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Dealing With Failure

Don’t Feed the Haters: The Confessions of a Former Troll

To defeat the troll we must understand the troll. Lesson one: never feed a troll.


This is a story about how I raided a wedding. Yes, “raided” — as in to steal, kill, and plunder. Growing up an avid gamer, I engaged in troll-like behavior. From hijacking people’s accounts and stealing their items, to relentlessly bullying and berating other gamers because I could, I was a troll.

My game of choice was usually World of Warcraft, a game where players make and control a character in a vast digital world, played with others in real-time.

But, back to the wedding. There were rumors that an online wedding was happening for a couple that had met through the video game. They were going to have their characters get “married” to mirror their real life arrangement. My friends and I thought this was both bizarre and funny. 

We gathered a bunch of people and found the location of the wedding. When we approached the ceremony, we kept our distance on the far hillside. As we plotted our attack, a part of me couldn’t stop laughing because I knew this would go down in the books as one of my most savage acts in online gaming.

This wasn’t a fair or noble fight—it was slaughter. We had our war gear on, while the wedding attendants wore cloth armor: tuxedos and dresses. The charge looked like something out of the movie Lord of The Rings: all of us on horseback, shining in our armor, weapons drawn, and running in as our prey scattered like ants. Flashes of red and green would spark across my screen as we fired spells at them, and the game’s cartoonish sounds of death rang in my headphones. Some of the victims tried to escape, only to be pummeled by an enormous axe or a raging fireball.

Other attendants just stood there, probably shaking their head and cursing us behind their keyboards. What makes this worse is that once we killed their characters, we didn’t leave. We stood around, waiting for them to come back to life, only to attack again. And again. In the game we call this “camping” or “griefing.” We danced on their character’s bodies, laughed on voice chat, and then resumed our day as normal. The objective was to have no survivors. What was once a field of flowers honoring a ceremony of love ended as a field of pixelated bodies.

Some of the victims tried to escape, only to be pummeled by an enormous axe or a raging fireball. 

Back then I justified the act by telling myself that it was just a video game and no feelings could possibly be hurt. But I remember reflecting on it a few weeks later once I saw the backlash from online forums, and then I genuinely felt horrible. What really gave me pause is not the attack itself, but my mindset behind it. Why did I possess a desire to hurt rather than help? I thought about how easy it has become to demonstrate our frustrations, insecurities, and fears online by taking it out on strangers and felt ashamed that I got caught up in that feeling. 

I don’t play the game anymore, but many years of outlandish trolling taught me how to detect and deflect the kind of trolling we see today. Except now, my trolls aren’t 15-year-olds in video games, they are people that try to take down my creative work. If you do work that matters, you’ve probably faced this too. The way a bird watcher understands the patterns and behaviors of birds, many years of online gaming taught me how to defend myself from the most malignant creatures on the web: trolls. 

A screenshot of a World of Warcraft wedding.  Credit revdebi.

A screenshot of a World of Warcraft wedding. Credit revdebi.

Understand the Troll

To defeat the enemy, we must understand them first. There are two fundamental reasons why a troll trolls:

  1. They’re bored: Trolls lack stimulation “IRL” (in real life), for good or ill, so they seek it online where it’s readily available and easily acquired. A troll’s behavior reflects a deep insecurity so having someone respond to their words gives life meaning, regardless of how pathetic that may sound. I raided that wedding because I wanted to be noticed and talked about. Random people cursing me out through private messages or the general chatroom invigorated me. I was so bored with my real life, and even my virtual character’s life, that I learned to find joy in harming others. If a troll had something better to do, like work or a hobby, they wouldn’t have time to troll. The next time you find yourself posting a negative comment think about why you’re doing it. 
  2. They want attention: All a troll wants is you to turn the spotlight onto them. They want you to repost their comment to your followers. They want you to write a blog post or status about them. They will use anything and everything to get it. They will criticize you, post inflammatory comments, or write remarks just to make you wonder how someone could be so dumb. The problem is that you will feel compelled to respond to “set things right.” Even if you respond in a cheerful or positive way, you’re still feeding the troll.

 

Illustration: Oscar Ramos Orozco

Illustration: Oscar Ramos Orozco

Don’t Feed The Trolls

The reason we respond to negative comments is the same reason a troll does what they do: ego. When someone unknown comes at us, it’s part of our human nature to defend ourselves. A part of us doesn’t want to stay silent, because we think silence means surrendering, and surrendering means losing. That’s just a bad philosophy. 

After years of dealing with this kind of behavior, both in a virtual reality and in the comment sections of an article, the harsh reality is this: You will never beat a troll. You will never change a troll’s mind. You may delude yourself into thinking that you proved them wrong, however, never in my years of dealing with trolls have I seen a troll lay down his or her arms and say, “You know what, you’re right. I was so wrong.”

I have never seen a troll lay down his or her arms and say, “You know what, you’re right. I was so wrong.”

Indeed, blowing off steam after dealing with a troll is our first reaction. It’s like driving: someone cuts you off, you feel disrespected, so you drive up next to the person’s window so you can see what they look like, or you flash some hand gestures to let them know that they aren’t getting away with it. What makes this practice of not responding to trolls so difficult is that many of us are naturally inclined to react to our impulses. It’s so much easier to respond than it is to hold back.

When I trolled other gamers with words—harsh words—many times they would ignore me. Because hindsight is 20/20, I remember being bothered by that. “Why won’t they defend themselves? Entertain me!” The ones who ignored me, and even better, put me on their “Ignore List” so that they couldn’t receive my messages, were the ones who understood this principle.

Here’s a few ways that I use to handle trolls:

Use foresight

So a troll is attacking you. Ask yourself: If I respond to this troll, what will likely be the outcome? This requires us to pause and take a breath. We need to be mindful of what we’re telling ourselves after reading something that attacks our ego. What are we feeling and why? Are we angry because the troll’s comment contains validity? Have you seen this scenario before in other settings? These small shifts in our perception should influence us to not feed the trolls, to realize that any attempt to change a troll’s mind is an exercise of futility.

Talk to a friend

Sometimes we need to vent. No meditation or deep breathing exercises—just straight-up getting it off our chests. One time I shared a very vulnerable story on my blog and a reader attacked me from all corners. It felt like I was in group therapy, admitting my mistakes and what I learned, and someone stood up and shamed me for it. I wanted to delete the post, but after talking it over with a friend, he made me realize that deleting the post would be the same as feeding the troll. It would show them that I was affected. But the most important lesson was this: deleting the post would remove value from those who appreciated and resonated with the story. Focusing on one troll ruins the fun for those who actually matter.

Practice your principles

If you don’t have principles on how to deal with trolls, now is the time. The reason why abiding to principles is so helpful is because they tell us how to act. “Do this, not this.” It focuses on the long-term outcome, whereas acting on our impulses creates many possible—and unfavorable—results. If there is one thing I learned both in psychology and philosophy, it’s this: No one can hurt you. It is what we tell ourselves about the specific event or person that creates the feeling. So if we’re telling ourselves, “How dare this person say this to me,” we’re creating feelings of entitlement and anger. In the words of Marcus Aurelius, “It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you — inside or out.”

The 30 percent rule

In James Altucher’s book, Choose Yourself, he shares a story about responding to critics that wondered why he always used half-naked women for his blog post photos. The woman in the picture responded to the post, sharing her story and insight. Altucher said, “I’ve seen it in action repeatedly: no matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter who your audience is: 30 percent will love it, 30 percent will hate it, and 30 percent won’t care. Stick with the people who love you and don’t spend a single second on the rest. Life will be better that way.” File those trolls under the proper 30 percent and move on.

So did that couple ever get married? My best guess is that they did. Meanwhile, I spent hours on a video game, tormenting strangers, ultimately getting nothing done. It’s like smoking a cigarette for the first time in a long time: heart beats a little quicker, head gets lighter, a kind of euphoria lingers, but before you even realize it, the feeling is gone. At the end of it all, I did nothing but harm my mind and body.

***

The people at the wedding may have suffered an hour or so of frustration, sure, but they didn’t even acknowledge us. At the end of the day, they accomplished their goal, and all troll-Paul did was add negativity into the world as well as hurt himself. Two people got married and were happy, and one person was still just as lonely and sad.

All troll-Paul did was add negativity into the world.

As we become more vulnerable online, the chances of being trolled increases. The more you ship and put yourself out there, the more likely you will come across people who despise or don’t understand your work. Because technology is maturing faster than we are, trolls will always exist and will feel compelled to sabotage you and your work. Why? Because they have nothing better to do. It unmans them to see you pursuing an artistic and worthy endeavor. 

Is a world without trolls possible? Highly unlikely. So we must stop asking the impossible. Instead, we can follow the one principle that safeguards our creativity and productivity, and keeps the troll at bay. Whatever you do: Don’t feed the trolls.

How about you?

How do you handle the trolls in your life?

Paul Jun

Paul Jun is a writer and author. His latest book, Connect the Dots: Strategies and Meditations on Self-education, is available. His blog, Motivated Mastery, is where he connects the dots between subjects like mastery, philosophy, psychology, culture, self-awareness, and more.

Comments (167)
  • http://www.everettsliquor.com/ Bryan Chapel

    Excellent article, Paul! I particularly like the 30% Rule. I will definitely be using that one.

  • Robez

    This sucks!!!… just kidding. Great article!

  • Me

    I’m going to troll all the trolls out there by linking them to this article every time I run across one.

    • Paul Jun

      *high five*

  • Kathy Verbiest Baldock

    THANK YOU — I sure get trolls and. altho I lean waaaaay over to the nice side, I get tired of them after two interactions — it should be NO interactions. They waste my valuable time. THANK YOU

  • http://www.akaawol.com/ Chilli Padi

    I’m usually pretty good at ignoring, but every now and again, someone gets under my skin. And my motivation is usually to try to change that someone’s perspective…I guess that’s never gonna happen, huh? Lesson learnt. Thank you for a great article!

  • http://www.kanane.com/ Riad Kanane

    Excellent post, comes right in time 😉

  • Hobbesruls

    Those who remain silent are understood to agree, so just flat ignoring doesn’t really work. As Paul mentioned he felt bad about the wedding slaughter after reading the forum comments. It’s important to condemn works of inequity, before we hit the ignore button. The difficulty is of course responding appropriately once, and only once, before walking away from the troll.

  • http://www.ScheduleMakeover.com/ Elizabeth Grace Saunders

    Thanks for your vulnerability in sharing your story.

    It takes a lot of courage to say, “I was wrong,” and to share with us what was going on in your head/heart at the time.

    I can definitely see how with anonymous trolls that ignoring them is a good option. However since the underlying drive/desire is to not be bored and to get attention: If we come across trolls that we can engage with–I wonder if there’s some way to invite them in and include them in the circle.

    Would coming at the situation from a place of empathy heal the underlying need?

    To your brilliance!
    Elizabeth Grace Saunders

    • Kate Cousino

      I’ve seen this happen…but I think it can only happen under the right kind of circumstances. But I have seen trolls get trolled by kindness…get hooked and reeled in by their own curiousity and disbelief when treated with kindness, insight, compassion…as people, not merely ‘trolls’ or faceless commenters. In the end, genuine interaction is both more stimulating and more satisfying than fleeting anonymous and disingenuous hit-and-runs.

    • Paul Jun

      That’s an amazing question, Elizabeth, and it’s one that I’ve battled for a long time.

      Like Kate said, I think it has be under the right circumstance, say, in-person interactions. Our body language and tone could greatly influence someone to realize that we’re here to communicate and exchange ideas, not to get into an endless fruitless debate about who’s right and wrong. But when it comes to online, I have to disagree. Let me explain.

      Say we’re reading a news article about a fascinating new study or maybe we just got done watching the same TEDTalk. The comment section in both these examples are often lively. Some comments are deeply thoughtful and written extremely well, and then there are comments that state a valid point but delivered a very harsh way. The thinking goes: Would you say it like that to a room full of people?

      Many would identify the latter as a troll. Empathy in this case is useful because by understanding why this person wrote this comment in this specific way, we can realize for ourselves that maybe this person doesn’t know the subject as well as we do, or maybe they’re missing something that we however understand very well. We could empathize so that we stop ourselves from calling this troll an idiot, which is feeding the troll, and respond in a way that is actually instructive and helpful—point to some resources, links, etc.

      But how many people actually do that? I’ve seen it done a few times in my experience, and sad to say, a troll is a troll. That’s why “Don’t Feed The Trolls” became a principle for me. Believe me, whenever I see trollish comments, a part of me wants to respond and say, “Hey, listen, I know what you’re feeling and there may be another way to look at it. Here.” But after doing it so many times, and watching it being done, I realized that the time is better spent elsewhere.

      • http://www.ScheduleMakeover.com/ Elizabeth Grace Saunders

        Thanks so much for the thoughtful replies Paul and Kate. I really appreciate them. Since I’m the complete opposite of a troll, it was interesting to hear the perspective shared in the article and opened me up to new possibilities. I had always just thought trolls were grumpy. I had never considered that they were bored and looking for attention.

        As a time coach, I completely agree that you need to manage your time and emotional energy. I also write a lot of guest posts, and I have needed to think carefully about when to reply or even read mean spirited comments. In many cases, other readers stand up for me before I need to reply. Sometimes I’ve been able to turn around a situation through explaining my perspective. And other times, I do choose to ignore harsh comments completely.

        I guess that we all need to discern on a case by case basis if we have the emotional capacity to engage with people who are operating from a place of conflict and if intervention could produce change.

        To your brilliance!
        Elizabeth Grace Saunders

    • Anne Michelsen

      I actually do this all the time, but to be sure I’m generally dealing with a more mature audience (LinkedIn, most of the time.)

      Typically what happens is that something I say sets off someone’s ego and/or touches on one of their pain points, and they react with anger or sarcasm.

      I try to understand where they’re coming from, and find some way to acknowledge their point of view. Occasionally I’ll need to clarify my point. Then I’ll ask them for their advice or insights, as though we were on the same “team.”

      I find this to be an effective technique about 50% of the time. (So effective that one time, the ‘troll’ ended up inquiring about my services!) The other 50% never reply.

  • redmike

    rp on a pvp server? They deserved to get rolled. You don’t try to have a picnic in the middle of a demolition derby.

  • Josías

    But, but… I do think your WoW wedding story IS very funny… am I a closeted troll???

    • Lee

      I consider myself the farthest thing from a troll and I’m in the middle of planning my own (non-online) wedding right now but I have to admit… I laughed really hard about that story. C’mon, that’s funny, and if the people at the “wedding” had a healthy sense of humor they’d probably think it was a little funny, too.

      • Paul Jun

        There’s always two sides to a story, sometimes three. Some people are able to see a video game for what it is, and others, well, not so much.

      • fmd123

        I guess, but if a real life relationship formed out of an online game then maybe it’s not just a video game. I personally wouldn’t know because I’ve never played any online games.

  • María Del Carmen Maqueo

    An enlightening article that lets me understand many of the attitudes that move the trolls to darken or try to destroy what others do on the web. Thanks a lot! 🙂

  • M

    All I read from this is: trolls should never be held accountable, can’t be held accountable and victims should just take it. It sounds like more trolling, especially with how many teens are committing suicide because we take the web wherever we go. I believe in freedom of expression and this former troll shirked responsibility and is stating the right thing to do is let his damage go. It’s not humble, helpful, or productive. It still shows a man indicating why he knows what is best for everyone else.

    • Juliette Hauville

      I disagree – I get from this that we should fight trolls, but the single best weapon we have against them in conversations we crash is to ignore them. Outside of these moments, posts like this denouncing them – and even legal steps when they cross the line from trolling to bullying and harassment – are also a way to fight them.

      • Sam

        It can take a considerable amount of time for you to hold a troll accountable for inflammatory, cyber stalking, bullying now online. Many sites will say there is support out there for you however I have seen many where threats are made to harm and they do nothing. Maybe a site to expose them should be done

    • Paul Jun

      I think a lot of what we read on the web is about an individual pushing ideas that may be helpful to whoever reads it.

      Your assessment is fair, but you’re also seeing what you want to see. I can tell by your comment about halfway through you stopped reading what I wrote and started reading what you wanted to see.

      Never did I mention that a victim should just take it. No one should, which is why I outline 4 practices that helps someone put a scenario like this into a more helpful, productive perspective. It’s very easy to immediately think that you’re a victim, and to feel that way for a long time. That 33% rule is incredibly helpful, to realize that the troll attacking you isn’t saying something that is necessarily true, they’re just saying it to simply get under your skin because of their own insecurities. Why do bullies bully? To get attention off of them and onto someone else, because they don’t want to be seen as a fraud.

      In regards to teen suicide and bullying that crosses over to real life, yes, I believe that area is woefully underdeveloped. Adolescents and the like need a serious education on discerning what they read online and what to take seriously. I think parents need an education in that as well, to simply understand the nature of technology, the kind of connections and accessibility it creates, and how that profoundly molds a young individual’s perception. There definitely needs to be more discussions and initiatives on that.

      As for online gaming, companies that run these games are becoming more strict. When I first started playing, you could do things like raid a wedding without any repercussions. Many years later, I found out that even cursing at a random stranger can result in a ban.

    • http://socklint.com/ David Eldridge

      I think that there is a sense (practically speaking) that we will never be able to stop trolling from happening. People think that they are anonymous on the web, and since we have limited resources to hunt them down and beat them for their cowardly villainy, they are essentially untrackable (and unpunishable). This is not about having a policy of tolerance, but about having a clear, useful, empowering, productive outlook. This is a practical illustration to help us to internalize the maxim, “Illegitimi non carborundum”.

  • mombomo

    This article is interesting, but as a fellow former troll, I sort of disagree.

    “I seen a troll lay down his or her arms and say, “You know what, you’re right. I was so wrong.”

    YET!

    “Back then I justified the act by telling myself that it was just a video game and no feelings could possibly be hurt. But I remember reflecting on it a few weeks later once I saw the backlash from online forums, and then I genuinely felt horrible.”

    People changed your mind, within the week! As a former troll myself, I would say that you’re sort of right, at that moment, you’re never going to get the troll to admit they were wrong, but that’s the case in virtually every argument. For most people, when they
    argue, they’re not actually debating the point at hand, they’re saying why they are personally right. If they can spin it so they’re arguing for a completely different point, they will, as long as they don’t lose face.

    That doesn’t mean that people aren’t listening or internalizing, though! Don’t think of it as a blow, think of it as a slow acting poison. You have no idea if it’s going to actually take the person out, do not expect to see results immediately, but if they put any iota of thought into their actions, they’ll be thinking about what you said for a while to come.

    • Paul Jun

      Well when you do see a troll change his or her mind publicly, send it over.

      And we can only hope that a troll somehow internalizes honest feedback or suggestions, especially someone coming from a place of empathy. I think that’s the best anyone can do.

      • lauralee

        The best approach I’ve figured out so far seems to actually be this: 1) talk to the troll and address it with them. Sometimes it’s a misunderstanding. Other times it’s worse. 2) If they escalate, warn them that you won’t tolerate anonymous trolling. 3) if they escalate again (most of them will) come down hard on them, however you have to.

        As much as I hate to say it, a zero-tolerance policy is the only thing that’s going to work for most trolling people (and there are people behind those keyboards).

      • Sasha

        But that’s absolutely feeding the trolls! Warning someone on the internet that you will be “coming down hard” on them sounds like, in reality, all you’re doing is giving them empty threats. Of course if you’re not being trolled but actually severely, personally harassed (which is another subject entirely and not what this post is about), you might be able to open a case with the police.. but in the instances which Paul is discussing you are definitely just feeding into it.

      • Sam

        Sometimes screen printing the trolls actions and posting it to forums can make things stop, especially when they can also now be IP and there are people who can figure who they are out.

  • lauralee

    I understand – and have understood – everything you’ve said here. I still can’t comprehend *why* though. Why would you spend so much time being so vicious? I mean to the point of death/rape/torture threats, posted on a website, with my real name and real life address attached?

    I don’t ever do this to people. I never come close. I’m the same in real life as I am here. But now I feel driven underground, scared, and forced to delete anything that may reveal who I really am. I hate this.

    It isn’t just me, that’s the thing, I have a family that’s been dragged into this – three other very real people.

    I got a lawyer, I came after the admins of the website that posted this stuff, and after a few more nasty comments they took it down. The thing is, it still shows up on a google search, and google refuses to remove it. I’ve asked them to de-index it from their searches because it no longer exists – but it still shows up.

    This may be attached to my real life name forever, and I did nothing to deserve it. Absolutely nothing.

    So *why*?

    • Paul Jun

      Sorry Lauralee, but I still don’t get what you’re asking.

      You start by saying you understand what I am saying. Then you ask me why I was so vicious, which I state in the post. Now be careful with your words: not once did I mention rape or torture in the article, just cruel online-gaming behavior that most 14-15-year-olds engage in nowadays. And then I lost you after that.

      • lauralee

        I suppose it’s that, after a while, all the trolls blend together. I am not stupid (clearly; come on) and I know it wasn’t you that did the specific thing that happened to me. But your motives are … unsatisfying. Is this really *all*? That can’t be all that’s behind all this blackness and scorn and sarcasm I find on the Internet. There has to be more to you. Right?

      • Paul Jun

        Sorry that was a huge misunderstanding on my part when I read your comment.

        There are definitely varying degrees of trolling and motives behind it. I guess the simple answer is it depends.

      • Sondra Carr

        I’m really glad you said what you just did, Paul. There are absolutely varying degrees of trolling and as I read your post here and it was really quite good, so please take this in the spirit it’s intended, but I noted that there was a bit of a blurring of the lines of that spectrum, which includes legitimate constructive critique (such as this, and also the person being asked why he uses half naked models), pranking (which your antics with the wedding crossed a line on but seemed genuinely motivated by mayhem making and out of boredom) and the sort of sadistic true trolling (or perhaps even that needs a more heinous label applied) that lauralee has been dealing with.

        It’s important to distinguish between these things because otherwise those suffering the latter will feel that their experience is being dismissed (as I think lauralee has demonstrated here) and on the other side of the spectrum, there’s a very real danger that people will feel inclined to not offer corrective/ constructive critique. And that will just make the world a less wonderful place.

        But all that said, it’s wonderful that you’ve written this and I wonder what the full process was of you changing your mind about this – I’d love to read a full explanation of the first time you felt a little icky about it, how you handled (escape, discussion, etc.) and then what the tipping point was (perhaps this experience outlined here). I suspect that there is a deeper explanation of how we all grow from where we are to where we are going, with various elements of the experience along the way and I hope you right more about the topic as you discover more yourself.

        I once did a project where I interviewed trolls in a forum to try to understand the process better – you’re in a unique position to go further into that exploration, having lived the world a bit more than I did.

      • Paul Jun

        Sondra, really appreciate this. I’ll do my best to touch on the points. So the first time I felt wrong was probably due to cognitive dissonance. Here I am in the real world with a set of values and beliefs, but then here’s this other person in the virtual world that acted without any forethought of repercussions and outcomes. I can’t explain exactly how the change went about, mostly because this was YEARS ago, but from what I remember it was because I saw a part of myself in the video game that I didn’t like at all—the fact that I was aware of it could be luck or based off who my personality. The constant self-scrutiny of, “Is this what I’m really doing with my time?” shocked me but also angered me. I was raised by old-school traditional Korean parents. Specific values are deeply instilled at an early age. I felt that I was going against it, and something inside just didn’t feel right. Also, people have different degrees of self-awareness. For some it may come easy, for others it’s required to have others point towards their shortcomings and mistakes. In those moments of trolling, perhaps I had a moment of self-awareness that facilitated behavioral change. That made me become very aware of who I was and what I was specifically doing, regardless if it was a video game or not. Also, reading comments on forums that directly attacked me elicited a kind of fear, like, hey maybe you should stop doing this because it’s a bit overwhelming. Celebrity status isn’t really what I was going for. I was trying to have fun, but my fun ended being incredibly self-serving and hurtful towards others.

      • http://socklint.com/ David Eldridge

        I don’t imagine that there is a motivation that they could have had that you would find just or acceptable. And that’s reasonable. … We all do unkind, unjustifiable things at times. And when we do, we need to stop, and resolve to do better. You owe it to others to treat them with dignity, because they (we) are created in God’s image. If you want to see things change, model that change for others. … As Paul said, take the incentive out of the ‘game’. Don’t give them the pleasure of knowing that they are affecting you. And encourage folks to do better and be better with your excellent example. … And don’t forget that Paul didn’t do this to you. And it sounds like what he did doesn’t raise to the level of what happened to you. He’s one artist and author, trying to help others to make the best use of their limited emotional resources (and time).

      • lauralee

        I know you’re trying to help but it’s really clear you don’t know me. You’d be surprised with what I do with my real life time – I’m a caregiver, I’ve adopted two step kids, and I have a really good rep in the media world for being almost overly kind – and with what I do with my online time. Most people who actually know me know they don’t need to tell me to be kind. If anything, they need to tell me to be less sensitive to the darkness of the world.

        And that’s what’s happened to me. I probably came on much too strong in my original post, but after what happened to me – what’s still happening, years later! – even seeing the word “troll” in print makes me see red. Stupid, insensitive kids wrecking lives for no reason. No reason at all. Stupid kids have way too much power on the Internet right now.

        As I’ve said – twice now – I know Paul didn’t do anything to me personally. But he was, for a while, a section of a much larger problem on the Internet, and the much larger problem still exists. I’ve been online since the early 90s and there used to be a time when I could go to all sorts of places online and not have to worry about being called c*nt or told to kill myself or threatened with violence or worrying about my family’s safety. And now everytime I get online I feel nervous. Do you understand how nuts that is that I have to be anonymous right now? You know I’m anonymous entirely out of fear-based reasons? And I hate that. I hate it so much.

        We have this amazing gift with the Internet. I would never talk to you otherwise, or to Paul, or to a lot of people without it. I’ve connected to people who’ve helped my media career and people who’ve become lifelong friends. But I’m stunned how many people waste this gift with stalking/violence/fear/terror. And I’ve read so many articles like this that think they’re explaining the reason. This article does not even begin to explain all that darkness I’m seeing out there.

        So I still don’t understand *why.*

      • AllenaTapia

        I really don’t see THIS writer being able to tell you why because what you’re talking about IS NOT TROLLING AT ALL. It’s different- different motivations, different kind of people, completely different everything. Not comparable in the least. That’s my opinion on this thread. You’re asking a doctor why he painted your house green. That’s it.

      • lauralee

        Thanks for explaining what I’ve already clarified, I guess?

      • AllenaTapia

        Yes, sorry, you keep mentioning multiple convos and I’m only seeing two comments from you, so obvs I’m missing a part of this somehow.

      • Michael Peachey

        @LauraLee. You might like this piece from NPR’s “This American Life” on how and why people anonymously post horrible untruths about other people online, and what happens in the aftermath – http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/522/tarred-and-feathered?act=1

      • lauralee

        Thank you for that; I listened to that piece with interest when it first aired. I’ve also been following what’s happening with Hunter Moore (glad they finally came down on him). This is a fairly new problem – internet harassment – and I’m looking forward to more legislation passing to better help people deal.

        Thanks for your reply.

      • Sam

        You know that the world will have darkness, maybe pray for that person to find the light. In the meantime do not let them suck your light away as this is what they hope to control over you. As much as this may be hard just let it go. Standing up and be proud of who you are as many are and think of those positives. Get support when you feeling that fear. Try to not post public but to only those you know.

      • lauralee

        Also I want to address this: “Don’t give them the pleasure of knowing that they are affecting you.” I have not only done this for years on end now, but with a few I’ve actually had days-long conversations. They stayed anonymous the whole time, I did not. They could dig up anything they liked on me and some of them did. One of them posted a bunch of my pictures they found by googling me, then insulted me in every way I could think of. And through it all I stayed calm, and talked to them, and tried to figure out why they’d bother doing this trolling thing.

        I think that’s why the final thing happened to me with the death/rape threats with my photo and my address – you know, the one that’s now on the front page of a google search for me, no matter how much I plead with Google to get rid of it? So frankly you’re talking out the side of your mouth here. This is clearly wrong to do to other people. Can’t you see that?

        By the way: “And encourage folks to do better and be better with your excellent example.” Haven’t you been listening to me? I can’t right now. Because my real name has been soiled in trying to address the troll problem.

        I was relieved to hear a few days ago that they ruled in Europe that Google has to delete some of these kinds of things now – I’m addressing that with Google – but it still doesn’t make this stuff any less wrong to do.

    • Sam

      I relate to what you are saying. Google search engine will take down any dead links so it’ a matter of just searching and checking. As for freedom of speach sites sadly there is nothing you can do about it ‘yet’. It’s painful as in the back your always wondering if I move forward what more will they do? If someone does a search and see’s it to believe what they read. Most will ask you hey I saw this is it true? If you have not been questioned, nor has it effected you in harm eg in person or business then let it go.

  • http://twitter.com/ThatChickMelly Melanie

    Its good to know at least one troll grew out of it 🙂

    • Derelict

      I used to be a troll. But I didn’t realize what I was doing was trolling until some time later once I’d grown out of it. Now I look back at that stuff and cringe at how stupid I was.

  • http://datelessndallas.com Bella

    This is such a good article! I feel like it helped me to understand the trolls I’ve come across and can now really not feed the troll thanks to your insight.

  • http://socklint.com/ David Eldridge

    Thank you for taking the time to write this, and laying it out there like you did.

  • Anti

    Fuck you, Paul… for being the douchebag that makes the online community the cesspool it is. You act like a twat for years, being an awful, vicious, miserable prat, and write an article that downplays your behaviour because it was in the past, like it meant nothing to the people you hurt because at the end of the day, everyone is happy, right?

    Wrong.

    People like you are no different than school yard bullies except for one difference – at least bullies have the courage to act like an asshole to their victim’s face.

  • Amgine

    I can inadvertently feed trolls because I often can’t tell when someone is trolling. I just respond as if the person has posted a genuine comment. I rarely respond to blatant venom though.

    • Paul Jun

      Happens to me all the time.

  • TpottyHater

    You’re a troll!

  • http://www.fluxappeal.com/ FluxAppeal

    Interesting. Do you think the mindset of a hacker is similar? Bringing down sites and servers not only makes a negative statement, but unlike with a troll, the behavior is impossible to ignore.

    • Paul Jun

      Ever watch Batman with Heath Ledger playing as The Joker? Batman is trying to reveal some weak points to attack so he can defeat The Joker. But Alfred explains how “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

      Hackers may do it because of that reason. Or maybe it’s monetary. Or maybe they think that’s how they can serve justice in what they see as a corrupt world or system(s). I really don’t know to be honest, just theorizing.

  • http://www.cristobalgalindo.com/ Juan Cristóbal Galindo

    u_u we needD-trolling (like in d-toxing) facilities

  • http://www.larrynocella.com Larry Nocella

    Great article, Paul. Very brave and honest to put yourself out there. Thanks for sharing your lessons. I am totally down with the lesson of ignoring trolls (and I include those who seem to have no life but aren’t cruel, just inane.) Reminds me of what I felt Anthony Burgess was trying to get at with A Clockwork Orange (and the deleted chapter that wasn’t part of the movie) in a way: sometimes the young are jerks out of some reflex, and they really don’t know what they’re doing or why.

    • Aim

      “sometimes the young are jerks out of some reflex, and they really don’t know what they’re doing or why.”

      So right. That could be said about a LOT of things young people do. THey have no real basis “most of the time” for anything they do, other then they want to do it. Their basis for the effect they have on society no matter it’s place *online, or off* is minuscule due to their lack of social experience.

      I think a lot of young people coming in to their own suffer from a general lack of social experience, which leads them to lash out, and express themselves in verbose, rude, or even cruel ways. Unfortunately the internet has taken the fear of getting in trouble out of it, because it’s a lot harder to monitor one off individuals who bully and troll. Thus the internet teaches the young to be fearless and cruel. They learn no social lessons from it, other then, it’s ok to walk all over people because there are no negative repercussions.

      However in the real world, there are in fact many negatives that come from trying to smother somebody else in your own path to glory.

      Just my personal thoughts.

  • aim

    I enjoyed your article, and found it interesting and somewhat refreshing. From reader to author though, Why don’t you follow the 30% rule? You clearly respond to people who don’t seem to have had the decency to fully read your article. some of them are grouping you in with those who have committed offenses far more sinister then that of which you participated in, and openly admit to being wrong. Others sit and act as if you have no clue about what you are saying, going on to say you are trying to tell them what to do. Shouldn’t those people fall under either the -30% or neutral30%? You seem to respond to most of the comments on here in order to explain yourself. But it kind of goes against the “pay attention to the +30%” rule.

    Thoughts?

    • Paul Jun

      I get what you’re saying, Aim, and you’re right. Even a pro-ex-troll can fall victim to it. Perhaps it just goes to show that virtues are meant to be practiced, like an instrument, instead of believing that internalizing it somehow makes the behavior permanent.

      A part of me also just wants to simply try. I’m not afraid of failing to explain or see eye to eye with someone that disagrees with me. Maybe the discussions in this comment section could be different than other platforms. It’s something I’m willing to give a try, but above all, learn from.

  • Chris Wegener

    Interesting article.

    Not a single TROLL will change their behavior because of your article.

    We need to move away from anonymity that allows this sort of behavior, and as described earlier even more horrendous action, from being possible.

    There needs to be a mechanism that prevents individuals from creating multiple personalities and raging against others without any possibility of consequences.
    Otherwise the Internet will simply disappear into a swamp of rage, mental illness and juvenile impetuousness that currently exists.

    As you demonstrate with your confession. No matter that the wedding was on-line and available to be disrupted you still through immaturity and callousness caused emotional pain to others and felt satisfied. What you did was simply sadistic (taking pleasure in others pain.)

    Regards,
    Chris

    • James

      Respectfully, Chris… loss of anonymity does not seem resolve this issue. The internet is such a big place that having people know your real name is little more deterrent than giving them a fake one.

      YouTube comments seem to suggest that folks are fine with hateful and inflammatory comments associated with their real names.

    • rach

      Actually, having your real name out means any crazy person can look you up and stalk you. I’d prefer anonymity, and not because I’m a troll.

      • Chris Wegener

        Actually Trolls are by their very nature cowards.

        They only do what they do, as the author mentions, because there are no real world repercussions.

        Obviously there are times when anonymity is important, but by and large, and certainly not a web site like this, necessary. By losing anonymity we would prevent the very troll behavior we are talking about because then there may be real world consequences as in the person whose wedding you destroyed may show up at your front door.

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