I follow a lot of pages on Facebook. Mostly health related stuff, but also a lot of mommy and parenthood information, as well. Oftentimes I will see a page comment on the “trolls”, usually in jest. From context clues, I gathered that trolls are people who visit pages or blogs in order to argue, play devils’ advocate, or just plain try to make the other person look ridiculous or break their spirit. However, it wasn’t until I touched on this whole measles/vaccine issue that I got to experience my own, personal troll. (Apparently breastfeeding doesn’t warrant high enough on the controversy scale, lol!)
They say don’t feed the trolls, as in: don’t acknowledge them, don’t let them influence, don’t let them get to you. However, I broke that rule, for two reasons.
1. I didn’t at first realize it was a troll. (How embarrassing.)
2. I wanted to show firsthand how ridiculous they are.
I am lucky enough to blog through WordPress, which shows IP addresses. I am also lucky to have a tech-savvy husband who alerted me to this matter. Here is an example of what my “backoffice” looks like when I receive a blog comment:
Sometimes I hate technology.. but sometimes I love it. Haha!
If you go back to those comments, you will see how a troll operates.
1. Post a comment agreeing with whatever is said, while at the same time sounding offensive and/or ignorant so that it reflects negatively on anyone who shares that general opinion. Example: My troll’s first post sounded supportive and agreeing with me.. at first. If you really read through the comment, you will see “she” is attempting to make anyone who agrees with my side sound like a crazy government conspiracy loon as well as offend anyone who has sick kiddos.
2. Post a second comment in reply to their first comment pointing out how horrible the first comment is. Example: my troll then commented as a person whose child has leukemia… what a coincidence that that first comment mentioned leukemia and this random person was personally offended on a deeper level!
3. Post a comment tearing down the reputation of the original poster. Example: my troll commenting how I claimed my oils can cure ebola. I, of course, have said no such thing, but could this possibly deter someone from thinking my current blog post is based in facts? Perhaps.
4. Post a comment with tons of questions that any rational person would probably ask themselves. This is done in the hopes that A) someone will read the questions and not wait around for an answer or B) anyone who replies further digs themselves into a grave by not giving a “good enough answer”.
5. Post a comment just being plain rude and dismissive.
So, the real question is.. why would someone go through all that work? Honestly, it seems exhausting.
The main reason, obviously, is to detract from whatever is being said. You’ll be surprised how many people don’t really read entire posts as often as just “skimming”. You will also be surprised how wishy-washy people are based on what else is being said. I don’t know if this goes back to peer pressure or “herd mentality” or what, but I have seen this time and time again (and even experienced it myself, unfortunately): You read something and maybe even agree with it (or, at least, can admit that that opinion has some validity), but then after reading comments and what OTHER people think about it, your opinion is confused or swayed.
What really concerns me the most is that this certain IP is labeled as a “corporate account”, meaning there is a business associated with it. Most likely, this isn’t just a bored little troll playing for shits and giggles or just to be irritating. I have heard rumors about trolls being paid. It’s kind of like a lobbyist, or an activist who seeks to persuade members of the government (like members of Congress) to enact legislation that would benefit their group. Only, internet trolls work on the general public, trying to convince them that an idea or opinion is stupid, offensive, or has no basis in fact. And it works. Quite often.
In all honesty, it’s a little flattering. To attract a troll means you must be doing something right, because their whole purpose is to turn people away from “your side”. If what I was saying had no validity, there would be no reason to actively make me look like I didn’t know what I was talking about or to try to “tear me down”.
It really makes you think, though. If you really read my blog, you will find the inner message is all about freedom of choice. I wasn’t just blogging to convince everyone to shun vaccines; I admitted that this is a personal choice that everyone has to make after weighing all the benefits and risks. So, why are there trolls out there who so desperately want to drive people away from that realization? Why play dirty?
I hope anyone who reads this keeps this thought in mind the last time they are reading a blog, Facebook status, meme, or whatever. Use your own brain; come up with your own opinions; stand firm in your beliefs. Don’t let the masses sway you or confuse you. I am all about having your own beliefs or opinions, until they infringe on basic freedoms… (or just become plain judgmental, lol). Apparently, not everyone agrees with that.
Don’t be a sheep, and take my advice: don’t feed the trolls!