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Thread: How to interact with trolls?

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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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    How to interact with trolls?

    “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.

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    Veteran Member James Brown's Avatar
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    Why do you spend time on that page?

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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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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.

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    Content Thief Elixir's Avatar
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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 -


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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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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.

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    Content Thief Elixir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian63 View Post
    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.

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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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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.

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    Veteran Member Lion IRC's Avatar
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    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_...d_Start_Living

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    Flaming longsword. You need to keep them from regenerating!

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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.

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