I’ve already talked about the problem of trolling and the fact that it so often happens to anyone who is brave enough to express pro-female statements online – although that’s certainly not the only reason it occurs. But what if it happens to you? What’s the best strategy for coping with a nasty troll and how do you protect your reputation?
If you’re engaging with people online then you may well already have come across a troll – and if you haven’t yet then rest assured that day is coming. Trolling is not a new phenomenon for 2016 but it is one that is more and more prominent as the Internet – and, in particular, social media – has become the place where many of us establish and grow our reputations. You can’t avoid a troll attack but there are some steps you can take to minimise its effect, on your reputation, and on your sanity.
The widely accepted approach when it comes to an Internet troll is to ignore them and then block them. You are dealing with someone who is doing what they do for attention and the more attention they get, the more they are fed and want more. However, depending on what they are saying it can also be constructive to reply to set the record straight for anyone else looking at the conversation but do this only once or twice, don’t get personal and don’t start to argue or you might not be able to stop.
It’s very difficult to make a joke at someone who is being vicious via Twitter but if you can simply make light of it then you take away all the power that person has. Their aim is to upset and if they are unable to do that then they will most likely move on.
If it gets to the point where threats of violence have been made or real reputational damage is likely then report them, first to the social media platform and then to the police. The account may be shut down and, if they’re identifiable, they can be prosecuted under the Malicious Communications Act and face prison time.
Trolling is rarely personal and the best way to recover your reputation from a trolling incident is to start putting positive statements, information and media out there. Listen only to genuine feedback, interactions or customer service, not trolling insults, and work on overwhelming negative messages with the power of your own positive communication.
There are plenty of examples out there of people who have engaged with trolls and ended up making the situation far worse but one of the most interesting accounts of a troll comes from Leo Traynor. The Irish blogger, political consultant and writer experienced trolling so bad that it resulted in death threats. However, he ended up meeting his troll in a telling experience that provides a lot of insight into how trolling happens in the first place – you can read the full account on his blog.