ra-son troll scale – a study of loose screws

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.

chest

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.

honeydewbeakerWhen 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.
The Ra-Son Troll Scale
The Ra-Son Troll Scale (Click to enlarge.)

Let’s delve into troll typology, shall we?

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Ra-Son Troll ScaleLevel 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.

Who’s right?

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.

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Level2 - Vigilante TrollLevel 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.

Who’s right?

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.

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Level4- PersonalTrollLevel 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.

Who’s right?

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.

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Level6 -NemesisTrollLevel 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.

Who’s right?

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.

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Level8 - CannibalTrollLevel 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’s right?

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!

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Level10 - DeathTrollLevel 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.

Who’s right?

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.

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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:

I’ll start…

Hello person I’ve never met before, here’s a high five!

internet-high-five

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What are your tips for troll maintenance? What are some positive things you think we should all be saying more of?

115 thoughts on “ra-son troll scale – a study of loose screws

  1. I love this scale. My blog’s “trolls” have been the triggered variety to date, which has made me feel a little conflicted when moderating their comments . . . and moderate I do. I usually don’t engage before moderating because that sends signals that I welcome all dialog on my blog, when the fact is I don’t. It must be direct, polite and targeted/non-tangential for me to let it stand.

    I spend enough time in contentious dialogue working that I don’t want my space online to be a forum for others arguing peripheral points with me. I recognize their freedom to engage in such dialogue generally, but that freedom does not mandatorily extend to mys space online. There is not enough time or energy in my days to apportion any of it to these particular comments!

    I try to keep my own comments positive and thoughtful, but I admit to posting sometimes and realizing my comments came off totally different than I intended. I want to build people up as best I can, which fact has so far been understood in light of total transactions with a given blogger even if the comment came out wrong. Phew!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Deborah– this is such an important note. I didn’t want to go into another thousand word about boundaries, but it changes everything– if you are not writing to encourage that type of dialogue, then you have ZERO responsibility to let any of it stand. If you are writing with the express purpose of encouraging this sort of dialogue, then the rules change yet again. 🙂 I think many people are like you where they want their space to be a space, entirely-conflict-free space… and I completely get that! Every time I engage in one of these dialogues that start hurtfully, it takes the wind out of my blogging sails for at least a day! Overall, for me, I think it’s worth it. Many of my dearest blogging friends started as triggered trolls, so I continue to try to work through them… but oh-do-I-ever understand the desire not to do so! 🙂 Thank you again for your insight! *high five*

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  2. Interesting post Rara – it is very thought provoking to see trolls categorized and described this way. It makes me wonder if I have been guilty of accidentily being a troll when a topic I am emotional about comes up for discussion. I’m afraid I may have been and will watch in future. Thanks!

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    1. I’m sure I’ve been a troll myself, Paul– it’s something I try to remember, but it’s hard to keep it in mind when triggered. Internet communication can be so tricky! 🙂 The best we can do is try to do the best we can do. 🙂

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  3. My hand is bigger than your internet high-five hand… 🙂
    Cool categorization of trolls. What would you call an “internet person” who mails you which is sort of a love letter but it includes such words and “things” that you are rather left feeling disgusted about it. It happened with me and I guess, there comes for you another category of troll.
    Hope you are doing good, Rarasaur. 🙂

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    1. I’m doing well, HA– how are you?

      My hand is bigger, too! I didn’t even think to compare it to the size of my real hand. 🙂 As to your trolls… I’ve had a few of those, and to me, they are Level 4s– personal trolls– at least if I feel I’ve explained my boundaries. They’re my number one fans, seemingly, but also, very firmly in the compartment of someone making me feel bad/uncomfortable. Be careful.

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  4. Ha!! My mantra for the Internet is be who you are online as in real life. It works for me! fortunately I havn’t had to deal with trolls, but that maybe because not many people read my blog! Always enjoy reading yours!!

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    1. I follow the same rule, though I put my foot in my mouth often enough in real life that I know I do it online life, too… 😀 Plus, I have the tiniest sliver of a temper. I try to keep that moderated online, and offline.

      I’m so glad no trolls have stomped over in the wonder that is your blog! 😀

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      1. Thanks rarasaur – I am sometimes so socially inept I wouldn’t notice a troll if one came up and hit me! I have two sons, 18 and 21 who never fail to tell me how weird I am! ( I don’t think I am!)

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        1. Haha! I’m also oblivious to my strange. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me I was weird when I had no idea what they were talking about… well, I could probably fill all the pockets of all my clothes with nickels! 🙂

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  5. It’s so funny that you said “Don’t feed the trolls.” because one of my friends told me the exact same thing recently. I’ve dealt with plenty but, thankfully not on here yet.

    It still makes me sad/a little angry that you get hate mail because you are my internet buddy. Although, you seem to have a method for dealing with them & I applaud you for that. Crazy people tend to trigger my own breed of crazy so – I don’t deal with it well. Hopefully, I’ll find some armor for that in the future.

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  6. I love this scale and I love this advice. As you know I have had my fair share of haters. I wish there was less crazy in the world, but I think if anything, it makes us appreciate the good people more when we find them.

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    1. Oh yes, the wonders of the world far outweigh the trolls. When I made the picture of the chest with the screws sticking out, I liked to imagine that inside the trunk was filled to the brim with all wondrous goodness. 😀

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  7. Superb, Rara – so well said. I utterly agree – and am going to share this every which way! Down With Trolls! xxx

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  8. Really enjoyed this – will keep this in mind if and when I encounter said under-the-bridge-toll-keepers-and-scallywags. I haven’t had the pleasure (?) of a troll in a year-and-a-half of blogging, so this post might serve to help me down the road.

    I have seen trolls on some of the online forum that I frequent, but that is strictly a vigilante type, on your scale. Stir the pot and watch the fireworks type troll. But those are easy to dismiss in a public forum (but the thing is that someone inevitably will engage – that’s the advantage of trolling on multi-user platforms).

    Anyway, I am aghast that you have almost one thousand pieces of hate mail…that blows the mind. Glad you have the right perspective in keeping it at bay and not letting it affect you. Bravo and kudos 🙂

    Paul

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  9. I personally haven’t come across any trolls, which possibly is because I don’t have a lot of people reading my blog, but I’ve seen friends who have to deal with them on a day-to-day basis and it’s just very sad.
    This is some great advice on how to deal with these trolls, so thank you for that this! 🙂

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  10. I’m trying to categorize mine now, but not sure where they fall LOL.

    Mine are more spontaneous, “pick on the key words” types since they come up on any post that has a picture of me or discusses body image, eating disorders, or similar topics. I have a feeling they go around to others doing the same thing, because making fat and ugly jokes=funny to them, but it still hurts given the subject matter.

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  11. love the scale! i am flying under the radar i suppose and haven’t really attracted trolls. the only hate mail i have really received was about the skeleton dolls i made? someone emailed me and accused me of glorifying death, and selling death to children.

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  12. First, I can’t believe you would ever receive a hate mail. Unless someone is totally opposed to humor, good will and kindness, and awesomesauceness.
    Second, I totally high fived you through my computer.
    Third, your scale is a go to and will be (should be) Fresh Pressed for all to be able to access and refer to.

    🙂

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    1. Thank you, Tess! It was actually super easy to put them into the categories once I saw them all spread out… I have a knack for organization, 😀 But yes, for the most part, not engaging with trolls is the best plan! 🙂

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  13. This is so awesome. I’ve been lucky when it comes to trolls. The only experience I ever had was with someone just arguing “factually” with other commenters but it never reached a nasty level.

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    1. Dialogue is awesome, and so important to me… so the factual arguments, while potentially annoying, are pretty fascinating. Trolling crosses the line, and it gets so murky when you’re feelings are already hurt, so I wanted to put something together that might help think rationally when you maybe can’t. 😀 Thank you for reading it, Deanna!

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    1. SoulPancake and Kid President are the BEST. 🙂 So are corndogs, ha! 😀 And yep, that was my one and only death troll. I can’t shake the mental image of it, either!

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  14. Thank you this was an entertaining and informative post. I love the fact that you and your husband came up with this scale after powering up with some energy drinks. I have yet to meet any trolls but if I ever do I now have a guide in how to deal with them so *high five* for that!!!

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    1. My hubby and I obviously drink way too much caffeine, ha! 😀 I am pleased that I married someone who would so happily make me pictures of screws with eyeballs on them. It’s a good life, ha! 🙂 *high five*

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    1. Nasty, indeed! I opted not to talk about the email in front of my cats because it was awful, but luckily it was my one and only death troll. I’m so glad you’ve been troll-free and I wish you the same forever and ever! 🙂 *high five*

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  15. I’ve seen kid president videos before and I think they’re terrific. This video should be sent to everyone in DC and a few other people since we’ve lost the ability to have a conversation. But I didn’t know about trolls and I do now and after I read your post I know there are a lot of mean spirited people who I call snipers. They use the net to attack and damage people’s reputation but aren’t man or woman enough to come out of the dark and say what they mean.

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    1. 😀 You’re so right. I consider Kid President to be the Internet President, and I love his stance on, well… everything. Be kind. Be awesome. What more do we need to know? 🙂

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  16. We’ve all been trolled … and experienced each of your well-defined levels. I have a couple of FOLLOWERS who scare me to death. These people arsenals and are planning to kill everyone who doesn’t agree with them.

    We can’t control who follows us — but what in the world would attract them to ME? It’s very disturbing. Made me consider contacting homeland security — except I figure with all they spying, they are already on it. Some of these people are dangerous. Level 11!

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  17. Great post! If I ever get trolled I’ll refer back to it to see what the best course of action is.
    It must have been quite a job to go through your “hate mail”, not just the volume but having to read it. You’ve got guts, Rara (and Grayson)!

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  18. Some people don’t even have any screws left to come loose. I am one of the lucky ones, no trolls as of yet. Sorry you and Dave have to put up with that mess. Glad you guys have your screws tight. (Oh, that sounded kind of dirty. LOL)

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  19. I haven’t been trolled on my blog, thankfully, but a few years ago I got attacked by a nasty bunch of gossip-mongers and conspiracy theorists on other sites. I just ignored it because responding to bullies like that often makes them act worse.

    As for positive things that may discourage trolling, I make a point of always using “we” language when I write about areas in which our society needs improvement, to make clear that I am including myself in the criticism rather than just blaming others.

    High five right back at you!

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  20. Thanks for the high five. First one I’ve had today. Loose screws scare me. They usually involve some type of injury, physical or otherwise. Thanks for all the advice. I will bookmark this and keep it handy!

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  21. I have never dealt with trolls. I don’t think I would know what to do if someone attacked me personally except humbly apologize. This was a very interesting and sophisticated look at hate talk. Great reading and excellent work on parsing it out.

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  22. Rara, what a wonderful piece, I am quite impressed, and this will go into the save bin. I have been blogging for 18 months now, and to be frank I do not believe I have encountered a troll or loose screw. I can’t even remember a seriously negative remark. And I hope I never do, because as great as this post is I don’t know if i could let it ride, if attacked I would most likely jump right into it and they would win. So this document is going to hang around for quick reference. Take care, Bill

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  23. solutionizing…LOVE! I’ve never had a troll on my blog but have had many attack me on forum-type sites. I kind of expected an attack on a comment I posted about a controversial subject on someone else’s blog, but just had a bunch of people agreeing with me. So not fair that you have so much hate mail. Who can hate Rara? Inexplicable, I say!

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    1. Thank you, Rose! I always call Dave a solutionizer because there’s nothing he can’t solve. 🙂 It’s so funny because my most controversial stuff doesn’t inspire anything. It’s posts about animals in ponchos and my religion that kick start most of the mail. I don’t know why, but I do know that if it’s the price to pay for having an open door policy with my readers… it’s one I happily accept. 🙂

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  24. Honestly, I’ve never truly been trolled like you and some others have. I don’t know if it’s cause I’m a guy or that I’m not offending anyone (which I just don’t believe). Either way, I’m not going to complain, but I’m sure it’ll happen.

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  25. Hello,
    I have never been trolled on my own blog (probably because I just started two months ago), but I have run across trolls in other blogs. Mostly, I try to ignore them.

    I am glad to hear some advice before anyone decides to troll me. I’m sure it will prove useful in the future. Either way, this made me giggle. 🙂

    Like

  26. Sigh. Here you go again! As if you know everything about trolls! Why do people even read your blog? They’re idiots! (how many have I covered so far? This is HARD!)… um… wait.. ok… you know this post really hurt my feelings because we all make mistakes and I have lost online friends because of a simple stupid mistake and you make it sound like someone does it on purpose and maybe you have lots of friends and that means you can afford to make mistakes… I suggest you examine your privilege! (thanks for the examples btw as this is not as easy as one might expect!)
    Let’s see… Triggered, check. Vigilante, check. Personal, yep. Nemesis, I think I got that one, kinda. Tricky one.
    That leaves… you know… your blog is just stupid and everyone on it is too! (I know.. I’m kind of a lameass amateur troll.. oooh, does self-trolling count? Is that like on the negative part of the scale?)
    And last… if you ever post again I shall destroy the entire Earth and everything on it!!!! mwuhahahaha!

    Actually, I really liked this post.
    It’s a very fun, informative post and makes a lot of sense. Crap. I just undid all that trolling didn’t I?
    😛

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  27. Rara, this is great! I love your scale as well ss explanation if the levels of troll. Some levels though are very concerning, especially the death troll…just wow. Sorry you have had to deal with such negativity when you are so positive, but I guess that may be why? Love this post! *high five * to you as well, madame. Thanks for the tips too. 🙂

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    1. I’ve only had one death troll, thank goodness. It was scary, but surprisingly easy to deal with– since the crazy is just crazy. The trigger trolls are the hardest for me because I know I have big stompy dinosaur feet and sometimes I accidentally step on toes or say something in a way that is too shocking for someone who has experienced trauma. But, I’ve learned that if it feels fixable, it probably is… and that’s partly why I put this together, so people don’t have to go through my learning curve. 🙂 *high five* 😀

      Like

    1. It’s not a big deal. It’s all part of the “starting dialogues” gig… and if it means that 90 people email me with brilliant ideas, then I’m happy to take the 900 trolls. 🙂 I just want people to know that there’s a way to sort through it… negativity can paralyze otherwise. *high five* 🙂

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  28. This is awesome. But it makes me a little sad to think you’ve had to deal with so many trolls. And for the life of me, I can’t even understand why. You aren’t the kind of blogger who writes things that stir the pot. But I guess that’s kind of the point. There isn’t much rhyme or reason to many trolls.

    And HOLLA for the Kid Prez. I think he should be nominated for everything. In the universe.

    Like

    1. Exactly! 🙂 I was hoping with this post to show how little rhyme or reason there is to troll-like things. It’s so easy to take it personally or to think you misspoke or misstep, but so so often, it’s just not about you. And when it is, it’s fixable… and there’s a happiness to that. 😀

      I am totally on board with Kid Prez being nominated for everything in the universe. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the president of the internet. 😀

      Like

  29. Excuse my language, but holy fuck. Someone doesn’t like you???? You’re like, nice. And in a totally self-serving twist, this does not bode well for me… I’ve never had a troll experience because I’m about as popular as a, I don’t know, cannibal vigilante? Far be it for me to insinuate that maybe this is a mark of your popularity, to have these dimwads spouting off, but I seek sliver linings wherever and whenever I can – my kids teach me that this is the appropriate level of optimism to level at the world.

    Like

    1. Ha, Trent, yes! 🙂 Everyone is disliked by somebody. 🙂 Most of my trolls are on account of my race, or religion. Some are because of my overuse of smilies and exclamation marks– and dedication to silver linings. MANY are because I don’t jump on board with certain things– flame-throwing feminism, witch hunts, et.c And yep, some are because of being FP’d and featured on things, etc. But my very first troll… who accounts for over 50 of those 900 some emails, found me after Post #2… when I had all of 12 readers. 🙂

      On a totally off-note… Cannibal Vigilante sounds like a movie I’d go see in a heart beat. 😀

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      1. Well, Rara, I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sorry that people get their kicks taking a run at people. For what it’s worth, I think you’re one of the coolest people out here, because you always have something to say and you’re never overly melodramatic or in it for the shock value. Anyway, stay cool – dweeby thing to say, I know, but we need people around who find silver linings, because there aren’t that many of them.

        Cannibal Vigilante – when it gets made, I’ll save you some passes.

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  30. Yoicks! My sis and I were just talking about trolls. Such a timely post! She goes on sites that seem to attract troll-types. Sites where people have opinions and express them. She was telling me about some of the scary/odd/ill/aggressive trolls that come onto the site and try and pick fights. I, personally, don’t have any personal experience with trolls. A dear sweet man who I liked stopped blogging entirely because he seem to have attracted some crazy troll person. I never did understand what happened because she made some accusations and everything seemed to happen in a twinkling of an eye. One day there was a great blog, the next day nothing. It makes me so sad and sorry that one mean person could do that. And of course I worry about how he is doing. Unfortunately, there is no way to find out, is there?
    BAD trolls!
    Please tell me you’ve seen the 2010 film from Norway called “Trollhunter”. One of my all time favorites.

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    1. That’s the sad part of the internet… everything so fleeting. Trolls contribute quite a bit to the inability for people to build a real space… and for that, I’m quite sad. There’s so much good stuff out there. That’s why I wanted to write this– I want people to know that there’s a senselessness to the actions, and to protect themselves emotionally, and how to protect their own space. That they’re worth protecting. 🙂

      I have seen Trollhunter, it’s awesome! I’ve also seen Trolls 2– which is awful, haha, 😀

      Like

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