Don’t Feed the Trolls: The internet provides an online community for people all over the world to share their knowledge and opinions. You can meet like-minded folks on message boards, blogs, and social media, and some of the online interactions may blossom into real-life friendships.
But there’s a dark side to cyberspace discussions. Rude, angry and inflammatory comments have become more common on the internet, from blog comment sections to news websites to social media.
Blog owners need to be vigilant about online trolling and bullying. A comment section brimming with insults, arguments and political bickering will drive visitors away and give your blog a bad reputation.
You should allow a certain amount of time daily or weekly to check your comment section. Answer questions and respond to civil conversations as soon as possible to let readers know you care about their opinions and concerns. Delete comments by trolls to make sure your blog is a safe and positive forum for both regular visitors and casual browsers.
Trolls: Fight or Ignore?
“Don’t feed the trolls,” has been the most common recommendation for bloggers dealing with rude comments, and following this advice will rid you of lots of online headaches.
Trolling isn’t relegated to a few unemployed guys living in their Mom’s basement. The stereotype may be true in some cases, but statistics show that nearly a quarter of Americans admit to online trolling at least once.
Trolls may disagree with something you’ve written or a comment from another one of your readers, and express their displeasure with insults, swearing or other offensive behavior. Other times, trolls are just bored or angry people who get joy from disrupting a civil conversation. Hijacking a comment thread allows them to become internet “stars”. They enjoy the attention and the temporary power it gives them.
Don’t Feed the Trolls: The Psychology of Trolls
Trolls who post negative comments may be social outcasts who want to “get back at” a particular group of people or society in general, and they can do this without fear of reprisal by posting anonymous insults on a blog comments section. A percentage of online trolls are people who are facing their own hardships in life.
One study found that online trolls enjoy harassing people for their amusement. Trolls don’t have any social agenda. They just want to cause havoc. Disrupting a friendly online community makes them feel powerful.
The anti-trolling organization, Anti-troll.org, is dedicated to making trolling a criminal offense. It’s no surprise that people with an inclination for sadism and psychopathy are more likely to become trolls. Trolls are usually men, though more women are engaging in this type of online behavior.
Some trolls may make threats and engage in other criminal activities. Be prepared to take screenshots of such comments or record video and audio of threats during a live stream.
The online troll is the 21st century equivalent of the schoolyard bully. Individuals who agreed with statements such as “I enjoy embarrassing people” and “I enjoy making people angry” were more likely to become trolls than people who disagreed with those statements.
Don’t Feed the Trolls: Maintain a Healthy Comment Section
Personal attacks, outright lies (or propagation of “fake news”) and aggressive comments have become the norm on the internet, but you don’t need to let them invade your blog.
More blog owners are now posting their “Zero Tolerance” policies for trolling and cyberbullying on their blogs or comment sections. Let your visitors know that you read the comments sections, and will remove offensive posts and block trolls from future postings.
When other commenters return the troll’s volley with harsh words, the ugly comments escalate, and pretty soon, your comment section resembles an episode of “Real Housewives” or another combative reality show. Put an end to a potential string of angry comments with a warning, some instructions, and a blog commenting code of conduct.
When you set up a blog, include a “Code of Conduct” for commenters stating that harsh and abusive comments will not be tolerated and that discussions must stay on-topic.
State that people who disobey the code of conduct will be blocked and all their comments will be deleted.
You can also call out the trolls without mentioning them by name. You can put a notice at the top of your blog announcing that a troll is interfering with a peaceful comment section, and tell users not to engage the troll, and block him or her from their feed.
Some internet trolls won’t bother with your blog after reading a strongly-worded Code of Conduct or Warning. They will migrate to blogs without warnings or ones that aren’t carefully checked by the owner. Other trolls will consider it a challenge, but will soon grow tired of commenting on a blog if no one feeds them with angry rebuttals.
When a troll persists despite your efforts to block him, send a letter to your blog provider and let them know a user is harassing you. Include screenshots, usernames and any other identifying information, and say that the troll has violated the provider’s Terms of Service.
Some people have managed to track down their internet trolls in real life. More people are fighting internet trolls legally and confronting them. As more people stand up to internet trolls, harassers think twice about saying nasty, abusive things on blogs and forums.
Don’t feed the trolls: Dealing with Spam
While more irritating than offensive, spam comments take up space on your blog and may prevent visitors from scrolling all the way through your comments section.
Spam comments trying to sell watches, advertise for nonexistent at-home jobs and other scams, or comments unrelated to your blog should be deleted right away – or better yet, never appear on your blog.
Most blog platforms have built-in spam detectors. WordPress users should use the Akismet plugin to keep spam away from their comments sections. You can attach a Disqus comment section to any blog for a clean, streamlined look and smooth moderation.
Some comments aren’t obvious spam, but sales pitches disguised as friendly comments. A comment under a blog about kittens may say, “Great post! I love kitties! Check out my homemade kitten mittens!” followed by a link to a sales page.
Some of these sales pitches may be for legitimate sites, but many are for iffy sites that may infect computers with malicious software. Look for sales pitches in disguise and delete them.
Don’t Feed the Trolls: Is Moderating Comments The Answer?
With so many potential trolls, you should police your blog comments on a regular basis. You may want to choose the moderate comments feature on WordPress or your blog platform if you don’t have time to check comments as they appear. A moderated blog lets users know that you won’t tolerate abusive or off-topic comments.
Your visitors usually won’t mind waiting a few minutes (or hours) for you to check and moderate comments. Remember to check your blog often if you choose to moderate comments before posting. A comment that lies in limbo for days or weeks lets users know you don’t monitor your blog, and that will make commenters less likely to return.
Don’t Feed the Trolls: Be an Active Presence on Your Blog to Prevent Trolls
Building a blog can be profitable, but monitoring the comment section is vital to maintaining the success of the blog. Check your comment section often, even if you use a blog comment moderation feature.
Build a successful blog and online community by engaging with your visitors through a lively comment section. Choosing a niche and writing informative and original posts is just the start. Take time to respond to legitimate comments and delete spam and rude comments from trolls.
A well-kept blog will keep trolls away and invite the audience you need. A neglected blog, much like a neglected garden, will attract trolls, the internet’s version of weeds.
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