“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” We’ve been taught this from youth but it’s pretty misleading. As someone that dealt with bullies in my youth on an acceptable scale, I think it should be reworded. “If you don’t have something nice to say, make sure what you say is constructive.”
Bullies are everywhere. On the internet they surface as ’trolls’. They are the infamous naysayers that have brought tears to the eyes of the most stalwart of voices. But the thing is not all ‘trolls’ are bad. Or should I say, they are often mislabeled. Identifying one is pretty easy, and once you identify them it makes it easy to armor yourself like duck-feathers repel water. The difference between useful trolls and true trolls are whether or not their primary goal is to waste your time.
Do you agree with what they are saying? This one is obvious, and it almost always no if you are the target of the troll’s attacks. Sometimes it’s just their presentation you are having an issue with. This isn’t enough to establish them as a true troll. This is merely information to help you move forward in your assessment.
Are they right? This is the easiest one. Once you filter out bad grammar and needless insults (this is key!) you need to see what their points are and if they are valid. If the points are there you can find worth to them. The ‘troll’ has suddenly become useful. Thank them for their insight and ignore the harsh words as though they never said them.
If they aren’t right, are they right under the presumption you agree with what they are saying? This seems basic… but when opinions differ, there is no ‘winning’. You need to agree to disagree. If the difference of opinion is the basis of the argument, it needs to end. If you find valuable information, thank them for that, acknowledge their opinion is valid and ignore the rest.
If you cannot find logic in their words: Then they are either out to waste your time or their logic is lost on you. Ignore them. Thankfully there are tools on the web to make this easy.
If they aren’t right, lack logic, but are amusingly relevant without being offensive. It might be in your best interest to acknowledge that they amused you. If you’re a blogger or something along those lines, it shows you have a sense of humor. Some trolls might do something like point out an amusing typo etc… These are pretty harmless compared to outright offensive sorts. Plus. They helped you by pointing out the error… Thank them.
Let’s look into the brain of the true troll. Their goal is to sew chaos in the internet and disrupt rational topics for the sake of causing conflict. You can circumvent this by showing your appreciation for their presence. It will either short out their troll brain or they will try harder. By trying harder they will likely step into one of the traps above.
If they are constantly being helpful, but are being rude… they might just be a critic. Love critics. They will tell you truths you don’t want to hear. Treasure them. A critic is just a fan that wants you to try harder.