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Coconut monkeys and trolling
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Internet trolls are like coconuts. Here’s why

We’ve all been at the receiving end of trolling. Thanks to the Internet, we have been able to uncover one more side to the human psyche. The medium has magnified, to a large extent, the capabilities of the human mind to manipulate others, in order to seek comfort.

Understanding the human psyche and thought processes are the key to solving any societal problem. So the best way to beat trolling and its effects is to understand how it works. What drives it? How different drives manifest in different ways?

One of the concepts that we need to understand while talking about trolling is online escalation. Cyberpsychologists Mary Aiken, in her book The Cyber Effect, says:

“I’ve seen this demonstrated time and again: Whenever technology comes in contact with an underlying predisposition, or tendency for a certain behavior, it can result in behavioral amplification or escalation.”

Remember the three Ds — deceptive, destructive, and disruptive. They aptly describe how trolls behave.  Here’s a detailed article on understanding how a mind of a troll works.

Let’s face it. We can’t control how others react. We can only be smart in avoiding potential traps and arguments that are aimed at only inflicting pain and planting discomfort. The key to tackling trolling is to understand the psyche of the troll and not in reacting to the provocation.

How to handle trolling

The most important rule. NEVER ARGUE. Even if you’re right. I can’t stress the point enough. In the troll’s mind, there’s very little regard for the content or what you say because his/her mind has already decided to troll. So making sense will only frustrate them further. They also seek attention. When you cut off the things they are looking for, they stop engaging you.

A worrying trend of attacks on women is emerging. And, they are generally gender-based threats. Latent insecurities manifest in dangerous way on the Internet. Entrenched attitudes are difficult to lodge and when opinions or ideas that appear to dislodge set notions are confronted, it leads to a violent reaction. And, the Internet magnifies it — both in terms of quantity and quality.

Mental illness

If the troll decides to shame you on a public forum, you have two options — to tackle him in a manner that your audience understands the motive and at the same time, stops the troll making more moves; or just ignore. If you decide to tackle it in the first way, humour can be an effective weapon. You need to word your response carefully, not committing to specifics but convey that you’re cool about it. It does two things — it tells the troll that you do not take him/her seriously and he/she hasn’t ruffled you. And, that troll has no power over you.

Trolls are like coconuts

Yes. They seem hard on the outside but inside they’re vulnerable and are easy to manipulate. Threats, abuse are ways to convince themselves of the power the wish to have and serve as a positive reinforcement. They do not expect answers. They only wish to seek positive reinforcements — in the form your struggles and inability to cope with them. Their rigidity can be used as a weapon to confront them — in the way of belittling their effort.

If the situation escalates, report abuse. But very rarely do we that. All social media websites have a page where you can report abuse. It’s your duty do register a complaint — it is a formal record of complaint.

Another key aspect to protecting yourself online is to be careful of the digital footprints you leave.  Understand that whenever you visit a page or click on a button, you leave a trace. Every action on the web leaves a footprint — a digital footprint. Avoid clicking on buttons or visiting websites that impose themselves on you. Many call-to-action buttons, like ‘download’, ‘take the test’, ‘click here’ are generally unwanted ads or pages. Try to keep your clicks to the minimum and visit only websites that you know or seem credible.

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