Joining the Fight Against Internet Trolls
I had read and heard of these kind of comments before: obscene, ridiculous statements and questions posted by a person only empowered by the cloak of their computer screen. I have seen article after article about GamerGate, and even just last week read about Curt Schilling’s daughter receiving an onslaught of lewd comments just because he posted a congratulations for his her getting recruited by a great college. To be on the receiving end of such “trolling” was something I suppose I should have prepared myself for as a young, vocal woman in a very digital age; but with some air of naivety, I suppose, I never really thought about it happening to me. And then it did, within just a day of a fun interview-style blog post about me going live.
It saddens me to think we live in a world where people think it is appropriate, amusing, entertaining, valid – or whatever their reasoning is – to talk to a fellow human being this way. To throw out derogatory, degrading statements; to ask very explicit and personal questions; to use slurs and slander… the list goes sadly on, as does the variety of people attacked based on their gender, race, religion, disability or any other thing that may be pinpointed. It makes me angry and hopeless and a mix of emotions all at once as I hear other people’s stories, and as I sit at my computer reading something said so personally to me – and so publicly – by a face I can’t even see.
This is the part where I want to tell you the way I defeated my troll hiding under the bridge: I didn’t respond back. While I’d love to say I vanquished him and felt some type of Internet justice, I can’t – not yet anyway. The truth is (and while there may of course be some exceptions), the very best way to approach an Internet troll is not to approach them at all (at least via their very public method of trolling). To engage with them in this way is to give them any of the attention of which they are so desperately, pathetically seeking. Let them sit behind their computer screen waiting, alone. And don’t let it come. Don’t engage in responding directly to the trolling they sat there so joyously writing because that will only perpetuate the situation. However cunning and clever you may think your response is (and it probably truly is), whatever we all may view as a perfect “burn”, they still see as a successful engagement with their behavior – a reason to continue it. They will twist it and even likely respond back. They may very well see your shut down as a challenge – one they’re up for. And if you really, truly feel you must respond, because I know not everyone will agree with me: please, do so thoughtfully – wait until your emotions have settled rather than as a gut reaction.
Now don’t be mistaken; I am not saying don’t do anything at all. If you can find another means of tracking them down safely and taking (legal) courses of action, that is your decision to make – although I recommend not making it alone (talk it out, and make sure someone else knows what you’re doing). Most of all though, let’s take this opportunity to join the discussion and the fight against such behavior. Find an outlet to open the doors to education and appropriate action, and hope it might reach these individuals. Help teach the current and future generations what appropriate Internet, and human, behavior looks and sounds like.
Let us find better solutions. Do I know what the answer is? Absolutely not. But all I hope for is a way to open up the discussion and inspire others to do the same. Perhaps more people like Curt Schilling and other victims will step up and step in, making sure real-life action and consequences are able to be taken against Internet trolls. More social technology companies, too, are realizing the need to address these issues both before they even happen and after. There is still a long road ahead, but we have to start somewhere.
I’d love to hear other peoples’ experiences and ideas on what we can do as we fight this, together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: NICOLE NISS
I came to Boston to get my BA in Organizational Communication from Northeastern University, fell head over heels for the city of Boston, and never left. Currently the Boston General Manager at Tablelist, I oversee venue and customer relations. Previously, I worked as an Account Executive for Streetwise Media (BostInno, Chicago Inno, & InTheCapital), and headed up Field Marketing in the New England Region for OtterBox. I love getting to be a part of such a vibrant entrepreneurial community here in Boston. My other passions include photography, writing, brunch (especially bacon), and meeting new people.