99% of blogging is positive. The parent blogging community, in particular, tends to be a supportive place where people try hard to get along. But sooner or later, most bloggers will come across the negative side of online life – including flaming, trolling, bullying and virtual stalking.
What are we talking about here? It’s more than just debate, or disagreement.
Trolls and bullies will tend to repeatedly post on blogs, usually anonymously, with the sole intention of causing disruption, or flinging personal abuse in your direction. You might also acquire one or more stalker trolls, people who will obsessively read every detail of your blog, for the sole purpose of making snarky remarks about you in the comments, or on other social networks.
I’ve been blogging for the best part of 10 years and I still get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when a troll lands on one of my blogs. So how do you cope when a troll discovers your blog? Here are our tips:
First and foremost, DON’T FEED THE TROLL. Most trolls thrive on creating chaos and hurt feelings – they think it’s funny. If you’re upset then phone a friend, take a walk, go and bash some dishes in the kitchen, but don’t under any circumstances respond online. The moment the troll gets a reaction, they’ll be motivated to keep going.
Try to keep trolls in perspective and don’t take them personally. The chances are that the troll has never met you, knows almost nothing about you, and their assessment of your character shouldn’t be taken any more seriously than graffiti on a bathroom wall. YOU know who you are. Your family and friends are the people whose opinions you need to worry about, not strangers on the Internet. And remember this: anyone who takes time out of their day to abuse a stranger online has issues that are way bigger than yours.
Remember it’s your blog, and you make the rules. If a comment is personally abusive – to you, or one of your readers, you’re completely within your rights to delete it. Some blogs have a comment policy on their “About” page pointing out that, while debate is welcome, bullying and abusive language are NOT. Nor should you tolerate anyone making comments on your blog that might be libellous – because you could be held responsible.
Think before responding. Not all negative comments are the work of trolls. Is it possible that someone just passionately disagrees with you? If a comment is unpleasant or hostile, but on topic, then it may be wiser to leave it be, and respond very politely, or you could use humour to diffuse the tension. Nobody wants to be that blogger that only allows their blog comments to be different versions of, “Wow, great post!”
Keep records. If you’re having persistent problems with a stalker troll, then use analytics to ensure you capture information about their visits and activities, even if you’re not looking at it yourself (and it’s probably smart not to look – it’ll only get you down). Remember that harassment is a criminal offence in the UK, and if someone is repeatedly abusive, threatening or makes false accusations about you, then they can be held to account.
Use blocking functions. On most social networks, it’s possible to prevent people from contacting you. You can ban certain IP addresses and user names from commenting on your blog, or add comment approval to ensure abusive comments never see the light of day. Blocking someone on Twitter means you won’t see @ comments directed at you, and blocking on Facebook means someone won’t be able to access your profile or search for it – although they may well still see content via the Timeline if you have mutual friends.
Let your readers handle it. Some bloggers choose to leave negative comments on their blogs, and allow their readers to respond on their behalf. It’s a tactic that should be used with caution – for every reader who will defend your honour; others may well be turned off by too much negativity and mudslinging.
Know when to take it seriously. The best advice is usually ignoring a troll, but threats against you or your family should always be reported to the police. If the trolling is happening on another site, and constitutes a criminal offence such as libel or harassment, and you don’t want to go down the route of suing someone (lawyers not being known for being inexpensive) then a complaint to the hosting company will often result in the blog being taken offline.
What are your experiences of trolls and online bullies? Have you found a technique that works for you?