For those who feel this post is too long to read, basically, if you're being trolled or baited or being the target of inflammatory remarks, do not retaliate. Instead, ignore the transgressor and report his or her actions to a Moderator. Let the Moderator take care of the problem.
Prelude: A Word on Pronoun Usage
Since most of the people on the internet, and a majority of the problem-causers on it, are male, I originally considered using masculine pronouns throughout. However, there are females (I can’t honestly use the word ladies in this case) who burn, bait and bash with just as much glee as the guys out there. So, I alternate. One example I use he, the next, she. It may seem a bit confusing, but you’ll get used to it. If I can go through the trouble to write it, you can go through the trouble of reading it!
We all love our OOC forums. Here, we can come to discuss many things, and get opinions from a variety of people around the world. I’ve seen art, biology, death, freedom, God, hunting, jokes, literature, money, n00bs, philosophy, religion, science, television, the universe, video games, and world peace all discussed at one time or another. From the serious and sad to the happy and light, we come together in these OOC forums not to talk about our online personas, but to talk about ourselves.
Needless to say, the rules here are different. Feeling pain in a roleplaying world is different than feeling pain in the real world. Here we are no longer shielded by unreality – this is it. Here we are vulnerable, and unfortunately, there will always be those who want to take advantage of that – be it for their personal gain or for some strange love of hurting others.
This thread goes out to those who would bait, troll, flame and counterflame. This thread also goes out to those who are trolled for, to those who would take the bait, to those who would light the fires – not out of maliciousness, but out of a sense of duty and revenge. This thread goes out to everyone – because it takes two people to ruin a good time. You may say it only takes one, but we’ll get to that in a moment…
I do not think that these forums really need this warning. I do not think that, compared to what could be, there is a fire-hazard on these forums. But we do have our quarrels and ridiculous moments that lead to real pain.
But, even though I don’t think these forums need this warning, I do think that many places on the internet do. I urge you all to take this advice to any other forums you visit, hell, you can even recopy them anywhere you want. I put them here so that they can benefit us first, because while we may not need too much help, we do make mistakes – and I hope, deep down, that this can help.
Part One: WTF is He Talking About?
Let’s get a few things cleared up. These definitions are my own. They may not be universally used, they may be somewhat wrong, but they’re the words I’m going to use in this guide, so let’s be sure we know what I’m talking about, here.
Bait – to try and draw someone into making a mean-spirited or insulting remark. It takes it’s name from the fishing metaphor that gives us…
- Trolling – to “cruise” a forum and find potential hotspots that could become flamewars – with a little bit of bait and incentive. Since those who troll are called trolls – and not trollers, the fishing metaphor has been lost, and some sort of fantasy metaphor assumed. This, I think, has done some harm, as trollers are therefore seen as unthinking brutes. In reality, trolling is an extremely efficient, if not somewhat unsporting, manner of fishing. Trolling is a fishing technique in which many baited hooks are put into a body of water on a single or multiple lines. The troller then goes off for a while and comes back to see which hooks have a fish on them. It’s remarkably similar to internet trolling, where the troll will bait potential threads, go do something else for a while, then come back to see where fires have erupted.
- Flaming – to use the Supreme Court’s decision on pornography; “We may not be able to define pornography, but we know it when we see it.” Replace “pornography” with “flaming,” and you’ll get the gist. Flaming is, basically, an argument where, instead of trying to convince people, the participants attack one another, using insults and rhetoric instead of well-thought-out ideas. Counterflaming is when someone flames a flamer. A flamewar is when everyone involved starts flaming.
Part Two: They’re Trolling for Me!
So you’ve been baited. You see a post obviously designed to spark up a fire. It may be addressed to you directly, or it may be directed at people like you, those who, say, think the Xbox is better than the Playstation 2. (Video game flame wars are the worst.)
What should you do? Should you take up arms or ignore them? Should you leave the thread or post away? You’ve got options – but which one is gonna be the best?
I say – ignore them. Nothing is more effective against a troll than ignoring them. It prevents off-topic remarks, it keeps the discussion on the friendly side, and, if you’ve got a revenge jones, it really, really annoys them. Is there a better way to thwart his plans and simultaneously keep yourself and your friends having fun? No. The troller is looking for any negative response. You might want to try to lure her in by making a friendly remark that draws her into the discussion. (e.g; well, yes, the Xbox is superior hardware and has an excellent software library, but the Playstation 2 offers a better selection of games. It depends on which games you like, really…) Still, if you’re pretty sure you’re dealing with a troll, it’s best to just ignore him.
"But wait!” you cry. ”I come to this forum and act appropriately! I won’t stand for people coming in here and acting like this! I don’t even want to READ that garbage!” This, my understandably angry aquaintance, is exactly the attitude that keeps trollers around. Yes, you’ve got a right to be angry. Yes, you’re right, ideally, everyone would keep flaming on forums that appreciate that sort of thing. (Fanboy sites, for example…) But by responding to the troller, you’ve made his day. By responding with great vengence and furious anger, you’ve made her week. And by flaming away, you’ve made a very happy troll that’s sure to come back to such a prime spot. It’s just like a lazy fisherman. Bait, troll, walk away, and come back to the spots that respond, with the bait that gets the most bites.
If no one bites, then the troller can’t troll anymore. Perhaps he could continue to adapt his bait in more and more subtle ways to try and get a response, but then, he’d be totally manageable and a good sort to have around. A good argument is fun. A flamefest is not.
Sometimes the troller doesn’t bait – she just throws the TNT in the water and waits to see what floats to the top after the blast. This is more of an all-out-flamer attitude. Flame first, see who fires back. Juvenile, but unfortunately effective.
So you’ve been flamed. What now? Stop, drop, and roll (away). In my opinion, flamers are easier to deal with than trollers. A troller uses bait, he looks to see what’s going to rankle the ranks – he doesn’t just flame his way in, because then, people might unite against him. The flamer, on the other hand, usually isn’t concerned about that sort of thing, she’s just there to start a flame war. (Usually, that’s the motivation of a troller, too, but he has a bit more patience.)
But back to the “so I’m on fire, what now?” question. First things first, the best advice anyone has ever given to me. Don’t panic. There. If you can follow that advice and not respond hot-headedly, then you’ve defeated 99.99% of all trollers and flamers, who know that people are not patient. (Look at the rush for high-speed internet, and tell me that internet people are patient!)
In a flame situation, everyone should ignore the flamers. If you see a guy with matches, gasoline, and an insane grin, what do you normally do? Rush him with flamethrowers, or step back? What people don’t realize is that, by responding to someone who bursts into a thread and yells U sUxx0Rz, l@m3rz!, you’re making everything much, much, much worse.
To paraphrase our President: when you react, the terrorists win.
”But no, X, you’re wrong!” You may shout. ”If we don’t do something, then the world will be overrun by idiots who think they can do whatever they want!”
No. I am right in this case. Call me a dirty hippy, but look at your internet experience. Sure, in the real world, you do have to respond to people who would rob, kill, and steal. But this isn’t the real world. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to hide the truth from you. It is a prison for your mind. Oh, no, wait, wrong speech. Ah… errr, yeah. This isn’t the real world. This is the internet! You can ignore flamers, trollers, baiters and dolts. The rules here are not the same. Some of them can be bent, others broken entirely…
Seriously! Has the internet troll situation ever gotten better? Despite billions of bytes of counter-flame over counter-strike and bitter argument about “who shot first,” have people stopped fighting? If fighting isn’t working, then why do we continue to do it?
Ignore the flames. Don’t take the bait. If someone is desperate enough to continue to flame and/or bait you, then, eventually, a moderator will step in and delete their posts. Nothing bad is going to happen to you if you see that flame ten times a day. Sure, at some point you may get angry, but don’t panic! Don’t reply. You’re only making things worse when you do. You don’t want to be the person who makes things worse for everyone else, do you?
Part Three: Taking the Bait Without Being Hooked…
By now, you may be thinking “Man, X is just a crazy, unrealistic, ivory tower peacenik who thinks we should all get along and vote for Ralph Nader…” (And what’s wrong with getting along and voting for Nader, I might ask?)
No, I’ve got a pretty good knowledge of how the world works. It’s the “why” I’m working on, but as for how, well, I’m getting that down.
Sometimes you’re gonna fall for bait. Sometimes you’re going to want to argue with someone. Sometimes, you may be confident that you can convince this girl that, hey, the New Jedi Order books were just plain bad. A lot can happen!
Also, a civil argument, a reasonable debate – that’s fun, damnit! Talking about things, getting opposing viewpoints, learning things – it’s travel for the mind, without any illegal substances. (Or, with them, if you prefer.)
Insulting people, assuming that they’re stupid for taking a belief, that’s no fun for anyone. Sure, you can tell people things, throw out your opinion, but why be an ass about it?
So use a little tact. Use a little thought. Disagree with ideas and ideologies all you want, but for the love of Humanity, lay off one another. Don’t assume the negative. If I think that Terminator 2 is better than the original movie, some people would say it was because I was a rube who was easily impressed by flashy computer effects.
Those people aren’t helping the reader out. It might as well be because I liked the idea of a helpful machine helping mankind against harmful machines. Being negative isn’t good for you. High blood pressure, all that. Have a drink. Relax. I’m not saying you can’t be cynical – I’ve probably got most of you beat when it comes to cynicism – but cool your fires, people…
Argue. Refine your ideas. Be smart. You’re being smart when you argue ideas. You get to hear the objections, you get to learn more, use other ideas to plug up the holes.
Yeah, you hear that right, you get to be disagreed with. It’s not bad! Why do you think that despots and dictators take away the freedom of speech? Certainly, so that the people cannot talk bad about the government – but also, because it’s hard to refine an idea or strategy, it’s hard to improve, if the only opinion you ever hear is your own.
Typically, people react negatively when they think they are in a precarious position. (Don’t panic.) If you are confident and knowledgable in your ideas and opinions, then you can factually and reasonably refute your attackers. If they use half-truths and lies, then state the truths, don’t attack them for using falsehoods. Someone could be wrong – and it could be you.
When I see personal attacks, I see two things – impatience and fear. If something angers you, let yourself mellow before responding (don’t panic). If someone attacks your ideals, refute them and attack theirs – not them. After all, if you’re right, you’ll be okay. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a gift for exposition and explanation – take some time, write out your reply in notepad, and check it again. Yeah, you may have a life to get back to, but if your offline life is important, then the people online can wait for you to get it right – after all, you do need to spend some time with your friends, why should you let your schedule be dictated by online needs?
Epilogue: For the Love of Humanity…
The next part is a short plea to you flamers out there. I am not too proud to plead, if it will result in less pain and anguish for everyone on the boards. If not, then at least let it be shown that I tried.
My plea is this: Whatever is on the internet, especially in a forum, we put there. There is enough pain and suffering in the real world. There is no need to bring more here. You do have a right to say what you want – but you should weigh out the cost of doing so, because we also have the freedom of silence. If everyone were to talk at once, no one could say anything. Give others the same respect you give yourself.
This isn’t just an internet thing, though. We shape the world through our actions and our perceptions, we mold our thoughts, we have power. Reality certainly holds powers over us, and we hold powers over it. Use them wisely. Use your words wisely, they influence other minds, other perceptions, others actions, and therefore, your reality these minds share with you.
Hurting others does not help you. Even if you think there is no negative effect, know too that you cannot see everything.
So be nice to each other, sheesh. How is that any harder than being mean to one another? Is there any good reason?
Not if you think about it, I say. Especially here – but hey, if you take some good into the world from the internet, then I, for one, feel better.
Thanks for reading;