Scroll through the comments of any YouTube video and you’re bound to encounter random racism, sexism, and general cruelty meant simply to provoke, judge, and defame. There is a name for this, it’s called the Online Disinhibition Effect. Within the perceived comfort of anonymity people say whatever they feel and can do it without consequence. Most people conduct themselves with civility. However, those with the intention simply to incite or disparage are called Trolls.
Know Thy Enemy
The Crybaby Troll is constantly offended. By everything. It’s important to recognize this type of troll because it’s easy to get suckered into appeasing them. As a good and decent human being, you might find yourself over-explaining, all while The Crybaby sits alone in their lair huffing and puffing over non-issues. What’s even worse is the temptation to counter-troll by being purposely offensive. Don’t get drawn in to the drama and resist the urge to feed the troll.
The Show-Off Troll knows it all. All the time. Forever. They’re not afraid to use long, flowery paragraphs (edited repeatedly) to prove to everyone how intelligent they are. It doesn’t matter what the issue is or how little they know about it, they’ve got an opinion and they’ve got the time to drag out their tedious thought processes for all to see. Their pseudoprofundity is so off-putting that it’s tempting to call them out on their B.S., but rest assured, you will not get through to these folks. Take a deep breath, walk away, get some sleep; and Let. It Go. Everyone else is annoyed too.
The Hate Monger/Vulgarity Troll intercepts decent discussions with indecent, and often irrelevant, inflammatory statements. They’re the person who says the N-word in response to a touching video of a firefighter rescuing a cat. These people are anxiously staring at their screens waiting for someone to get offended. Delete comment. Move on.
The Agenda Troll criticizes, mocks, and virtually (literally!) stalks people or organizations online to further their agenda. Be it a personal vendetta, spam marketing, or misinformation campaigns, this person uses their anonymity in calculated attempts to achieve a very specific goal. In terms of eCommerce, you might find these trolls trying to dissuade your potential customers or steer attention away from your brand to theirs.
It Trolls For Thee
While certain websites, such as Facebook, adjust their algorithms to nurture discourse in order to keep us coming back, there are still measures you can take to ensure your page doesn’t stray too far off-topic and intention.
The first options are to Disengage. Block. Report. Ignore. It’s one of the few strategies that can dry up a troll’s motivation and stop their attacks.
If you do choose to respond, a study published in Personality and Individual Differences states that some trolls are not mean-spirited, and suggests emphasizing the humanity of users in cyberspace as a means of fostering a sense of empathy. This can be an effective strategy if you haven’t figured out who you’re dealing with, or if a lack of response would reflect poorly on you.
Another option is humor. This strategy carries its own risk as it can fall flat with your audience, but if done right this counter-trolling can stop one in its tracks.
That being said, you don’t want to label every unflattering or controversial comment as trolling. A Youtube influencer, for example, would do themselves a great disservice if they ignored claims from their viewers that they’ve sold out and their opinions are no longer trustworthy. It is better to address situations like these directly and honestly.
Trolls are everywhere and chances are you will encounter one eventually. When you do; don’t react, take a deep breath, and consider your actions carefully. Knowing the difference between legitimate criticism, or an attention-seeking attempt to cause outrage could very well save your channel and reputation.