Don’t Feed The Trolls

Posted on December 2, 2013

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Think back to your childhood. Chances are, you had one. It might have been a class-mate, a little brother or a sly friend. A winder-upper. Someone who would launch a grenade and then stand back and watch the carnage.

Now, we have social media and Professional Trolls. People who don’t just take pleasure in winding you up. They don’t simply enjoy the attention. They actually gain from it. They increase their profile. They secure work. They earn money. And some of us are complicit in their profiteering.

Here’s how it works. They post something nasty on Twitter or Facebook. You get angry. Retweet them. Tell people. Word gets round. Youtube hits multiply. Twitter followers increase. TV producers and newspaper editors observe. And then book them. Ker-ching. You did that. You were played.

If someone posts something illegal, report them. But if it’s tasteless or offends you, I’m afraid more often than not it’s being done for effect. Especially if there’s a repeat pattern. Well it worked last time, so why not this time?

Over the last week or so, I’ve watched in despair as normally sensible people got increasingly furious about posts from one Professional Troll. I’ve met this person in the past and asked them ‘Who are you winding up this week?’. They replied with a wink: “Oh darling, if possible, everyone! I need a new sofa.”

When my mum used to tell me to ‘just ignore it’, I thought it was the most useless piece of advice ever. As a child, it’s hard to let it slide. But as adults, can we try? Being offended is almost as bad as being manipulated. Why let the Pantomime Villains pull our strings again and again?

Think about it next time you’re tempted to hit ‘Share’ or ‘Retweet’ or ‘Get Angry’. We might as well invent a ‘Donate now’ button. The immediate column/TV appearance may be worth a thousand quid. But, to the Professional Trolls, your anger is truly priceless.

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Posted in: Culture