The troll toll

Formerly published in The Other Press. Sept 24 2012

How to avoid trolls on the Internet

By Elliot Chan, Contributor

Opinions_trollA virus has struck the Internet. It is too late for a firewall, it is too late to do a full computer scan, and it is too late to unplug and re-plug your modem. Trolling is officially an epidemic in our online communities. If you have made a sincere comment or left a genuine opinion, a troll is not far away, hunched over their computer, preparing a patronizing reply.

Go to your computer and scroll down any comments list. You don’t have to go far to uncover the markings of a troll. They are ruthless, senseless, and ignorant creatures. Feed them enough negative reinforcement and soon they’ll be insulting your religion, your ideals, and even your mother. Like a junkie getting high off narcotics, trolls get a euphoric sensation from your aggravation. Stop, accept that they exist, and let their antagonizing words fade into the ether.

Although trolling is widespread, the websites that allow users to create their own aliases (Twitter, YouTube, etc.) are more commonly subjected to their antics. So until the day a law is made requiring all computer users’ identification to post comments, we must fend for ourselves. But how can we? The World Wide Web is such a vulnerable place. There are the mean streets of Facebook, the terrifying ghettos of Twitter, and the dark alleys of Reddit. How do we protect ourselves during our online explorations?

Remember, trolls are human beings. That is, they are bored, vulgar, and insecure human beings. That statement alone should make you feel better. But if you still feel victimized by their existence, try this option: kill them with kindness. You’d be surprised how effective positivity can be when following their curt comments. Kindness is troll kryptonite. Give them respect, but don’t linger long—they won’t return it.

As bullying continues in our physical world, cyber-bullying will survive in the virtual one. The Internet will always be home to intolerance, profanity, and slander. But the website universe is vast; there is room for the passive surfers, the gracious Googlers, and the tepid browsers. After all, you don’t need to frequent the Internet that often anyways. The best way to avoid trolls and the temptation of becoming one is to explore the real world. Go out tonight, grab a drink with friends, and laugh over the fact that someone somewhere is unable to terrorize you through a computer screen.

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