If you spend much time online, especially on social networking sites, you’ll get a chance to meet a troll. Okay, not a “real” troll. But in truth, you may never get to know their real identity, because trolls like to hide in the dark a lot. Evidently coming out into the light is what kills them.
Fairy Tale Trolls
For a long time, the only trolls I knew about were from an old fairy tale I’d read as a child called The Three Billy Goats Gruff. As you know, the things in fairy tales are never what they seem. Everything means something else.
Trolls Symbolize Trouble
I found this written about the meaning of the troll in Uncle Thor’s Magazine:
“Trolls symbolize trouble. They are lurking troubles that appear unexpectedly. A troll can turn otherwise safe circumstances into danger. Most trolls are brutal and stupid, like a blind force or random event. A troll portends unexpected trouble.”
On the internet, a troll is someone who starts arguments or posts things to be deliberately disruptive, inflammatory, or harassing. The intent of the troll under the bridge in the fairy tale was clear. He said he was going to “gobble up” the goats. The intent of the online troll may not always be clear, but it is to gobble up any chance for intelligent discussion, sticking to the topic at hand, and feeling respected, safe, and secure on the internet.
Brutal and Smart
Unlike the description of the fairy tale troll as “brutal and stupid,” sometimes the online troll is brutal and smart. They can be intelligent, shrewd, and resourceful, with an uncanny ability to know exactly what to say to “get your goat,” so to speak.
The Troll’s Food Source
Trolls are so crafty and have an almost inexhaustible amount of energy to cause chaos. Well, actually, it is exhaustible. They feed on attention. Your attention. Once it becomes clear through interacting with someone online that the person is less interested in hearing what you have to say and responding to it, but rather more interested in baiting you and escalating the discussion to the point of ridiculousness, you have identified a troll and you must starve it. Immediately.
How To Starve A Troll
Cut off all contact. Do not respond to any more (probably inflammatory and accusatory) requests for contact. One of two things will happen when you starve a troll. Either it will weaken and go away for a while or possibly forever (unlikely that). Or it will get so hungry for attention, it will come out into the light and die. Online trolls who don’t get attention eventually need it so much they risk being seen for who they truly are and in doing so, commit online suicide. You can sit back and watch it happen, although it’s kind of gruesome and very sad, actually, I’m not going to lie.
Troll = Never Having to Say “I’m Sorry”
Real human beings aren’t perfect. They sometimes offend without meaning to, and when informed of this respectfully, they will respond by apologizing and saying they didn’t mean to and they’ll certainly try not to do that in the future. Trolls won’t. Trolls will tell you that they weren’t being offensive, if you were offended it is because of some major flaw you own, and they’ll never, ever say they are sorry for anything.
Please Feed The Humans!
Don’t let the fact that there are some trolls out there on the internet deter you from interacting with the great human beings with whom you can have wonderful, intelligent, respectful, safe interactions. It can be difficult sometimes to bridge the chasm between genders, cultures, races, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and a host of other ways we are different from each other. But human beings can do this. Trolls are not interested in bridging the gap.
They want to knock you off of the bridge. Stand strong.
Dr. Anita Sanz, PhD, Psychologist
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