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What is an internet troll? (and how to deal with winches)

What is an internet troll?  (and how to deal with winches)

Internet trolls are people who want to provoke and annoy others online for their own fun. Here’s how to spot signs that someone is a troll and how to handle them.

What are the trolls on the Internet?

If you’ve been on the internet for a while, you may have come across a troll at some point. An internet troll is someone who makes intentional inflammatory, rude, or disturbing statements online to get strong emotional responses from people or to divert conversation from the topic. They can come in many ways. Most trolls do this for fun, but other forms of trolling are done to drive a certain agenda.

Trolls have existed in folk and fantasy literature for centuries, but the online troll has existed as long as the internet. The first known use of the term dates back to the 1990s in the first online forums. Back then, users were a way to confuse new members by repeatedly posting an inside joke. It has since become a much more malicious activity.

A woman caught holding the laptop screen.

Trolling is different from other forms of bullying or cyberbullying. It is usually not addressed to one person and is based on the fact that other people pay attention and challenge each other. Trolling exists on many online platforms, from small private chat groups to the largest social networking sites. Here is a list of online places where you can see trolls online:

  • Anonymous online forums: Places like Reddit, 4chan and other anonymous message boards are a prime place for online winches. Because there is no way to track who someone is, trolls can post extremely inflammatory content without repercussions. This is especially true if the forum is weak or moderately inactive.
  • Twitter: Twitter also has the option to remain anonymous and has become a hotbed for internet trolls. Common Twitter trolling methods involve hijacking popular hashtags and mentioning popular Twitter personalities to get the attention of your followers.
  • Comment sections: comment on sections of places such as Youtube and news sites are also popular areas for feeding trolls. Here you will find a lot of obvious trolls and often receive many answers from angry readers or spectators.

You will find trolls anywhere online, even on Facebook and online dating sites. Unfortunately, these are quite common.

Signs that someone is trolling

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between a troll and someone who really wants to argue about a subject. However, here are some telltale signs that someone is actively trolling.

  • Off-topic comments: get out completely on the subject at hand. This is done to disturb and disturb other posters.
  • Refusing to acknowledge the evidence: even when presented with cold and harsh facts, they ignore him and pretend not to have ever seen him.
  • Contemptuous and condescending tone: An early indication of a troll was that they asked an angry respondent, «Why are you angry, brother?» This is a method made to provoke someone even more, as a way to reject the argument altogether.
  • Using unrelated images or memes: answer others with jokes, images and gifs. This is especially true if you reply to a very long text message.
  • Apparent forgetfulness: They do not seem to be aware that most people do not agree with them. Trolls are also rarely annoyed or provoked.

The above list is by no means definitive. There are many other ways to identify someone who is trolling. In general, if someone seems insincere, disinterested in a real discussion and intentionally provocative, it is probably an internet troll.

How should I manage them?

A "Danger: do not feed troll" sign on a computer keyboard.

The most classic adage about trolling is: «Don’t feed the trolls». Trolls look for emotional answers and find the challenge funny, so answering them or trying to debate them will only make them troll more. Completely ignoring a troll, you will probably be frustrated and go elsewhere on the internet.

You should do your best not to take anything that the trolls say seriously. No matter how bad they behave, remember that these people spend countless unproductive hours trying to upset people. It’s not worth your time of day.

If a troll becomes spam or starts clogging a thread, you can choose to report it to the site moderation team. Depending on the website, there is a chance that nothing will happen, but you should do your part to actively discourage them from trolling on that platform. If your report is successful, the troll may be temporarily suspended or your account may be completely blocked.