Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Don’t. Feed. The Trolls.

We’ve all heard the advice as far as Internet trolls are concerned: Don’t feed them.

There’s growing scientific evidence that response is the best one.

A study performed at the Federation University Australia reveals this:

"[W]hile antisocial personality traits do play a role, what really influences trolling behavior is the social pleasure derived from knowing that others are annoyed by it. The more negative social impact the troll has, the more their behavior is reinforced.”

Another study reveals two other not-surprising observations:

Trolls are more active late at night, and trolling peaks on Mondays – the beginning of the work week, when most people’s moods are naturally cycling through their crankiest.

Aditionally, conversations started by trolls tend to attract more trollish behavior, both as other trolls seen an opportunity to have their fun and as others respond, feeding the loop illustrated earlier.

So if you want to avoid trolls: Visit the internet early in the morning – certainly between 6 am and noon – and then DON’T FEED THE TROLLS.

Additionally, learn to filter ordinary cranky behavior from trollish behavior. We all get moody at times, and sometimes make remarks that were not intended to be trollish, but come off that way because we’ve used our own version of shorthand to explain our point, leaving out context and nuance that others might need to understand our point of view. So if someone responds to a comment negatively, the best thing to do is first to look at your original comment, and then see if the commenter has a point. Reclarifying what you said may diffuse the situation. And if it doesn’t, go back to that advice: DON’T FEED THE TROLLS.

Or if you have to, find a friend – someone you trust – to help you forge a response, and the option of not responding at all should always be on the table.

“My top piece of advice is find a friend,” says Nathan Matias, a Ph.D candidate studying online harassment at MIT quoted in this article. I think it’s always helpful to have someone you trust to help you make sense of—and decide how to respond to—a frustrating or potentially dangerous situation. Find someone to help you.”

Because we don’t want this to happen. We don’t want the trolls to win.

So what do I do?

I don’t troll. Or at least I don’t troll strangers. I may troll my friends on Facebook, but that’s the extent of it. And I don’t respond to trolls online. Though the temptation is there.

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