Do Not Feed the Trolls

Listening to Charlie Sheen call people "trolls" made me think of online trolls, those often anonymous rabble-rousers who post inflamatory comments online seemingly for the sole purpose of causing drama.  The term originates from those monstrous beasts of fiction found in fairytales, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and countless other fantasy stories. The rise of the Internet as a mass medium and the prevalent anonymity often associated with it gave birth to an ugly trend called trolling, in which some people seemed to derive pleasure from sowing seeds of tension in otherwise civil online discussions. 

In my years on various newsgroups, message boards, chatrooms, and now blogs and social media, I have seen many flamewars. It always surprised me that people out there were so full of anger that they felt compelled to inflict their vitriol on the rest of the world.  Like indiscriminate mass murderers, they fired their hate speech and incendiary comments at every opportunity, not caring how many innocent bystanders might get splattered in the process.

Some trolls act that way on purpose, thinking that their actions are funny. Some do it for attention.  Most are just angry, bitter fools who want the rest of society to grovel in their misery.  A small few probably have good intentions and simply lack the social skills necessary to communicate their ideas properly.

The surest way to deal with a troll when one is spotted is, as my headline says, not to "feed" it.  Ignore them and hopefully they will go away.  Responding to their nonsense, even if done in a polite manner, will often just fuel their venom, like adding gasoline to a fire. 

Sometimes, trolls say such horrible things that it seems saner minds must intercede and correct their misstatements, reprimand their behavior, and counter any hateful things they say.  I often fall into this trap.  That is often when the troll smells fresh blood and pounces for a more vicious attack. 

Luckily, I have seen less of this behavior than I did in the late 1990s.  Especially now that people are becoming more unified in their anti-bullying efforts, such behavior is becoming less tolerated.  Yet, some trolls still exist, rearing their furious heads like the trolls of lore lurking under a footbridge waiting for their next victim.

Be vigilant, be wary, be strong against their anarchic ways.  Remember, trolls are human too.   Just do not give them any tasty scraps to digest, no matter how well-meaning you intend to be, because they will chew it, spit it out, and then come back for more, usually more outrageously riled up than ever.