15 Dec 2015

The New breed of online troll – the Troglodyte

If you have any contact with social media where anyone is given a ‘voice’ you will be familiar with the phenomenon of trolls. Trolls are members of any online community that allows comments, that post inflammatory remarks just for the fun of it. They are usually characterised as sad, little, lonely nerds that have nothing better to do, that sit and think up absurd remarks just to get attention. Being labelled as a troll is never a compliment.

To some degree Trolls have lost their attention grabbing power. People are so used to dealing with them on varying platforms that they don’t even credit a roll of the eyes or a raised eyebrow. Evens Trolls are falling out of love with Trolling as it doesn’t bring the power it used to. The best way proven to deal with them is to ignore them – and it works. To a degree, Trolls have grown up and taunting people just for the fun of it has stopped being funny. Does this mean all our marketing woes are over and we have no need to police the comments of our pages anymore? No, not at all. Just because they don’t get listened to when they Troll, doesn’t mean they have grown out of complaining.

One of the problems with social media becoming so integral in most people’s lives that individuality is lost. It’s like you’re a ‘named anonymous’. You can be who you are, but you can say anything – and by virtue of the fact you’ve said it, makes it OK. No, no it doesn’t. Even on ‘closed’ platforms like Facebook where you have to know someone to be accepted, there are still many occasions where a ‘known’ person has been unfriended because of extreme or opposing views. The feeling of anonymity that social media gives you also gives a false impression that whatever you say is the way the whole world should be run. This is a new type of Trolling – a type where the attacking is done from personal belief, not just out of mischief. The Trolls have turned from annoying little minds that wreak havoc to gain attention, to names and faces that throw around (often bigoted) perceptions and expect the world to take note. In effect, they are New Age Troglodytes.  

The definition of a Troglodyte is:

noun

  1. (especially in prehistoric times) a person who lived in a cave.
    • a hermit.
    • a person who is regarded as being deliberately reactionary, ignorant or old-fashioned.

‘Deliberately reactionary’… let’s stay with this theme.

Not all New Age Troglodytes are old fashioned. Some of their views are very modern, but they can still be removed from the time, but more importantly, removed from the context from which the post is set. In effect, they comment out of context to be ‘deliberately reactionary’, or to turn the conversation into their pet peeves. Common sense fly’s out the window and all of a sudden, conjecture and personal opinion is used as a weapon to beat the other posters into submission. This isn’t done out of fun – it’s done out of … who knows what!

I am a social media manager for many, many business pages, as well as a writer. I kind of ‘fell’ into it right at the beginning of digital marketing when it was, ‘Ooh look! We can use this new, fandangled Facebook thing for marketing – but what do we do?’ ‘Give it to the writer, she’s on contract, if it doesn’t work out we haven’t lost anything’. So I started there, then went on to Twitter when it was invented, and Quora, and Instagram, and YouTube, and stumbled upon, and snapchat, and Vine, etc etc etc – you get the picture.

I have the unique perspective of seeing how these platforms have evolved as I have ridden the ‘social media marketing’ wave for over a decade, and I must say – I don’t like the way it’s going. When Trolls were abundantly around you left them to asphyxiate on their own stupidity and all was well, in general people were respectful, fun and wonderful to work with. What I have seen in the comments, posts and feedback is a definite ‘nod’ to the rise of the ‘entitlement’ generation. There is a real shift to people using the anonymity of a social media platform to vent, belittle or quite frankly, slander the other users and products just because it is their opinion, and they think that everyone has a right to it.

They don’t realise that people do not have to take any notice whatsoever of anything other than the law, and what’s more – people’s opinions? Pfft! Like they care!

FREE SPEECH

If I hear anyone hide behind the meat shield of ‘Free Speech’ I shall cry… very loudly. Yes, there is the freedom of speech” directive, but it’s not law, nor does it cover things like hate speechobscenity, and defamation. What most people misunderstand about free speech is that it only protects you from being censored, not from the legal or personal ramifications of saying something inflammatory. The right to free speech does not give you the right to pour out bigoted, ignorant or uninformed opinion and you be free of consequences.

Freedom of speech does not give you license to say what you want. There are restrictions like treason, racial bias, national security precautions and slander laws, etc, that should keep your tongue (typing fingers) in check.

Freedom of speech, and this is the most common misconception, does not give a person the intelligence to know what to say, how to say it or even if it’s worth saying – and when to shut up. In my experience, it’s always easier to appear to be a fool than to open your mouth and dispel all doubt.

PROFANITY

I have come to learn that people who use profanity in a post are the ones that do not have the vocabulary to express their opinion any other way. Am I condoning profanity – NO! There is no excuse for it! If you want to comment on a post and it’s less than complimentary, then use words that express your point quickly with words that you’re OK coming out of your four year olds mouth. Am I saying don’t complain – NO! An opposite opinion is sometimes a great opportunity to learn, but you don’t have to litter it with profanity … because you end up looking stupid! Without exception, I have found you take swear words out of the offending sentence and the argument is weak. The egg will always be on your face.

STOP HIDING

Learn that you are not anonymous on the net. Stop hiding behind that. If you wouldn’t say those words, in that way to their face, then don’t say it in a post. If you want to be taken seriously, and have your opinion really matter, post an intelligent comment. Don’t do hate mail. All the readers are immune to it and will skip over it and build up an image of you that may, or may not, be right. Do you realise how many people there are out there that may think you are a complete and utter dingbat because of your ill thought out attacks on people via comments or forums? Think it’ll never matter? Then never go into politics, religion, celebrity, get rich or aim for big business, as these comments will come back to haunt you.

TO THINE OWNSELF BE TRUE

Shakespeare said, ‘This above all, to thine own self be true’. You want to walk away from every posting with your integrity intact. Why? This world is connected. If you are working LinkedIn for a new job, then you can sure that someone, somewhere that connects you, has seen your rant about ineffective leadership, immigration – even Stinking Bishop Cheese – whatever it is, and if you are swearing like a trooper and throwing out vitriol like rose petals in front of a bride, it won’t go unnoticed, and you won’t be able to defend it. If you’re looking to impress people, commenting like a Troglodyte is not it.

As the world increases it’s connections and makes it a small place, it makes sense to treat people like you want to be remembered. Don’t act like a Troglodyte and expect people to recommend you for a job or endorse your skills. In fact, don’t even expect them to admit to knowing you – they have a reputation to keep up also.

I am not saying, ‘shut up and be boring’, what I am saying is … be intelligent. Add to the conversation, or keep quiet. Use words to persuade and inform, not as a blunt stick to beat people with. Master that, and you’ll soon be respected on any page you comment on and build yourself up in credibility in the community. Chances are, you won’t need to go out to LinkedIn for a job, they may come to you.

WHAT WILL A COMMUNIY MANAGER DO?

So far I have covered how to be respected online. Now I’m going to tell you what  social media manager’s do with Troglodytes…

… they hide their posts, or ban them. Simple as that. No negotiation, no pleading, no second chances. Why would we want that kind of negativity to steer a conversation? Who is impressed by belittling? Who wants to be known as a forum full of whiners or hatred? Not one that is using it for marketing, that’s for sure!

Take this morning, for example:

I was working on a contract on Facebook for a company called Calgary.isgreen. I had reposted some content by the Huffington Post about solar systems and how they are the way forward in energy for Alberta. The very first comment was from a man that simply said:

‘Details and Cost’.

So I replied that he would have to contact the author of the article to find what sources were used other than the ones cited in the article, and the cost of the arrays they talked about.

The man went berserk. He accused us of deliberately being vague and having a hidden agenda, stereotyping all people interested in solar in any capacity as ‘climate liars’, and so on. Another man joined in.

The reaction was so over the top and offensive something happened he hadn’t banked on – the rest of our audience got on their case.

They pointed out, intelligently and eloquently, that the information he sought lay with the author. That the article cited source, which could be followed, that the point of the article was about the growth in solar, with data, and the way it could change the economy all backed up by years of research. But sadly, the man wasn’t interested in that. He wanted to turn it into a hate post about climate change and the people that believed in it. So his replies were designed to have an argument about that. No one took him up on the argument, so he resorted to … yes, you guessed it, profanity. Which got him banned so his point was lost from the page.

There is no reason to swear to make a point. It doesn’t increase your authority and it doesn’t impress people. So we have a zero tolerance policy about it. We have found the more you allow profanity and hate pots, the less engagement you have. No one goes on to social media to join a fight. If they want that they go to a night club.

Which brings me to my next point:

READ IT PEOPLE!

One of the biggest groups of people that comment on a post and immediately show they ignorance, are the people that comment on a post before reading the article. Yes, it seems the world is full of them. They read the title and think that’s all they need to know to talk intelligently about it. OH! So wrong! And OH! So quick to be found out.

These Troglodytes then make a comment that is completely out of context that is inevitably answered by someone who says, ‘the answer is in the article’. If you’re wanting to comment credibly – that isn’t it.

If you don’t believe that happens, write something with a misleading headline, then post it and watch the comments roll. It can be quite fun and I do it on slow days now and then just for excitement… HEY! Don’t judge me, I’ve been doing this for quite some time.

If it’s confessions you’re after, I have another. The only way to deal with Trolls and Troglodytes is to ignore them – and I do. It really is the only way. Keep away! And I have managed it without exception… apart from one time…

I was at work and my boss came to me with an unusual request as he, ‘knew I could help’. Let me set the scene…

Our phones were out and provider was coming to repair them, but didn’t show up. Made another appointment, didn’t show up, arrived, cut off our internet, then didn’t show up to repair it … and so on. We had no phones, no internet and a lot of time to do … well not a lot really. After complaining several times (this was the 7th Day) my boss took to his mobile device to try and get to someone who could help via social media. We were losing business with no end in sight and it was not a pretty sight.

Using his personal account, he logged onto Twitter and paid for an ad to advertise the lack of performance and the loss of business.

One commenter immediately said:

‘Get off my feed! Stop paying to whine and get it fixed’.

I was a little confused at how I could help. My Boss said, ‘Unleash that witty, sarcastic side that we all know and love.’ That was all I needed. Permission to insult this person in an intelligent way, so that he didn’t even realise he was being insulted. What did I have to lose – it was my bosses account…

Before I could reply, the service provider posted a reply by Direct Message to contact them. My reply was:

‘Get off my thread and stop whining! Paying Twitter instantly got this fixed’.

Him: ‘Pay your bills and you don’t have to whine to the world’.

Me: ‘Seems like we don’t have to. We just got a $400 credit for inconvenience’

Him: ‘Why would I be bothered about that?’

Me: ‘You volunteered? I don’t remember asking you to join’.

Him: ‘You got money to burn whining’

Me: ‘I’m not a natural. Natural born whiners hijack threads and do it for free’.

Him: ‘**********’ (String of profanity, some of which were spelt wrong, I knew it would come…)

Me: ‘Check your spelling with your mother next time. It needs help’

Him: ‘Why are you still talking to me?’

Me: ‘Because you keep answering ….???’

I know, it was mean and I immediately suffered fighters remorse, but there are some days when I just despair of humanity and it’s unkindness to all creatures – including each other. But fighting fire, with fire is never the answer. What did I achieve? Nothing, and it made me feel terrible for a while afterward.

Just because you can comment, doesn’t mean you should. And as for social media managers, just because it’s a user that comments, doesn’t mean it’s good for the community! Learn to delete and ban first, before anything else. No amount of liking, commenting and sharing will produce a positive, inclusive environment people want to keep coming back to, until you learn how to handle the haters. Hug them into life if you can, if you can’t, don’t let them pollute the atmosphere, they always have more to give…

In all my years of doing this I’ve learned that one thing rings true on every forum – it’s that life’s hard enough! Users join a page or forum to learn, to share and to enjoy that little bit of time away from life. If you’re not active in guiding them in a positive way you will not succeed as a page. Whining they can get at home, they come to you for escapism. Give it to them.

Managing a community is a difficult thing, but very rewarding when you do it right. Be more intelligent than the Trolls or Troglodytes, lead the way and you audience will follow.