How to Avoid Being a Target for Trolls

Anyone active online will eventually encounter trolls. These irritating, disrespectful troublemakers lurk in the shadowy recesses of internet forums, eager to disrupt conversations. For those whose livelihood depends on online engagement, managing trolls and their primary weapon, online harassment, is crucial.

Standard advice for dealing with cyber bullies and online threats suggests staying low-profile, but for professionals who are their own brand, this isn’t always feasible. If your career involves frequent interactions within your field (as it often does), adopting certain best practices can help shield you from the nastier side of online discourse.

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Trolls thrive on controversy

Controversy acts like a beacon for those eager to start conflicts. The more polarizing your views, the more backlash you may face. This is a common experience, with nearly everyone receiving a harsh comment at some point.

Yet, some individuals escalate their attacks significantly.

Often, due to factors beyond your control, even a harmless comment or post on a divisive topic can trigger a flood of offensive remarks, relentless criticism, and threats to your safety.

cyberbullying

Still, this isn’t a reason to avoid controversial topics. Every industry has its challenges, and without courageous voices willing to confront these issues, progress will stall. Just be aware that addressing sensitive topics requires heightened vigilance to avoid being overwhelmed by negative reactions.

Enhance your knowledge

It’s clear that harassment or bullying is never justifiable. However, certain comments can inadvertently provoke ridicule due to their own flaws. Poorly researched views, overgeneralized claims, and inaccurate or offensive stereotypes about dissenting opinions in the design field are prime examples of how not to engage.

research subject

Many of us, myself included, have at times fallen prey to these errors. Yet, there’s a straightforward remedy: be well-informed about the topics you discuss.

Equip yourself with thorough knowledge

Thoroughly research your positions to safeguard against trivial rebukes. Most trolls won’t bother to craft a well-supported argument against you. If they do, they might not be a troll after all.

Engaging with those who offer valid, thoughtful critiques of your ideas can be beneficial. Listening occasionally helps grasp diverse perspectives.

Limit your online footprint

If avoiding stalkers, hackers, or identity thieves is your goal, then strategically limiting your online presence can be effective. Choose a select number of social media platforms, blogs, and forums to frequent. It may seem counterintuitive to confine yourself to a few venues for interaction and marketing, but this approach has its merits.

The vast array of available sites might cause you to feel you need to be “everywhere,” which is not only unfeasible but could also dilute your brand’s impact. Concentrate your efforts on a few well-trafficked sites and guide your audience, clients, and colleagues to these locations.

Avoid engaging with hostility

This principle, often referred to as ‘not feeding the trolls,’ emphasizes that the more you engage with a harasser, the more you embolden them to continue their behavior. Unless facing direct threats to your safety, the best approach is usually to ignore the offensive remarks.

avoid hostility online

Blocking disruptive individuals is a proven strategy for disengagement. This is particularly important if the comments are inappropriate or provocative, as any response might be seen as encouragement by the harasser to persist in their unacceptable behavior.

Maintain your privacy

It’s wise to keep your specific location confidential, especially online. If you’re in a big city, it’s sufficient to mention just the city rather than precise details. This is crucial for those who are public figures or participate in events. Always aim to share minimal personally identifying information.

online privacy security

Respond maturely

Handle criticism like an adult. There’s no benefit in resorting to personal attacks or harsh replies. If you feel misrepresented, address the criticism calmly and politely.

Reacting emotionally can escalate the situation and rarely resolves anything, often making matters worse.

Stand your ground

There are countless accounts of prominent bloggers and professionals who have retreated from online spaces due to severe trolling. This is arguably one of the worst outcomes of cyber-bullying: talented individuals withdrawing, thereby diminishing the richness of online discourse.

stop cyberbullying

Resist the urge to withdraw. Trolls persist in the online world, but that shouldn’t drive you away from engaging or sharing your insights.

Summing up

It’s important to acknowledge that even the most polite and informed individuals can become targets of online harassment. Sometimes, despite all precautions, you may still encounter severe attacks. These incidents highlight that the problem lies with the aggressor, not the victim.

Should you find yourself targeted, remain resilient. Most situations don’t escalate to the point of needing law enforcement, and can often be managed with common sense, courtesy, and decorum.

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