Some people are trolls on purpose, but any of us can be one at times if we’re not careful.
The topic of internet “trolls” comes up fairly frequently on television shows and in movies, and we run into them often on social media. Here, I may stray a little from the strict definition of troll; my working definition is “a person who causes distress, pain, frustration, or anger through their comments for no other practical purpose than their own satisfaction.”
Being a troll isn’t good. In real life, trolls are often bullies. When someone acts like a troll, they are making no contribution to society; rather, they make it harder for everyone else to be constructive and to enjoy life.
Some people are trolls on purpose, but any of us can be a troll at times if we’re not careful. If you don’t want to be a troll, then before you post a negative or contradictory comment, ask yourself the following questions:
Am I disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing?
If this is the case, I am definitely a troll.
What do I hope to achieve by this comment? Am I making a contribution to the conversation by providing reasons or reliable data, or am I just venting and/or seeking to get a reaction?
If the latter is the case, I am a troll.
Is my post disrespectful in tone, vocabulary, or content?
If so, I am a troll.
Did I actually read what I am commenting on (not just the title or subtitle) with an open mind, or am I reacting without really understanding the perspective of the poster? If I haven’t taken the time to read and understand the post, and am still disagreeing …
I might be a troll. (Although I might just be lazy and superficial.)
If my comment misrepresents and/or fails to recognize the nuances of what I am objecting to …
I might be a troll.
If I am disagreeing with this post on a matter of fact, have I checked my own facts? Or am I reacting with my gut, based on vague memories, general impressions, prejudices, or hearsay?
If I can’t back up my comment with evidence, I might be a troll.
If I am disagreeing on a matter of opinion or taste, does my comment imply that anyone with a different opinion or taste is stupid, ignorant, etc.?
If I can’t disagree while respecting other people’s equal right to disagree (respectfully) with me, then I am a troll.
Is my comment relevant to what is being expressed, or am I attacking something irrelevant to the content/purpose of the post?
If my comment is negative and irrelevant, I am effectively a troll.
Is my comment rejecting something that was never intended for me to begin with?
If so, I am a troll.
Do I always disagree with this person or organization’s posts, and always express that disagreement, even though nothing ever changes and no one ever engages in dialog with me?
Then I am probably not the intended audience, and I am a troll.
Is the tone of my posts and comments predominantly negative about everyone but myself?
If I mostly criticize or mock others and the things they do, I’m a troll.
It is totally possible to disagree with others, to contest their claims, to express dissatisfaction, etc., without being a troll; civilized disagreement is natural and important, and can lead to progress. The key is to be informed, respectful, relevant, factual, and objective.
Don’t be a troll.