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How to interact with trolls?

Brian63

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“Trolling is defined as creating discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people by posting inflammatory or off-topic messages in an online community.”

Over the last several weeks I have been spending time online at Ray Comfort’s Facebook page, who is a popular fundamentalist street preacher and evangelist. There are several other atheists that post there, but we are largely outnumbered by fundamentalist Christians. Whenever atheists and Christians debate each other, some of those Christians behave very courteously in part as an attempt to witness to us because they think we largely have a grudge against god. Other Christians outright block or ignore us and advocate for others to do the same. Many others are very hostile and aggressive to us, however. We sometimes are harsh ourselves, though I largely limit my own harsh criticisms to the beliefs themselves and not the believers (hate the sin, love thy sinner about sums it up). Since they perceive any kind of criticism of their beliefs as a criticism of themselves as a person, they naturally tend to react very harshly and defensively. They will be very insulting, aggressive, inflammatory, bullying, name-calling, etc. while ignoring addressing the substance of your views, even if they were presented in a very courteous manner. They will exaggerate how rude you were.

Over the years I have encountered hundreds of such trolls in various online discussions/debates, and each time a new one comes along they unfortunately are just another to add to the list. Each of them either seems to think they are special and unique though, as if nobody else had ever name-called me before or they do not care if others have and will continue to do so themselves because they receive satisfaction from trolling. On Ray Comfort’s FB page, there is one particular troll that is not the worst troll ever, but on that half of the spectrum. He quoted the above definition of “trolling” (I do not know the source, but would concur with that definition). He ironically seems infatuated with calling others trolls and punks and other bullying names, all the while criticizing those others of being trolls. It is projection times a million. Others there also regularly call several of us atheists trolls, but not nearly to the same degree, even though they are still more trolling themselves than the ones they accuse of trolling. There are some trolls on this message board here as well, particularly in the political discussion forums.

What is the best way to handle trolls? How does a person become a troll in the first place? How can someone mature at least a little on their trolling behavior, even if not entirely? If given infinite time, I do think most trolls could become at least slightly more mature given enough guidance. We just do not have that luxury. The president of the United States is himself a troll, and he poses a severe threat to global security. We simply cannot wait for him to suddenly grow up after about 70 years of living the way he does. How have you interacted with trolls in the past? Either online or real-life? Do you try to help them, or do you consider them lost causes but still interact with them for the sake of exposing that mentality for the benefit of onlookers, or do you ignore them entirely?

I had provided a link over there to this particular forum (and thread now), so sorry to the mods if you see a swarm of trolls headed your way.
 

Brian63

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Partly because I enjoy learning how other people think, even ones who I very much disagree with.

Sometimes I have changed my own views by discovering flaws in mine, either through direct interaction by those who disagreed with me or by observing others interact who disagreed with each other.

Also, I am an activist by nature and want to promote freethinking/secularism and reduce the harm that religious beliefs do to individuals and the world as a whole.
 

Elixir

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Bananaman? Really?
I just can't take him seriously, and have a real hard time taking anyone who does.
Not a huge fan of Dawkins, but -

bananaman.jpg
 

Brian63

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On the topic of trolls in general---

It seems to go hand-in-hand with holding a persecution complex. They always see themselves as victims, as being treated unfairly by others. So the notion that they could ever be the ones treating others unfairly can be a priori dismissed. I just do not know how to break through that shell of a mentality when someone is completely enveloped in it. So plenty of people I do consider lost causes. There is no practical way at least to get them to change, to any significant degree. The most useful way to interact with them is to expose them for the benefit of others who are watching and are not so intimately tied to the emotional impulses of the troll.
 

Elixir

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On the topic of trolls in general---

It seems to go hand-in-hand with holding a persecution complex. They always see themselves as victims, as being treated unfairly by others. So the notion that they could ever be the ones treating others unfairly can be a priori dismissed. I just do not know how to break through that shell of a mentality when someone is completely enveloped in it. So plenty of people I do consider lost causes. There is no practical way at least to get them to change, to any significant degree.

I sincerely believe that empathy in sufficient amounts could overcome our inability to understand why certain people are dishonest, morons, malicious, willfully ignorant or otherwise odious.
As far as actually becoming an environmental factor in their lives that causes them to change an a manner that we consider favorable, I don't think that's in the cards in many cases. Probably better - at least for me - to give up on them, and go through life trying to be a good influence in places where I actually might have some influence.

The most useful way to interact with them is to expose them for the benefit of others who are watching and are not so intimately tied to the emotional impulses of the troll.

I suppose, if you consider it worth the effort. I used to hang around a fundy website (CARM) just to marvel at the utter stupidity and incredible ability to compartmentalize information shown by some of the hard core Young Earth Creationists (or "Yecksters" as I usually refer to them). But the novelty eventually wore off; what it left me with was a good handful of great people that I didn't know before. Not sure any of them actually needed me to enlighten them about anything - maybe vice versa.
 

Brian63

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It helps me a bit with my confidence and preventing stress to occasionally interact with them. If I had never known a troll, never encountered one, and never witnessed one, I would find my first experience with one to be nerve-wrecking and depressing to a great degree. Now after seeing hundreds of them over many years, I can moreso shrug my shoulders at them and they do not have that much control over me. It is depressing that they are that way as a whole, but since I cannot live life always avoiding them, it is better to sometimes observe them so their behavior is not surprising or alarming in any way. That latter case would be more worrisome. Now having a troll as president of the U.S. is nightmarish that way though, it is a new characteristic for someone in that role.
 

Loren Pechtel

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Flaming longsword. You need to keep them from regenerating!
 

rjh01

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Accept others values.
Point out your superiority to them.
- You are polite, they are rude and insulting.
- You have good points, they only have nothing to add to the topic.
- You could ignore them. Like in off topic posts.
- If they say you are one type of person then without acknowledging them, show that you are not that type of person.
 

Jimmy Higgins

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There are a couple types of trolls. You have the ones out there just trying to flame (like that one poster at TF) and then there are the ones that are more subtle and are subtly goading and have no real interest in a conversation (like those several other posters at TF). To make matters worse, now we have semi-intelligent bots that just add gasoline to the fire, acting as a feedback loop. The noise becomes too much and everything is lost conversation wise, if there was ever a chance in the first place.

Then you have people that think just having a differing opinion, typically well stated and backed, is trolling because why else would you bother to doubt other people's beliefs. This used to be more of a thing in the golden days of discussion boards between around 2000-ish and 2005-ish, when people swapped around on boards to interact, both to either troll or to provide an honest contrary opinion.

In general, trolls are best off ignored... but some people can't help themselves.
Don't feed the trolls.
Report trolls to the Mods.
Don't call ppl here trolls.
Trolling is in the eye of the beholder. (Very subjectively defined.)

Apart from that, life is short. Stop worrying and start living.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Stop_Worrying_and_Start_Living
:thinking:
 

steve_bank

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I call that the proverbial 'human condition'. It is not just the atheist Chritian divide.

If you go anywhere on the net or in the real world where you know there is conflict brewing do not be surprised to find conflict.

If I start to het wrapped around the axel I ask myself why am I getting agitated? If I go to a theist site and make posts that are reasonable and get hostility back why should I get upset? I know where I am at and I know where the theists are at. At this point the theist response are all predictable.

This forum going back years was an education in religion for me. As an adulate I knew Christians but generally associated with people grounded in science. There are clearly many Christians who literally think us atheists are agents of satan. I heard it from loud preachers holding meetings in the previous facility I lived in. They think it is their duty to makes us believers.

To me the only way to deal with it is to be self assured and confident in who you are. That goes for any kind of bullying or conflict.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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If you've identified someone as trolling, don't return the favor. That doesn't mean you have to play the martyr, it just means you don't have to return insult for insult. Best to ignore the attempted insults and only respond to anything intelligent.

It's not going to change the troll's behavior so never get your hope's up. Simply choose to live in a mostly rational world, not a mostly emotional one.
 

spikepipsqueak

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Point out your superiority to them.
- You are polite, they are rude and insulting.
- You have good points, they only have nothing to add to the topic.
- You could ignore them. Like in off topic posts.
- If they say you are one type of person then without acknowledging them, show that you are not that type of person.

If you've identified someone as trolling, don't return the favor. That doesn't mean you have to play the martyr, it just means you don't have to return insult for insult. Best to ignore the attempted insults and only respond to anything intelligent.

It's not going to change the troll's behavior so never get your hope's up. Simply choose to live in a mostly rational world, not a mostly emotional one.

Yep, if you identify someone as only posting to create disorder, walk away.

If you can find some fragment of their argument that makes sense and you are able to counter it, do that.

Sometimes easier said than done, unfortunately.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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There are lots of dog owners in my neighborhood. Lots of those dogs are friendly, lots of those dogs are unfriendly. Which ones get your attention, and which ones do you avoid?
 

Random Person

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Trolls and the trolled cannot exist without one another.
 

Jimmy Higgins

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There are lots of dog owners in my neighborhood. Lots of those dogs are friendly, lots of those dogs are unfriendly. Which ones get your attention, and which ones do you avoid?
But we've been posting for nearly a couple decades here. It gets quite easy after a while to know who is who.
 

Torin

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How to interact with trolls?
Don't. Forget about them. Spend the irreplaceable seconds of your life pursuing values instead.
 

fromderinside

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Troll handling presents a real problem for believability and utility of medium. Putting no value on those features of social commerce can be deadly to such. I believe Nazi thugs were the last to actually change society because of lack or response or resolve. IMHO one must put untruth and bullying on consequential notice.

As social beings we have social responsibilities.

Look how we've been dumbing down in response to Trump lying, bullying, and crudity. Don't allow yourself to go numb in the presence of such.
 

Bronzeage

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The only effective way to deal with a troll is to not deal with him/her. All a troll wants is a reaction, the more indignant, the better. It's the "If you can't take a joke, we enjoy much more" school of abnormal psychology.

Unfortunately, for every troll there is always one forum member who thinks their witty response will be the one which sends the troll scuttling back under the bridge and the cycle never ends.
 

Worldtraveller

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Just remember, after you finally kill the troll, you have to burn it with fire or acid.

Otherwise, it just regenerates and gets back up.

Oh, I thought this was the RPG forum. :p ;)
 
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