Sunday, October 6, 2013

How to Deal with Trolls & Nasty Commenters

I've been blogging for a while now, and while I never get any argy-bargy* here, I also comment a lot on FB pages and news web sites where I get into a lot of heated debates. Now I love, love a good debate, but when it descends to a slanging match it all gets a bit tiresome.

*argy bargy - aggressive behavior; spoiling for a fight.

I'm no psychologist, but I've found a few good methods of dealing with such people. You first have to decide whether you care about this person's opinion of you. With trolls, most people understand that they are the lowest of the low, but in rare cases you can find yourself in an argument with someone you respect or don't want to annoy. If this is the case you should simply end the discussion with something like "I don't want to argue with you like this." Don't let it get so far that you're never going to speak again.

Remember the Eleanor Roosevelt quote "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." It's true - if someone is calling your parenting into question (the usual one), just metaphorically tell 'em to shove it. Just because someone can WRITE IN CAPS and use nasty swear words doesn't mean that they're right or that you have to give in to them.  So what can you do?
  1. If they really are pondscum, just don't engage. Walk away from your computer if you must. It's very tempting to weigh in and "win" the debate, but most trolls thrive on any kind of attention (just like naughty children). Picture the saddoes sitting there rubbing their hands with glee because they've riled you up. It's very hard not to keep going back to see if they've replied, but if you truly want it to end, - end it - by not even looking at it.
  2. Never descend to their level of bitchiness, vulgarity or insults. 
  3. Don't let them confuse "understand" with"agree". I am often told that I'm not understanding a particular issue when the other commenter hasn't been able to convince me of their point of view. (Let's be honest here, most of us, when commenting are actually trying to convince everyone of our view point.) I usually reply that what I'm doing is not agreeing rather than not understanding. Warning - a lot of people will simply restate your lack of understanding (sometimes in caps) but you still make your point. 
  4. A sure sign of an idiot or someone who has no rational argument is a commenter who defaults to "You're an idiot" or (in my case) "If you hate it here why don't you go home?". In these instances I often say "Ah....the inevitable insults. A sure sign that you're out of arguments/proof/."
  5. If the argument is going on and on with no progress or promise of ending, either say "OK, you win", or, if they've threatened to cut you off - "Oh, ruin my weekend why don't you?".
  6. Ignore their comments on your blog and keep chatting with other commenters. In fact be over-the-top happy - give them the message that not only are you having a wonderful time despite their best efforts, their comment isn't even worth your time and attention.
  7. Call the troops in. I have done this many times. If you know someone needs taking down a peg or that you just need more than your lone voice against him/her, don't be shy about asking your friends to weigh in. The troll might not shut up, but at least s/he'll know the world's on your side. 
  8. If it's your blog and you really don't like what the commenter is saying or how s/he is treating other commenters, you have a delete key. Not only do such people annoy you, but they annoy other commenters who may not come back if they think they're going to be in for insults and baiting all the time. 
Life's too short, as they say.....


  1. Ha! I AGREE with everything you said - sorry, not about to start a row!! When I started by blog, hubby was (very sweetly) worried about nasty comments, trolls etc. I laid out my policy to him, that I will publish comments everyone, nice ones or ones from people who disagree with me, but nothing rude, abusive or just plain nasty to me or another commenter. I have been very lucky and had only nice comments. I have had some spam, so I have put a message telling them to shove off, and they seem (for now!) to have gone away. I am not worried about spammers, I just delete 'em, as I would with a troll!!

    Stick to your own code of conduct and let the rest live with it.

  2. p.s. now, if I could just sort my grammer and spelling!!!!

  3. You are right; ignoring them is the only way to make them go away.

    I just don't get why people feel the need to be complete jerks. And, I'm finding, that it seems to be bleeding over into real life too.

  4. I don't know what's happened but this blog post kicks ass. Love it x

  5. I think you can generally rely on the intelligence and judgement of readers. It's often clear if someone is an idiot or has a bee in their bonnet and like you say, you don't have to respond.

    What is a bit odd, however, is when two commenters battle it out on your page, which happens with my blog (From Sheep to Alligators) sometimes. Usually, I leave them to it and don't intervene.

  6. Some great tips. I disagree that it's always the best way to deal with a troll by ignoring. Sometimes when thoughtful considerate people leave the stage or conversation, it signals that the troll has won.

  7. Jen - Yes, that's always the danger but really - do you care if troll wins?

    And no - nothing's happened to me (recently) but I have read a few people upset by comments on other blogs, and a blog idea popped into my head.

  8. I especially like tip #3. It must be inconceivable to some people that someone can understand what they're saying, yet still disagree with them.

  9. Wonderful advice.
    It is commendable if you can keep cool and not rise to the bait.
    Some pathetic people just have nothing better to do but try to beat others down.
    Glad it doesn't work with you!
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  10. Oooh - found a great quote that I should have included in the post -
    "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?" Abraham Lincoln

  11. Amy, I keep them all, even some of the spam. Don't know why, but it fascinates me, how the computer cues off of your topic and vocab, tries to blend, and fails miserably. I've even had spam insult my commenters. I kept it with a "Wow. Does this even work?" reply. Oh, and of course I told everyone not to click the links.
    Gigi, I think there's a lot to stories that people are more blunt on the computer. Both for intent and lack of subtle cues mitigating any negatativity. In fact, there is a hysterical open letter to whoever is in charge of new punctuation!
    (The ! will make sense after reading.)

    And Toni, I'll be presumptive based on your tweet that I'm one of those rare cases. As are you, my dear. You are a rare bird, a sparring partner I hope one day to meet for a cup of tea.

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  13. I still remember the nervous giggles then cheers when The Bloggess told Mumsnet (via a giant screen) than when she gets troll comments she just edits them so a comment that said 'You are an awful woman and I can't believe you write this rubbish' she will change to 'you are an amazing woman and I wish so much that i were you.'

    She said she has no idea if that's legal or not and doesn't really care. Sometimes the troller will try again so she just changes the comment again. They've never tried more than twice, they just give up. I love it!

  14. Mich - Ha. I forgot about that. Might be tempted although as I said, I don't get much trouble on this blog; it's just when I open my mouth elsewhere and then I can't moderate it! Pah!

    AH - Ditto.

  15. Some interesting strategies here :) I believe it all depends on the audience you're aiming to attract, which correlates of course with your topic. There is no doubt that "spirited debate" makes a valuable and interesting contribution to the original material, but if you're appealing to those who may not speak your language well or who are not online-chat savvy, then you need to keep the tone much more friendly and non-threatening. No right or wrong, just horses for courses, as they say.

  16. Some great tips here. I don't seem to have the energy for any argy-bargy these days but I do admire you - that you are able to keep your cool when I see you having to deal with halfwits who deliberately misinterpret what you have said in a blog post to serve their own twisted arguments.


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