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Online Nobodies

Sometimes you can't avoid it; online, people can be nasty. To paraphrase Gabriel's Greater Internet Theory, average person + anonymity + unrestricted speech = terrible person. But there are those who make a hobby out of it. We call them trolls, but really they're insecure nobodies, and calling them trolls gives a bad name to mythological beings in general. Still, they can be offensive. So, how to deal with the dorks?

You could launch your own counter-offensive, try and make them feel bad, but I would say this is usually a waste of time. Large numbers of these people are sociopaths; meaning, they don't feel empathy and won't be affected by whatever you say. The rest are insecure cowards, taking potshots to make themselves feel better; so, insulting them is probably just going to make them worse.

Still, there are some things to do. Contacting the owners of the service they're distributing their rubbish on, is probably a good start. If it's email, that's their email provider, if it's Messenger that's Meta, if it's txt, that's your cell service provider. Generally speaking those in charge do a good job of getting rid of the blighters, but not always.

The second thing you can do is block them. This is pretty straightforward to do in Messenger and the like, over email you can either screen out those people via filters in your email client or through your email provider (if you're on gmail this is pretty easy to do). Likewise most phones have txt-blocking built into them nowadays. That means they can blab away, but you don't have to listen to it.

Third thing you can do, if you can't do either of the above, is to ignore them. A lot of these types didn't get enough attention as children and developed maladaptive ways of obtaining it. So by responding to them you're really just reinforcing their damage. Unfortunately they'll probably just find another "victim", but it won't be you. What these people generally want is either a hurt reaction or to scare you. Don't provide them with either. They're just not that interesting.

The final thing you can do is treat them like human beings, which sometimes surprises people. Although I don't have time for it, engaging in dialogue with trolls which neither disrespects your own boundaries or their humanity, if done repeatedly, has been known to effect change at least in some people. If you want proof, look at Michael & Julie Weisser in Nebraska, who, over the course of several months, turned their harasser - the leader of the KKK in that area - into a lifelong friend, to the extent that he renounced his klan membership. Such things are possible if arduous.

Serious threats should always be reported to the police, regardless of the medium used to distribute them.

- Matt Bentley, computer expert at Bentley Home PC Support.
Email info@homepcsupport.co.nz or phone 0211348576.

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