Don’t be a Troll: a brief etiquette lesson

“I feel”. Most of the time, it’s really that easy.

It had always seemed odd to me that people publish blogs and articles about topics like “How not to be an online Troll”, but since starting this site and diving head first into the worlds of Instagram and Twitter, I totally get it. Because, more often than not, people aren’t trying to be hurtful.

Poe’s law has become a well known rule pertaining mostly to the impossibility of using sarcasm online, but the misunderstandings and misinterpretations don’t end there. Without tone and expression, online communication can feel like walking a field of landmines. Many times the appropriate approach to a situation is difficult to see, and sometimes situations just explode, seemingly for no discernable reason at all.

Let’s bring this to a personal level, if someone you don’t know stopped you on the street and accosted you with concepts outside of your personal belief system without so much as a hello, then you would likely respond very curtly, if not emotionally and enigmatically! And this is how people often respond to posts online, because that’s how it feels.

However, if you’re amongst a group of friends and acquaintances in a public space, let’s say a coffee shop, and you make a statement to them pertaining to a mutual belief within your group, and then a complete stranger enters and replies to you in a manner that is very curt, if not emotional and enigmatic. Well, you are likely to get upset with them, and then respond in kind.

In both of these scenarios, your response is understandable and arguably appropriate. However, if online, then in both of these scenarios you are wrong. Where you went wrong had to do with perspective.

Okay. Yes, avoiding the pitfalls of online manners can be tricky, because our perspective is always different than that of the other party. To the reader, the conversation is happening in the present, and came to them in their feed, whereas to the poster, the conversation is likely older and one that they probably had no intention of directing to or at any specific reader. But, this doesn’t mean we can’t diffuse these uncomfortable situations like sane and rational people.

I Feel like I might have a Solution

More often than not, just using the phrase “I feel” is all that is needed. For instance, instead of saying “your wrong, and your posts are doing harm to others” say something like “I feel like you are wrong here, and that makes me feel like this information might mislead others and cause harm.”

Or even better, use the following formula “when you say this, I hear this, and I feel like that means this.” Or “when you say this, I hear this, and that makes me feel like this.”

These types of interactions keep things civil and allow for complete understanding of the situation from all parties involved. And, yea, these are the kinds of things we teach our kids to keep them from murdering each other, but I notice this mentality missing entirely in online communities, and I feel like it’s what we need more of.

Now I’m not pretending that true trolls aren’t out there, but even with them, we don’t have to respond in kind. Use these tools to respond, so when they respond to your civility like grade school bullies, then you can walk away with your principles intact.

And even if you are an intentional troll yourself, this can still work for you too: such as, instead of saying “your life choices are dumb” just simply say “I feel like your life choices are dumb”. Yea, you’d still be an a**hole, but the responsibility of the statement is now fully owned by you, as it should be. And the owner of the post can just think to themselves, “well isn’t that nice”, and then ignore you and move on with their life.

As always, I hope this helps at least a few people, even if just to feel like you aren’t the only ones noticing this nonsense. And I love to hear feedback from my readers, so I feel like you should leave a comment 😊

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