I’m a woman. I’m smart. I say what I think. Out loud. In public. I am, therefore, a target for trolls – especially angry, fearful men.
I’m also not alone. Everywhere I look online, men seem to be trolling us more than women. In the four years I’ve been publishing pieces in the digital age, all but one of my dozens of trolls have been men. On Twitter, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, on my own articles, on others’ articles I post, on comments I make in groups – men, men, men bullying and behaving in ways they would never (I hope) to my face.
Some women (J.K. Rowling, for instance) seem to relish counter-attacking their trolls, and are really good at it. However, a lot of us (me, for instance) find it upsetting or a waste of precious time and energy. It’s also useless – I’ve yet to see a troll’s mind or heart be changed by the perfect comeback, however logically and empathetically presented. To all my sisters out there like me, I offer the following eight tips that have helped me navigate the sometimes nasty swamp of online conversation:
1. Recognize troll behavior as such. Let’s be clear: respectful feedback, genuine disagreement, presentation of alternative evidence, or challenging questions are nottrolling – even if they’re awkwardly communicated.
When a man turns into a troll, he is NOT interested in dialogue, understanding or learning. He is not interested in equitable communication. He is interested in establishing his dominance by humiliating you, and doing so in public for his own benefit. He will try to bully you into defending your ideas, your facts, or your very self. He will challenge your expertise, intelligence, and credibility. He will question your integrity and motives (a man in my field did all of the above in response to a one sentence question I posed in an online group.) His questions are not meant to engage, but to entrap. He may even enlist a buddy to help gang up on you. Don’t get tricked into defending anything about yourself or your information – that only legitimizes his tactics and wastes your energy. You will notchange his mind – not even with your robust evidence, impeccable brilliance or shining virtue. And don’t get distracted or intimidated by his multiple messages, long posts or hyperfocus on one of your words or phrases – he’s just trying to disorient and overwhelm you with nonsense.
Like many monsters, sometimes a troll masquerades as a friend at first. He may ask a question that sounds like honest curiosity or an invitation to dialogue, such as “What about x?” or “What do you think about x?”. Try providing a short answer, then ask a question to find out where he’s coming from: “Why do you ask?” or “What do you think?” His response will reveal whether he’s a troll, or a delightful man interested in dialogue and learning. Read the rest on Huff Post!