The Trinity of Trolls

Not all social media trolls are created equally. Some are awful horrible people and some are arguably beneficial to society in the long run (mocking those doing stupid things is not wrong) whilst it is a spectrum you can broadly group trolls into three types: The Angry, The Attention-Seeker and The Stupid.


The Angry:
These are the purest of trolls in my humble opinion. They don't want anything else other than to scare, offend and basically just harass their victims. They are supposedly motivated by their victims having differing viewpoints to them but like most bullies they can always find people who they consider legitimate victims. The sheer nastiness and lack of subtlety in expression, for example being happy to tweet threatening behaviour, means that they are trivially easy to spot and take actions against like reporting to the police, blocking or whatever. The downside is that as these trolls want to harass and don't care how their actions are viewed (or even if anyone except the victim views their messages) they will often attempt to work around anti-trolling features for example using multiple accounts to avoid blocking, sending messages from new disposable accounts etc. People like this are unfortunately a part of humanity. In real life communities evolve ways to police and prevent people behaving like this. Alas the speed and anonymity of the digital world means that this issue is more difficult to police online. These types of trolls don't want to educate or change your mind they only want to harass and committed ones know they will be reported. Pretty much your only option is to ignore them, block and report the accounts and inform the police of any actions that seem to be delving into stalking territory.
Warning Signs:

  • Very young accounts.
  • Threatening messages.
  • Little effort made to personalize the account.
  • Low numbers of followers or friends.
  • Focused on very few issues (or just one) and jumping straight into arguments with random people on these.
  • WRITTING IN CAPITALS.
  • Not very interactive.


The Attention-Seeker:
An attention seeking troll is a very different beast to an angry troll. They may offend some but they are more interested in playing games than actually harassing people. Whilst their tweets may be offensive they are basically saying the most shocking thing they can think of to shock others. Unlike angry trolls these trolls absolutely care how others' think of them and will often follow trends and attempt to use comedy to maximise their social impact. Displaying their tweets in an effort to show them up or getting angry and shouting at their logic is exactly what they want. These trolls also include people who genuinely believe they are doing a public service by mocking those with what they consider with distasteful views. Several high profile celebrity are well described as attention-seeking trolls with Katie Hopkins being the most perfect example I know. These trolls are obviously not as fully committed to nasty harassment as angry trolls (though of course that doesn't mean they can't be extremely hurtful to some people) if they were their accounts might be deleted or they might lose followers which is a disaster to them. It is quite easy to deal with these trolls simply just don't engage with them. They seek attention so if you don't play with them they will go elsewhere. You can block or report them if you like but actually just ignoring them will be by far the best tactic.
Warning Signs:

  • Replying to rebuttals in public (eg dot replying on twitter).
  • Fond of comedy and satire but never that which is aimed at people like themselves.
  • Trying to draw in more popular accounts and celebrities into their conversations.
  • If proved wrong goes silent.
  • Consistenly vocally offensive across a wide range of topical issues.


The stupid:
The last trolls are a subset that many would argue are not trolls. They are basically ignorant stubborn people who like arguing. Now arguing with someone is most certainly not trolling but shouting your opinion at someone and not bothering to engage with their response is trolling. Some really quite smart people can be stupid trolls, they manage this trick by veering away from subjects they know about yet still talking as if they are experts. These trolls are absolutely convinced their opinion is the right one and they become exasperated and offensive when others will not accept it. The most likely people to act like this are the people most likely to argue in general, that is people who see the world in simple black and white. How best to deal with these sorts of situations is sort of dependent on the situation and how calm and nice you are. Probably the correct way is to agree to disagree and ignore them for a while till they calm down. Maybe Muting them temporarily if they will not let it drop. There are of course a great many conflict resolution tricks you could also use if you're partial to the odd management book. Personally I tend to tell people to f*** off and block them immediately after (most of my blocks are auto-rescinded after 24 hrs due to a little watchdog program on my account). Which is possibly not the most grown up of moves but then again it did technically it does resolve the conflict in less than 20 seconds. 
Warning Signs:

  • Intense aggressiveness on selected issues.
  • Treating moderate opinions and extreme opinions from the "other side" identically.
  • Getting angry if their authority to talk on this issue is questioned.
  • Replying with cherry picked scientific articles near the top of google searches.
  • Totally ignoring evidence leading to a different view to their own.