DiagnosticThe troll does not consider himself to be a troll.
I say “he” because most the trolls I have encountered are male. Of course, trolls would become extinct without the female of the species, but the females are more likely to be the imagined recipients of the males’ posturings than the ones putting on the display.
Feed the trollIgnore the possibility that you’re being a troll
Starve the trollGrow a soul. Reflect on blogs like this. Heck, the fact you’re here at all is a good start.
DiagnosticTrolls treat the truth like an offensive weapon; the more offensive the better.
Trolls are incapable of nuance, and that’s what we need to employ here. The required nuance in this instance is that it’s OK to passionately believe stuff. This also means that it’s OK to passionately reject other stuff. The irony, I think, is that most people don’t see themselves as passionate believers/disbelievers, but that’s because they’ve never been confronted with the stuff that is adamantly opposed to what they believe (until they get on the internet).
This makes us human, but it doesn’t necessarily make us into trolls. What makes us into trolls is the use of truth to cause as much damage to the victim as possible. In other words, the over-arching objective is to prove the troll Right (with a capital "R"). The troll has a pathological disregard for the well-being of his victim and would much rather see him die than repent – in fact, the more prolonged, excruciating and public the victim’s execution, the better.
Feed the trollUse a frenzied, flailing technique with the sword of truth. When you land a blow on your opponent’s exposed flesh, keep stabbing.
Starve the trollUse your blade like a surgeon’s knife. Keep the incision small, make sure it’s applied to exactly the right place and allow your patient time to heal.
DiagnosticTrolls brag about their conquests.
We all like to think we have something to say, and when we’ve said something good, we hope people will notice. The road to troll-dom starts with the insistence that people listen to what we say. So, the troll will harangue his victim for an answer and more; he will brag about how good his assessment was to his victim, and to his fellow-trolls, especially if his victim is disinclined to respond in kind. Too often have I read phrases like “they can’t stand the truth” in a context that could only serve to bolster the poster’s feelings of moral superiority. Though it’s true that people avoid shame like the plague, trolls feast on it. Or, rather, trolls feast on the shame they can generate in other people because they have none themselves.
Let me suggest a new word – a “trollbelch”, meaning the kind of sated utterance that follows a well-cooked stew of someone else’s shame, characterized by a self-congratulating assessment on the quality of the meal.
Feed the trollSeek attention. Insist on getting a response. Tell others about how good you were and how bad your victims were.
Starve the trollIf you get ignored, get over it. Acknowledge the limits of your effectiveness in changing the other person’s posture. Be humble, even to idiots.
DiagnosticTrolls never ask. They are not interested in interaction. They have nothing to learn from this particular situation.
It’s OK to express an opinion, and you may find yourself in the unpopular minority. But it’s wise to try to understand why the other person thinks the way they do and the only way to do that is to ask. Too many times I have seen people tell other people what they are, or what they believe without even the faintest attempt to understand why. Now, the other person may be misguided and mistaken, but they should at least be given the opportunity to tell it in their own words. Trolls put words in their victims’ mouths and would prefer to sustain gross misrepresentations of their victims than attempt to glean anything of value in what they are, do or say. Trolls have expunged themselves of all empathy.
What is more, nothing rouses the troll’s appetite more than the slightest whiff of internal conflict. Trolls expect everyone to comply with an inhuman standard of consistency. All mortals experience internal conflict over something or other. Usually, it’s the conflict between what should be (in principle) and what is (in praxis) and probably the only people who experience complete freedom from it are eminently prequalified for a career in psychotic hermitry.
Feed the trollShun all attempts at meaningful exchanges with your victims. Shut your victim out of the discussion at every opportunity. Preempt engagement with belittlement.
Starve the trollAllow the other person to explain it in the way that he or she sees it. Allow the other person to be conflicted, if that is what they feel on a particular issue. Even though you might be convinced that it's true, don't stoop to calling them stupid. Don't use synonyms for "stupid", either.
ConclusionThis isn't an exhaustive guide to troll-spotting. If you have any sightings you'd like to share, please drop me a line.
Trolls are bullies. I don't like bullies. I hope and pray that I don't act like one.