Set Boundaries To Defend Against Trolls

Trolling.

It happens a lot online and in real life.

Supposedly, well-meaning, individuals who have an opinion on how you are doing things wrong. You could say that trolling is a form of shaming. On the internet, it usually involves someone commenting, negatively, about something that you have written or said (in a video, for instance). In real life, it usually involves someone commenting, negatively, about something they heard about you or something they see or heard you do or say.

It sometimes starts off as a, supposedly, innocent comment. For instance, the individual may start off with a compliment, “That’s a nice skirt, you’re wearing.”

This innocent comment is then followed up with what seems like an innocent question, “Isn’t that skirt a little short?”

You may respond, politely, “Thank you. I’ve got great legs, this skirt shows them off.”

The, supposedly, well-meaning individual then follows up with a comment with an obviously negative under-tone, “Well, I think women your age should stick to clothing that doesn’t show off their legs. You aren’t 25, anymore.

At this point, you are probably pretty perturbed, whether you know the individual or not. Who does this person think they are, pretending to compliment you, on the one hand and then insulting you, on the other hand?

You’ve been touched by a troll.

Your natural instinct may be to defend and stand up for yourself; to tell this person to go and kick rocks. But, trolls are nourished by your defensiveness. This feeds their ego. In fact, to them, your defensiveness or anger is “proof” that they were right, because you wouldn’t be so defensive if they weren’t telling the truth…ad nauseum.

My natural instinct is to either, get geared up for a rant-speech (in real life) or start doing finger exercises to get ready for an epic take-down of literary proportions. Before I knew better, this was my go-to method of handling trolls. I learned, the hard way, that all I was doing was wasting my breath and wasting my time responding, because trolls don’t care what you have to say for yourself. You will never change their mind. Every word feeds their ego; it’s proof that they are winning. Just knowing that they have gotten under your skin will suffice, no matter if you have facts, science, proof-positive experiences from one-hundred people just like you. They don’t care. They only care that they have annoyed you.

The best way to deal with individuals who present as trolls, on the internet or in real life, is simple: Do Not Engage with them. Don’t feed their egos. If there is one thing that a troll can’t stand, it’s being ignored. If they are truly “well-meaning,” they’ll get the hint, they’ll understand your boundaries. If they’re not they will hit the road, unfortunately, to go off and troll some new unsuspecting individual.

I’ve read a few articles in the past that bemoan the idea that either public discourse is too divisive or that individuals are more prone than ever to segregate or sequester themselves among more like-minded cohorts, rather than engage with people who disagree with them. I believe that, repeated incidents, of trolling is part of that problem.

I believe that respect among individuals is paramount for any meaningful discourse. Why would I want to engage in any kind of communications with someone who is negative, condescending, rude and disrespectful? If ignoring trolls is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

It’s much harder to deal with trolls that you live with or work with. You just have to ask yourself, “Is this mole-hill really worth turning into a mountain? Do I want to give up my time and energy to argue the merits of this issue?” If it’s not important, then let the troll have the last word. If it is important, keep your response short and succinct, then walk away, with your dignity intact.

If you are online, remember that your blog or your social media account is not a democracy. You are in control. Block, ignore, delete, unfollow, unlike, and unfriend are your best tools of defense. Life is hard enough in the real world. You don’t have to let your online life become filled with negative individuals if you don’t have to. You have every right to enjoy your online life, even if it means you only engage with people who help to push your happiness buttons or who have similar ideas, opinions, and values. Don’t let the naysayers have you believe that you should welcome everybody into your online world for a more open-minded experience.

As an aside, I’ve noticed a lot of nasty political trolling of late and it has caused me to re-evaluate my own social media contacts. It doesn’t even matter to me if I am the one being trolled (knock wood: I have not been trolled, personally). I see one of my “friends” trolling someone else, being rude and disrespectful to another “friend”, online, and I have no interest in viewing that nastiness on a daily basis. I live with that nastiness at work, I don’t want to witness it at home. It’s one thing to engage, positively and respectfully, with someone you disagree with, it’s another thing to throw out insults and expect that the receiver will then bend to your will. It’s a form of bullying and, having been bullied for most of my life, I can no longer tolerate it or stand by and witness it.

If someone comes into your sphere, whether online or in real life, and they are not bringing out the best sides of you, it’s best to not engage. Set those boundaries, firmly, and consistently, they won’t miss you and you certainly won’t miss them.

This is just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

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