The “post-truth” digital landscape is full of real people and bots who seem programmed and with no other purpose than to tear you–and reality as a whole–down. What’s even more pathetic is that they seem to find joy in doing so and contribute little else. Trolling. It’s ugly. But all hope is not lost.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines trolling as:
“to antagonize (others) online by deliberately posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content”.
Perhaps you’ve been there before:
You launch a well-intentioned mission-driven campaign on Facebook. The next day you wake up to a bunch of comments or replies screaming in all caps/emojis, denigrating your page/account/ad, spreading fake news links or memes, blasting racist rhetoric, presenting generalizations based on unverified claims, spouting random obscenities about politicians they don’t like, or simply trying to discourage you from your work by writing it off as fake news, false, misleading or out of touch with reality. Perhaps they were trying to hijack your ad or post for free reach?
Know that trolls are a very loud minority. Their aim is to have emotional impact: fear, pain, defeat and distress. And sometimes they succeed in this.
BUT FEAR NOT.
The key to dealing with trolls is to relax, take a deep breath, and consider your options, because you have a few good ones. Here we’ll outline some of them for managing comment-trolls on Facebook.
1. Hide the comment, potentially ban user: This allows the commenter and their friends to see the comment, but hides it from all other folks viewing the post. You can unhide if you choose at any point. Other random Facebook users will still see the raw number of comments on the post, but will not be able to see any hidden comments. This is probably the most common tactic we have observed in practice. The user will not know the comment is hidden.
To hide a comment from a post on your Page:
2. Delete the comment: This will remove the comment entirely. You will not be given the choice to ban the user after deleting a comment. They will not be notified. The banned user may or may not notice. In the rare event they do, they may return to comment more.
3. Engage: Do so at your own risk! Two options for that:
A. React: Simple choose from the reaction emojis available on FB. It’s the lightest engagement and will probably not make much of an impact.
B. Reply to the comment: When you do this, remember that you are potentially engaging with a worldview that embraces “alternate facts” or even a bot. You may not awaken any ground-breaking dialogue, and it might get uglier…but there’s always a chance to find some common ground. One practice we see is page moderators dropping a link to a well-reputed, verified source without any additional commentary from the page. Just leave a link and move on with your life. If open to it, the user may click and consume the content. Potential for a “learning moment?” Maybe.
Aside from tooling up, you may want to consider some of the recent research on trolling, bots and the “post-truth” era. This research will help serve as a reminder that the issue isn’t your content or mission. In fact, this isn’t happening to you alone. It’s a systemic infection being studied academically and by social media companies themselves.
Check out some recent studies that we found interesting:
Design Interventions Against Trolling in Social Media: A Classification of Current Strategies Based on Behaviour ChangeTheories
Authors: Kate Sangwon Lee, Huaxin We
What are larger social media platforms actually doing to intervene in trolling behavior? How can social media companies implement socially responsible design? How do we change the behavior of trolls? How does user experience play into this as a whole?
Post-truth: how bullshit conquered the world
Author: James Ball
A direct quote sums thing up best: “… Post-truth is bigger than fake news and bigger than social media. It’s about the slow rise of a political, media and online infrastructure that has devalued truth. Bullshit gets you noticed. Bullshit makes you rich. Bullshit can even pave your way to the Oval Office. This is the story of bullshit: what’s being spread, who’s spreading it, why it works – and what we can do to tackle it.”
Social Media Usage and Trolling: A Longitudinal Investigation of Undergraduate Business Students.
Authors: Carl J. Case, Darwin L. King, Julie A. Case (St. Bonaventure University)
This article examines the relationship between student trolling and disinformation movements and present/future real-world business outcomes. It contains a very well-documented and cited introduction section of broader research around social media trolling in society.