For an ordinary girl from Florida whose Twitter presence is largely focused on her rescue pets (shout out to Jolene, Dixie Belle and Mean Cat) and her love of pop culture, I get trolled a lot. Perhaps people don’t enjoy my hot takes on J.Lo’s Oscar snub as much as I’d hoped. Or maybe the internet has lost its appetite for cute pictures of dogs — a sign of the apocalypse if ever there was one. But it’s probably because this Florida Man is my older brother.
For the record, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Though, like most siblings, we don’t agree on everything, I love him and am deeply proud of him. Where you may see a brash, combative loudmouth, I see the brash, combative loudmouth who insisted to the neighborhood boys that I be allowed to play football with them — even though I was a scrawny, nine-year-old girl.
But you aren’t here to hear heartwarming tales of my youth. You came for my expert advice on how to survive a troll attack. And though the existence of this piece will surely summon the ringleader of my own personal band of trolls — he’s kind of like Beetlejuice in that respect, only with significantly less charm and hair — I’m ready to give up all my best troll-repelling secrets.
1) Use the block button
I currently have almost 400 accounts on my block list. Those who have found themselves at the block party have arrived there through a variety of offenses — some relatively minor (like being a nuisance), some legitimately terrifying (like wishing me dead). The block button is wonderful. It allows you to banish trolls to cyberspace without ever having to give them the satisfaction of engagement. If you’re feeling particularly spicy, you can respond to your troll — and then immediately block them so they have no recourse and no way to respond. I call it the Troll Roll, and it is highly satisfying. Some trolls will use a block as a badge of honor — screenshotting it for their 29 followers. Don’t let that deter you. Think of blocking trolls like screening spam calls. Mash that block button with impunity, and don’t look back.
2) Pick your battles
Speaking from personal experience, it can be really, really hard to let certain kinds of comments go. There is a natural compulsion to respond, and I am on record with my personal philosophy on punching back. But here’s the thing — in the midst of a troll onslaught, you can’t (and shouldn’t) respond to everything. I’d advise responding to accounts with significant influence or followers, but more importantly, pick spots where you can be clever and make concise points. If you find yourself launching into a lengthy treatise or defense in response to @MFer6969, please refer to Troll Tip #1.
3) Know how and what to report
When someone calls you a dumb, horse-faced cow, it can be tempting to rush to the report screen (and to tell the troll in question not to mix his farm animal metaphors). Resist that urge. Insults are not reportable. Differences of opinion aren’t either. Even lies and conspiracy theories — however insane and ridiculous they may be — aren’t going to get your troll banned. That’s why it is imperative that you only report what is actionable — tweets that include clear physical threats, encouragement to commit self-harm and harassment based on your gender, race, orientation or religion. Twitter claims that it does not track how many tweets you report and that frequent reports don’t factor into their decision-making. If you believe that, I’ve got some ocean-front property on the Space Force lunar colony to sell you. The Twitter moderators aren’t perfect, but if you stick to the tweets outlined above, you’ll see your trolls face legitimate consequences for their actions.
4) Get weird
In my detailed examination of the mind of the troll I have found one universal, inescapable truth — trolls are after one particular type of reaction. They want to get you angry, wound-up, upset, embarrassed and defensive. There is no other objective. That’s the whole game. So every once in a while, before I block them, I like to subvert the trolls’ expectations and squash their opportunity to meet their singular goal. Former Colts quarterback Andrew Luck famously congratulated defensive players after they hit him. Sometimes, I like to employ a similar tactic. If a mean tweet is genuinely funny or creative, tell the troll you thought so! Then block him. Block him all the way to oblivion.
5) Lift the veil of anonymity
Often times, a troll’s greatest weapon is anonymity. It allows them to take shots at you, your job, your family and your face, all while hiding behind a cloak of invisibility. Here’s the thing, though — even if he is using a vague account name and a possibly fake photo, your troll is never as anonymous as he thinks. If you really want to expose a troll’s vile behavior, try reverse image-searching his avatar photo. Often, it will lead you to another social media page with the troll’s real name. Sometimes, it will bring you right to the troll’s LinkedIn page. Trolls often use their account names across multiple platforms, so if you’re up for the deep dive, it’s usually not too hard to find out their real name and occupation. Though it will be tempting to dox your troll once you find out that @BitchHunter4242 is really Dale Tuttle who works in HR, don’t do it. Instead, send a quick email to Dale’s boss with screenshots attached. We’re all adults, and I feel absolutely no sympathy for adults who harass others under a fake name. Sorry, Dale.
6) If all else fails, log off
Seriously. Just find another use for your time and energy for a couple of days. Trust me, you’re not missing anything.