attacking you don’t know you. They are upset that their world view is being challenged. You cannot have a rational conversation with them so do not try.
You are in charge of your dignity. No one can take it with you. So if you are attacked, respond with dignity. Understand that you don’t need to defend your comments from trolls. And as long as you respond with dignity and compassion, you will be fine.
If you want to learn more about how this works, check out all the free content or take one of the courses.