When being trolled takes a toll

It is common knowledge that to render a troll a toothless tiger, one must simply ignore him. Something like cricketer Hardik Pandya did, when he ignored the ugly trolling over his skin colour, post his engagement announcement. Sometimes, innocuous comments can invite backlash from supporters.

In one instance, someone commented on a thread of conversation on Facebook, relating to Shashi Tharoor, that the politician speaks so eloquently that “it kills him.”

Immediately, the Shashi Tharoor fan paid for his harmless comments. People started asking why he wasn’t dead yet, among other unruly comments about the Tharoor fan and his life. How dare he praise a politician belonging to a party that has been driven out by the people?

This is often the state of debate on social media. Bots and fake accounts are all over the place, looking to bring down anyone who says anything against the most popular ideology of the day.

Says psychologist Nandita Sarma of Inner Space Counselling, “Trolling is basically contradicting the other person, by someone who can’t voice their opinion on social media by respecting them.

Often they will contradict only for the sake of it, or make demeaning statements about them. It’s a form of bullying, which is now much easier to do, because everything is online.

There are a few ways to deal with this kind of online bullying – to either ignore it, delete the comments made or confront the situation. One can’t always ignore the comments.”

There is also the counter opinion that ‘not feeding the trolls’ is an idea that has been oversold to us. Said Zoe Quinn, an American game developer, and a victim of extensive online trolling and stalking which spiralled completely out of control, to The Guardian in 2017,

“Don’t cede the internet to whoever screams the loudest.” Which means abuse on the internet must not be looked away from, and the victim comes first. A redressal system must be put in place by interest groups and law enforcement agencies to take head on cases of cyber bullying.

“Often, we don’t know who the other person is. There can be safety risks in engaging with trolls, some of whom may not be emotionally stable. One doesn’t know what lengths and heights they could go to get back at you. One must always think of the larger picture, when one decides to confront the troll, or not,” continues Sarma.

In a 2011 film called Cyberbully, the case of bullying has been looked at more closely. The film is loosely based on a real life incident, on the life of teenager Megan Taylor Meier, who committed suicide after she was bullied online by a fake account.

The person behind the account wrote messages to Meier that included alleging that she was never nice to her friends, that the world hated her, and that she was a bad person. On October 16, 2006, three weeks before her 14th birthday, Meier was found hanging in the cupboard of her bedroom by a belt.

Writers say that the word trolling is too mild to describe the kind of online abuse that goes on all day. It must be renamed to “cyberbullying, cyberhate and cyberaggression.”

That would help in the “management and prevention” of violent online behaviour. According to a 2002 definition of Trolling by Herring, Job-Sluder, Scheckler and Barab, trolling meant “luring others into pointless and time-consuming discussions.”

Since then trolling is no longer that simple. It means much more. In the same article Herring and her co-authors talk about discussion on the internet that makes references to a troll as someone like this - “a fictional monster waiting under the bridge to snare innocent bystanders”, adding that trolling involves circuitous talk – saying stuff that is “not overly controversial” but still “intentionally incorrect”.

Trolls are basically categorised by their ability to frustrate others.

Women are unfortunately some of the biggest targets of the trolls. A report by Paris-based NGO Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) mentions a study of thousands of tweets conducted by British think tank Demos.

The study emphasises how women are targeted online. Words like ‘whore and ‘slut’ are used habitually to hurt and harass women journalists. Often they are sent pornographic content, vulgar photographs and doctored pictures so that they can just shut up and ‘fall in line’.


Leave them starving

The best way is to avoid reacting to trolls who are waiting for you to vent your anger and frustration at them. You reaction makes them stronger. Difficult as it is, ignore the posts and hopefully they will fade away.

Gather proof

It would be smart to take a screenshot of the trolling so that you have a record of the original post. This could help if the bullying gets worse and you wish to take action.

Report trolls

Do yourself and others a favour by reporting harmful posts. You can block the user so you are not bothered by them anymore. This is easier as most social media sites have special functions to keep users feeling safe online.

Share your problem

It helps to discuss your problem with someone you trust. Choose someone who will able to give you the help you need. Focus on how the experience is affecting you and what help you want from them. Speak to more people if you don’t get the desired help.

Take a break

Logging off social media might be really difficult, but in case of constant trolling it is a good option. Turn off push notifications, log off from accounts that are most affected by trolling.

Seek action

Some cases of cyberbullying may be classified as a crime, which places it beyond the jurisdiction of service providers. Unlike normal crimes, cyber crime/ bullying/ harassment doesn’t have any jurisdiction. A cyber crime can be reported to Cyber Crime Units of any city, irrespective of the place where the crime is committed.