This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

What an internet troll is, and how to deal with them

An internet troll is someone who posts something, usually outrageous and offensive, in order to get a reaction. Trolls are the reason why so many Facebook groups are private, with the hopes of excluding these types of people.

Unfortunately, trolls are like weeds in the garden, they pop up and need constant attention. And just like a weed, which starts small, it's the rampaging growth that you want stop as early as possible before it ruins the garden. And you can use weed preventers, but weeds do pop up, and you need to remove them. As a gardening person, and some with a Facebook group, that's how I see it. Just part of the tending.

And if you're wondering what makes a person a troll, believe me, you already know. Just imagine being trapped somewhere, like a boring classroom, and being bored out of your mind. Anyone who has a human brain has been a troll, trying to liven up a situation. And that's the key to understanding it - the feeling of being trapped. Most of us don't feel trapped, the way we did in 3rd grade, but many people remained trapped, for many reasons. And their feeling of being bored and trapped makes them want to "liven things up", bring some excitement into a dull situation. And I really do understand, I'm easily bored myself, and have been known to try to "throw a monkey wrench" into boring situations, if I can't get out of them.

So when I see a troll comment, I recognize that this is someone who is bored and trapped. This could be someone who is trapped in a terrible situation in their life, at work, or at home. This could be someone who's trapped due to some type of disability. There are as many reasons for being trapped as their are individuals on the earth, and I myself have been trapped many times, frustrated, angry, and bored.

Of course the best thing to do with a weed in the garden is to simply pluck it out. It's the same way with a troll comment on your Facebook group. But it's vitally important that you recognize weeds. If you destroy something that's valuable, you've made a mistake. When in doubt, hesitate. If you're sure it's a weed, pull it out.

Most trolls post and move on. I can usually delete troll comments and the troll has no idea that I even did it. Rarely a troll will follow up and want to know why I can't "lighten up" or "have a sense of humor". Dealing with a troll at that point is a very delicate thing. I usually just ignore the ranting (it's always the same, so I don't need to read it) and invite the person back into the group. Oddly enough, this usually works, and that's because I'm seeing a person, angry, frustrated and trapped. If there's a person there who knows that I can see them, they just might stop being a weed, and become a beautiful flower. I've seen it happen.

Why do Facebook groups always have to be so uptight?

When I started teaching, back in the '90s, I often made the mistake of answering questions that weren't really questions. Someone would ask "Why do we have to learn Photoshop?" and I would start talking about how important Photoshop was for graphic designers. After a while I did figure out that these were "rhetorical questions" - that is, a question that was actually a statement, done in the form of a protest. My favorite one is from a book I saw whose title was "Why Do We Gotta Do These Things, Mr.?" I never read the book, but I embraced the concept, which is to be able to answer the most difficult questions, which are usually phrased as a rhetorical question. Once I started to recognize them, I saw that they were the most important questions in the class, and I tried to be prepared.

If you're wondering why Facebook groups always seem to be so uptight, I think I can help. And the best thing to do is to step away from the computer and picture any group of people who are traveling together. I like to imagine the bus. Stay with me on this.

When I'm on the bus, I behave differently than if I was just hanging around with a group of close friends. I don't do this because I fear the bus driver, I do this because I'm a full grown man. Up until I was about 13 I would behave in a very goofy way, jumping on the seats, singing songs. If I did that at my age, it would scare people, and I know that I don't want to scare them. Becoming the man that I wanted to grow up to be started at about age 14, and I'm still working on it. I was inspired by the dignity of the heroes I read about in comic books, saw on TV, and saw in movies. I wanted to grow up to be a man of the West, who did the best he could, someone you could count on. If you're old enough to remember them, I wanted to be Gregory Peck, or Gary Cooper.

As I grow in to my golden years I find that I really don't want to give that up. I've been a leader, a teacher, and what I call a "Silverback". I like the man that I grew up to be, and I want to be him for as long as I can. I want age to empower me, to give me dignity.

So please, especially if you're a young man or an old man, find a reason to be the man you deep down in your heart know you can be. Sure, people will wonder why you don't relax, so show them that you do, sit down with them and have a beer, and laugh and sing. On the bus and on Facebook, be a little uptight.

I hope this helps. See you in cyberspace, and on the bus!