If you’ve been on the internet for any length of time, you’ve learned that there are several loose screws running about. We usually call them trolls.
In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, either accidentally or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.
One of my biggest issues with hate mailers and internet trolls– other than the existence of such things at all– is the lack of organization in classification. It hardly seems fair to place the person who sends me pedantic emails about my abuse of commas in the same category as the woman who said she’d peel the ears off my cat. I notice others suffer from the same problem because I often see run-of-the-mill dissenters or devil’s advocates cast as hate-mailers and trolls. The definition seems harsh, but there is no other clear way to indicate.
When I run into problems like this, I put on my thinking cap and Dr. Mc Stuffin’s lab coat. I sit down with my husband (http://graysonqueen.wordpress.com) and after a few energy drinks, we crank out a theory. I know you’re thinking that this basically makes me a scientist, but please be sure to read the Methods & Limitations before ascribing to any such conspiracy theories.
Notes, Methods, & Limitations:
- This is just for fun. Don’t take it too seriously, okay? We’re not scientists!
- There are six named troll types, each ranked in intervals of 2 from 0-10, much like the standard pain scale.
- I save all my email and we sorted anything I instinctively flagged as “hate mail”. This totaled 913 notes. Don’t worry, friends, many were from the same people. We used this as organizational reference.
Let’s delve into troll typology, shall we?
Level 0 – The Triggered Troll
For lack of a better expression, this is an accidental troll. Something you’ve said or done has set them off. This is not to say their venom is justified, only that it didn’t bloom from nothingness. They probably don’t usually go around making people feel bad, but they’ve been offended enough to draw some blood.
Signs that you’re dealing with a Triggered Troll:
- This is not their normal online personality.
- They are speaking from a place of personal experience and hurt.
- They offer no clear recourse. Responding to their critique would take an entire post, if you even know where to begin. Yet, there’s a hint here of a possibility that a solution can be reached.
In this scenario, everyone is right. It doesn’t matter if your post is about the cuteness of cats and their comment is about how they’re actually hideous beasts. This is a conflicted experience issue. They are entitled to their life experience, but you are entitled to protect your online space and keep it free of anything that hurts you in any way. If you want to engage, apologize for unwittingly being a trigger, accept their point of view as valid, and re-explain clearly what you intended to say. In many cases, perhaps this is best done in private.
Level 2 – The Vigilante Troll
This is what happens to a normal, slightly loose screw when no one tries to put it back in. It wiggles a little more loose. This particular troll searches out topics that are intended to annoy them.
Signs that you’re dealing with a Vigilante Troll:
- Their own home on the internet is probably a dedication to their cause.
- They say things like,”I suggest you examine your privilege”, and “I just wanted you to have all the facts”. The inflammatory remarks are couched in over-intellectualization, with a general overtone that suggests you didn’t have the right to post what you posted.
- They often focus on one sentence or thought, buried in a post with many concepts.
In this scenario, probably them. Unless you’re a career vigilante troll, fighting for the other side, they’ve probably spent several hundred extra hours researching. The truth is, though, it doesn’t matter. There’s a positive way to start a dialogue, and their education (no matter how make-shift) should have provided them with the kind, gentle words necessary. If what they said was hurtful, it was akin to purposefully throwing a bar stool at your head. Worse, they sought out the fight. It doesn’t matter who’s right here, because you’re dealing with a bully. Just remember that it’s not personal. They pick these fights everywhere, with everyone who touches on their topic, and there’s little you can say to change their methodology. Attempting to argue is not the best use of time because they have canned retorts. Let their commentary stand if possible, or it could escalate.
Level 4 – The Personal Troll
This troll just doesn’t like you. If you’re for peace, it’s against it. If you like sunsets, it thinks they cause earthquakes. If you advocate drinking water, they advocate dying of dehydration.
Signs that you’re dealing with a Personal Troll:
- They’re one of your biggest fans in their own strange way.
- They say things like, “*sigh* Here you go again,” or You are… statements that, well, don’t end with happy sunshine.
- They often reach outside the boundaries of your medium,trolling you on multiple platforms.
You. Be on team you. Block them if you can. Ignore them always. They’re hoping you engage them, so don’t. Don’t let your friends engage, they are prime secondary targets.
Level 6 – The Nemesis Troll
This is a vigilante troll who has set their sights on you. You are their bad guy. If they can bring you down, they will win. All they have to do is prove to everyone that you’re wrong…
Signs that you’re dealing with a Nemesis Troll:
- They passive-aggressively refer to you in other comments, posts, or alternate social mediums– but aggressive-aggressively speak to you directly.
- They are dedicated to their mission, and base many arguments on your arguments to the contrary.
- They often reach outside the boundaries of your medium, trolling you on multiple platforms.
You. This person depends on you for sustenance. Do not feed the trolls. This type of troll has an end game so you may need to engage on occasion to redirect or stop their tirade. Be direct, upfront and public. Do not engage privately.
Level 8 – The Cannibal Troll
Cannibal trolls are aplenty around the internet. It’s important to keep your distance and remember that while their actions are not personal, it’s easy to get caught in the crosshairs. This troll lives for killing and devouring other trolls. They cannot be used as weapons against other trolls, because they cannot be controlled.
Signs that you’re dealing with a Cannibal Troll:
- They don’t seem to be aware that they’re on your little piece of the internet.
- They instigate arguments with no purpose other than to get a rise out of people, you, or your friends.
- They bite.
Who knows? This fight isn’t yours to involve yourself with, it’s only yours to clean up. Generously moderate. Delete, block, hide– use your tools at will!
Level 10 – The Death Troll
This Death Troll is a rare breed, and thank goodness, because they are totally off their rocker. This screw goes far beyond being loose. It’s full-on stripped.
Signs that you’re dealing with a Death Troll:
- They threaten you, or those you love.
- They make you feel trapped, or afraid to come out and play on the internet.
- The primary emotion they incite is fear.
You. Save all correspondence. Do what you can to report this person, and be sure your friends are informed as stages progress. Be careful because they may not just be crazy on the internet. They may be a real life loose screw.
Well, we hope this helps with troll recognition and diagnostic, as well as understanding and our favorite made-up word: solutionizing.
And now, because I couldn’t possibly say it better than my favorite world leader, here’s 20 things we should start saying more often in hopes of creating a troll-free world:
Hello person I’ve never met before, here’s a high five!
What are your tips for troll maintenance? What are some positive things you think we should all be saying more of?