Dealing with Trolls and Negativity

Troll with His Pet Frog Meets Two Long-Tailed Creatures

Yesterday I put the question out on Twitter: How do you deal with trolls? I thought I might share the advice and expertise of other bloggers in the twittersphere, but mostly I got a bunch of smart assed replies. “Fight them off with Dwarves” was one, “Add a little salt and cook until well done” was another. There were more but I’m sure you get the picture. Dealing with trolls, or people who comment on your blogs in a negative manner for the sole purpose of stirring up trouble is really no laughing manner. I have one regular troll who likes to visit all of my blogs and troll in the comments or through email, plus several occasional trolls. All are dealt with in matter befitting the individual troll. The truth is you don’t want that kind of negativity to spill over into your community.

Don’t Feed the Trolls

If there’s one thing I learned in nine years of writing online, it’s that trolls dig controversy. In fact, they come by for the reaction and hope it’s negative. Indeed nothing makes their jeans tighter than to create dissension. Still, there are ways to respond to trolls. Here are a few of the more serious answers received from Tweets:

  • “Feed a fever, starve a troll” @YatPundit
  • “Delete/Ban/Block, for the most part. Sometimes, turn them in to a “cathartic humour piece”. @ShaiCoggins (who has my thoughts this morning.)
  • “I’ve found ignoring trolls tends to starve them out more than anything. Responding or deleting both seem to just feed them” @Tekaran_Lady
  • the best way to handle troll is to ignore them.. .they need the attention, deny them that@banji
  • Annoying comments that add to the conversation stay and I may or may not respond. Rude and unproductive = delete. It *is* my blog” @berrybrewer
  • “you ignore trolls. Makes them crazy” @searchguru

The most common advice for dealing with trolls is to ignore them and they’ll go away. This is true in most cases. Because trolls live for a reaction, silence causes them to die out or move on. Some of the more adventurous trolls need to be dealt with differently.

Calling Out the Trolls

Sometimes I give the trolls the attention they crave. I take their negative emails or comments and post them on a blog with my very nice response. I don’t engage in name calling, vulgarity, or rudeness, I just address the remark in the sweetest manner I can muster. Using what I call the “sticks and stones” method of dealing with rudeness, I never, ever let them see me get angry or upset. Then I let my community have at ‘em. They don’t get angry or rude either. It’s my hope that by posting the comment or email for the world to see, I’m showing the troll how ridiculous he or she comes off. Usually trolls have such a high opinion of themselves they don’t get it, either that or they’re just too dumb to see what’s going on.

Dealing With Negativity on Your Blog

If you have someone coming to your blog and leaving mean or vulgar comments, you have several recourses.

  • Delete the comment – I’m surprised at how many bloggers disagree with this as they feel deleting rudeness is somehow messing with free speech. I disagree. People are welcome to disagree on my blog but they have to be respectful of others in the community. Once they cross the line, they’re zapped. Besides, it’s my blog and I say what goes. (My troll loves when I say that as it gives an excuse to say I’m bossy.)
  • Ban the troll – WordPress allows you to log the trolls IP number or numbers so their comments are held in moderation or immediately sent to the spam filter.
  • Put all comments into moderation – I don’t like this idea because it doesn’t encourage conversation among your commenters to flow. By making everyone wait until you have time to moderate doesn’t give them incentive to participate. The blogs with the worst participation are generally those that put all comments into moderation.
  • First comment moderation – This is a more workable solution. Whenever someone new posts, his comment is held in moderation. After the first approval he’s free to actively participate.
  • Disallow comments – I wouldn’t even consider it for my blogs. It totally defeats the purpose and isn’t what blogging is about.
  • Ignore the negative comment – Easy for you to do, not so easy for your community. If you don’t want flame wars it’s best not to keep a negative comment around.
  • Let it become part of the conversation – You can leave the rude comment up to become part of the conversation, but don’t be surprised if comments take a nasty turn and commenters start attacking each other or get turned off by the negativity.

Must.Not.Engage

When it comes to trolls, consider your community first. How will they feel about a bunch of negativity and mudslinging? If this is the constant atmosphere, you’re going to turn off many visitors and even some of the regulars. Ask yourself if you’d rather have a hostile community or a productive community. It’s my experience that the best blog communities are those where the regulars are helpful and respectful and the trolls are few and far between.

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Comments

  1. Sound advice. I hope to never have to deal with this, but I’m sure my time will come.

  2. Good post, Deb.

    It’s been a while since I’ve had a blog going long enough to attract a troll, so I’d forgotten about the more intrusive ones. I did have one who simply had to be responded to a year or so back. Now that you mention it, if you can respond and, at times using their own sources, shut down each of their attempts to stir up contention for contention’s sake, they do have a tendency to turn tail and run.

  3. Very well written, great advice and tips for those who are currently or will in the future be dealing with trolls.

  4. GREAT advice. I just delete any comments that make me feel funny, although I have heard that free speech bit before. Meh, i say.

  5. While there are negative comments made w/good intention, the criticism of trolls is not constructive which is why I agree their comments need not be kept. Since it’s attention they’re trolling for, ignore, ignore, ignore..

    I had a very persistent troll who started his efforts on my husband’s blog. My hunny let the first comment stand, calmly addressing it & moving on so, of course, the troll commented again w/an even harsher attack. That comment was deleted & the IP address banned.

    That’s when the troll showed up at my blog but I fortunately was not caught off guard & had temporarily turned on moderation. Thus, the troll didn’t get published this time but he kept submitting comments to both.

    He got another comment published on my husband’s blog by using a different IP address &, when my hunny didn’t take the bait (deleting the comment), the troll hit my blog w/a vengeance. I’d blocked the additional IP tho’ so he never made it thru but the comments got nastier & nastier.

    At this point, the key was to not let ourselves even read them in order to avoid alluding to them/him in any way. With that determination, his efforts became few & far between til he finally went on his way but I feel for whomever else he’s been attacking.

    On a final note, our troll was male &, Deb, you allude to all trolls being male. Are they predominately male?! Are there many female trolls out there? Hope my experience helps other readers; remember, don’t take on other people’s baggage!

    (|_|*cheers*|_|)

    “The ego is that ugly little troll that lives underneath the bridge between your mind and your heart.” ~ Gael Greene

  6. @Dorian – I actually had and have a female troll. It was one of the women who really hurt the most as she was someone I was friendly with at a WAHM forum but she would anonymously (and cowardly) leave these scathing, hurtful attacks at my blogs. I still don’t understand why.

    In fact, of the women trolls I know, they’re the most hurtful and vicious.

  7. I wish I were surprised but women can be amazingly vicious in ‘real’ (Are you like me & consider online equally real?) life, esp. to other women, thus the seeming anonymity must just be too tempting!? Sad..

    (|_|*to consideration*|_|)

    “Consideration for others is the basic of a good life, a good society.” ~ Confucius

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