Trolls are those cute, squish-faced little plastic dudes with Don King haircuts, right? Not anymore. Trolls now live on the Internet, and they waste time and bandwidth every day. A troll is someone who says things, usually on a forum type discussion group, that will get a lot of responses from other members. Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if the responses are good or bad. Just anything will do. I despise these people to my core.
For instance, signing onto a writing forum and posting the question “What are you reading right now?” is a troll thread. An innocent enough one, for sure, but still a troll thread. The poster is hoping to illicit a lot of responses, which they usually get, and then they feel better about themselves as people. I mean, to tell someone I’ve never met, and who lives in another state or country, that I’m currently reading Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood, volume 3” won’t help that person, or change their life in any way. The question asker is taking advantage of the fact that people like to play along, and share things. A sure sign of a troll question.
Sometimes, trolls are insulting, and their entire purpose on the Internet is to derail threads, and turn them into arguments. A chess troll might call Fischer a raving lunatic racist who wasn’t worthy of the air he breathed. That is sure to get a couple hundred responses, and so the troll wins. On a writing forum, announcing that you think Stephen King’s writing sucks balls is going to get you the responses you so desire. On a welding site, a thread called “Let’s see your welders!” is going to go on and on forever, which makes the troll feel good. Again, pictures of welders other people own won’t change that guy’s day a bit, but he asks anyhow. So, how do we tell the trolls apart from someone asking a genuine question, or someone stating an honest opinion? Here are some tell-tale signs of troll threads or responses.
♣ A troll thread will include information, questions or statements that are completely irrelevant to the theme of the site. For instance, making a thread on a forum that says, “I’m sad today, can’t get anything done” is a troll thread. That information helps nobody, and the original poster (OP) is simply looking for sympathy responses. Another classic example is the thread “What music are you listening to right now?” It seems to live on every single forum. No matter what the answers are, no progress is made because it doesn’t matter a lick what is coming out of my speakers. Not a single bit. Troll thread.
♣ A troll response will often times deviate completely from the subject or intention of the thread. Their goal is to cause a legitimate thread to go in a completely different direction, and there are many tactics to accomplish that. Let’s look at a few:
♦Insults. Trolls learned early on, probably at the playground, that insults are a sure way to either give momentum to a dying thread, or change the subject entirely and gain a ton of responses. Insults work. Example: On a BMX forum, if someone asks what is wrong with their forks because the bike doesn’t turn correctly, a troll might come on and say something like, “Before you worry about your forks, get rid of those ugly ass wheels! Damn, that bike needs a nasty award.” Keep tapping F5, because the responses are going to pour in. That troll wins.
♦Lies. Oh, nothing can get a forum crowd riled up quite like bad information can, especially when it’s broadcast on purpose. It gets bonus points if it involves danger. For instance if, on a four-wheel drive forum, someone states that it’s just fine to drink a few beers on the trail, and that it causes us to be even more alert, that troll is going to receive a *huge* amount of responses. Troll 1, forum 0.
♦Threats. Oh yes, threats work on any forum. A troll might say they can get the IP address of a certain forum poster, and from there get their home address, and then they’ll come whoop some ass if said forum poster doesn’t shut up. That is a dual troll because he’s both lying *and* threatening. Twofer. Or, how about the thread some troll creates that says he or she is thinking of hurting themselves. Oh, boy! Nothing like a good suicide threat to bring even the quietest forum lurkers out to respond. All successful trolls know this.
♦Be aware of the “small successes” threads. If, for instance, someone on a fiction writing forum creates a thread to inform the other users that their recent novel, “Fighting Really Bad Amongst the Stars and Planets” has been purchased and published, that would *not* be a troll thread. If, however, someone creates an entire new thread to tell you that they have finally put a difficult jigsaw puzzle together, taught their idiot dog to play dead, or that dinner tasted really good, they are trolling. Again, watch out for information that doesn’t affect anyone on the site, even in the slightest. Trolls can be tricky.
So, now that we know a little about trolls and their intentions, maybe you will be more keen to spot them and *not* respond to their useless, energy-robbing posts. Trolls are like drug abusers in that they can be very tricky, and will stop at nothing to get what they want. Heroin addicts need to score more dope, trolls need more responses from people. Every time folks chime in on their counterproductive, purposeless threads, their self-esteem goes up just a little. Trolls are sad, small people.