THE BELLS ARE TROLLING – Marilyn Armstrong

There are subjects I avoid writing about because no matter where I go, there’s a troll lurking and waiting for an opportunity.

Gun control and “right to life,” or more to the point, the right of the unborn as opposed to the rights of the already alive are big troll-gatherers. They have always been two of the hot topics on the Internet and the trolls follow them like moths to flames in the dark of night. At least I have some control over them here on Serendipity. It’s the big advantage of blogging rather than being part of an “open” bulletin board — or heaven forbid Facebook.

How do you know you are being trolled?


I’m usually pretty good at spotting trolls, but sometimes, they creep in. They make a normal comment and as far as you can ascertain, they seem okay. There aren’t many ways to figure out if someone new is a follower or a troll other than whether or not they have a valid blog. But not all followers have a blog. Some people simply enjoy following other people’s writings.

So you have a new follower. They start a conversation, but they never quit. By the time the second day of conversation arrives, they have stood on every side of a “discussion” … and are getting aggressive.

I have been trolled on places like Amazon. You would think a biography about Alexander Hamilton would be essentially troll-free, but you’d be amazed at the damage they can do. I think Amazon has done something to control these jerks, but not enough. If they want reviewers, they will have to end the trolling.

Places like Facebook are obvious trolling sites. If you are fool enough to open yourself to that sort of thing, you will get what you deserve.

This isn’t Facebook, so it’s simple. I’ll put up with a conversation as long as that’s what it is. The minute it starts to edge into trolling, I will end it. One warning from me — and if there is another murmur from the aforementioned troll — he or she is blocked.

I tell them why and they say I’ve misunderstood them. They were merely trying to “liven up” the conversation. There was a time when I actually believed that line. I don’t believe it anymore.

These trolls actually think their viciousness is funny. They think they are being “cute.” Or anyway, that’s what they say. I still don’t believe it. Cute and funny isn’t nasty, angry, and mean. Sometimes, you get an apology. “Oh, I was just trying to make conversation.”

Don’t believe it. Trolls know exactly what they are doing. They do it wherever they go. They aren’t stupid. They think getting you angry and upset is hilarious. For them, anyway.

If it makes you unhappy, they don’t care. They are doing it for their own amusement, not yours. Their idea of livening up the conversation is to get a lot of people upset and if possible, feeling bad about themselves. When you ask them they will say they like “stirring the conversation” by which they mean insulting and harassing people they don’t even know. It’s their version of “getting the conversation moving.”

It’s trolling. If it is making your nervous system jangle, you can bet it’s trolling. Unless it is someone you know who has just gone a little over the edge, it’s trolling. Do not let them turn your site into a battleground. Spam them, block them, get rid of them. They will drive your real readers away and inflict a lot of damage — to you and others. Trolls are ugly people and their idea of humor has nothing to do with how anyone else feels. The more upset they can make you, the more they enjoy it.

I sometimes wait a while to see if the commentary is going that way, but when it’s a “new reader” with a flurry of nasty, sharp things to say? It’s a troll. Bet on it.

There are things we need to say and sometimes they are controversial. People argue, sometimes with considerable fervor, but I think you will know the trolls from regular readers with strong opinions who have maybe gone a little bit overboard. You’ll know the difference.

Shut down the trolls. Don’t let them back on your site, no matter what they tell you. Once a troll, always a troll.

THE JINGLE JANGLE TROLLING OF THE BELLS

THE JINGLE JANGLE TROLLING OF THE BELLS

One of the reasons I tend to avoid some subjects is not that I’m afraid of them. It’s not that I don’t have enough data. It’s just that some of these topics attract trolls from near and far. Gun control and “right to life,” or more to the point, the right of the unborn as opposed to the rights of the already alive. These are two of the hottest spots on the Internet. Like moths to lights in the dark of night, the trolls will flock to you.

How do you know you are being trolled?

You may not notice it —  at first. It’s usually a new follower. They start a conversation, but they never quit. By the time a second day of conversation arrives, they have stood on every side of the “discussion” … and are becoming aggressive. Mean.

I have been trolled on places like Amazon. You wouldn’t think a review about a book about Alexander Hamilton would be trolled, but you’d be amazed at the damage they do. I think Amazon has done something to control these jerks, but not nearly enough. If they want reviewers, they will have to end the trolling. Places like Facebook are obvious trolling sites. If you are fool enough to open yourself to that sort of thing, you will get whacked for your effort.

This isn’t Facebook. My site is not public. In this place, I am Queen. This is uncomplicated for me. I’ll put up with conversation as long as that is what we are having. The minute it starts to edge into trolling, I will end it. One warning from me — and if there is another murmur from the aforementioned troll — he or she is blocked. The end.

Sometimes, you get an apology. “Oh, I was just trying to make conversation.”

Don’t believe it. Trolls know what they are doing. They do it wherever they go. They aren’t stupid and they think it’s funny. If you ask them they will say they like “stirring the conversation” by which they mean insulting and harassing anyone else on the site. They like to think they are just “getting conversation moving.”

It’s trolling. If it is making your nervous system jangle, you can bet it’s trolling. Unless it is someone you know who has just gone a little over the edge, it’s trolling. Do not let them turn your site into a battleground. Spam them, block them, get rid of them. They will drive your real readers away and inflict a lot of damage — to you and many others. Trolls are ugly.

I sometimes wait a while to see if the commentary is going that way, but when it’s a “new reader” with a flurry of nasty, sharp things to say? It’s a troll. Bet on it.

There are things we need to say and sometimes they are controversial. People argue, sometimes with considerable fervor, but I think you will know the trolls from regular readers with strong opinions.

Shut down the trolls. Don’t let them back on your site, no matter what they tell you.

Once a troll, always a troll.

FAKE COMMENTS

FAKE COMMENTS ARE SPAM

I apologize to anyone who has accidentally posted under the name “Anonymous” because you couldn’t take the time to use your WordPress identifier. Anonymous comments will always be sent directly to spam. If you are too paranoid to create an identity, I must assume you have bad intentions.

It’s hard to keep the hackers, malware, viruses, adware, and trolls at bay. If you aren’t in that category, set up an identity and use it. No matter how harmless a comment seems, once approved, it becomes a doorway into this site.

NO TROLLS

Even if you are a dear friend, I cannot know that if you send it as “Anonymous.” Friends don’t send anonymous messages. Bloggers who care about their sites don’t allow them.

I got two this morning. I got one last night. Usually, I can tell a fake from a real comment. The one last night told me he loved my pictures and they made him LOL for hours. The aforementioned pictures weren’t funny and so he was either a troll or a hacker.

No one with a fully masked identity will be allowed to comment on this site.

Also, I will spam anyone who’s comment is nothing but a link to their personal site. Speaking of fakes, there are far too many fake people, fake sites, fake friends out there. If you are one of them, I will do my best to end your journey at my front door.

Anonymous” means spam to me.

TROLLS ON THE INTERNET

We blog for a variety of personal reasons. Some of us want freedom — to express our art and opinions. Most of us want a connection to the larger world, to join our voices with others in support or opposition to ideas and events. For me, the primary reason I wanted a site was to own a piece of cyber turf where I felt safe to be myself.

I had been moderately active on social media for a while before I began blogging. I had Flickr and Facebook accounts and a second Facebook page dedicated to antique dolls. I was active on a number of photography forums. I wrote reviews on Amazon.

From these places, I was driven out by trolls. On one photography forum, I was hounded until I resigned … and then (the same?) trolls found me on Amazon.

TROLLS - John_Bauer_1915

There’s nothing exceptional about my experiences because I don’t know anyone who has been active on public forums who has not been attacked.

The trolls are usually anonymous, but always vicious. They use fake names. Why do they pick on some people and not others? Who knows. You’d have to get into their heads to figure it out. It has happened to so many people, from well-known authors to folks like me — perhaps the attacks are random. Are these the schoolyard bullies of our childhood, using computers instead of fists?

The trolls are forever searching for new victims, seeking vulnerable people to hurt.

About a year ago, I reviewed a book on Amazon. I thought it was racist and said so. I got so slammed by trolls who clearly hadn’t even read the book, whose only goal was to “get me,” I gave up. I took the review down. I know defeat when I see it staring me in the face.

The trolls were banned eventually (I was not their only victim), but Amazon (and other sites) are often slow to deal with cyber bullies and trolls. I suspect (but can’t prove) they don’t necessarily mind a little ugliness, if it keeps people interested, reading reviews, commenting. Buying stuff.

I needed a safe place where I could play by my rules, have a civil environment where we treat each other with a modicum of respect. Without name-calling. I was tired of being bullied, picked on or taunted.

Authors are frequent targets of cyber attacks. Writers are sensitive. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been doing it. Every piece we publish is our baby and that makes us ideal targets for cyber bullies. We put ourselves out there with a target painted on our foreheads. It makes trolls very happy. If we didn’t exist, they would have to invent us.

Trolls love causing pain. The more misery they cause, the happier they are. There’s no effective way to fight them. After all, we live in a “free” society where everyone is supposedly “entitled” to an opinion. To the best of my understanding, no one is “entitled” to an opinion. Our laws say we can’t stop you speaking your mind — no matter how baseless, ignorant, cruel or illiterate. But protection under law isn’t an entitlement, nor does any opinion automatically have value.

Most trolling comments aren’t opinions. Just meanness. They don’t represent a position, nor are they part of a disagreement between opposing viewpoints. Their intent is to spread ill-will and hurt people. Nothing more.

In this place, my space — I’m the Queen. I make the rules and enforce them. I try to be fair, but in the end, I decide what’s fair. This is not a public forum. Want a free-for-all, maybe provoke a fight? Go join the mobs on Facebook. In this place, I will protect any guest who comments and I will protect myself. Because finally, I can!

Serendipity is a troll-free zone.