Sunday 22 September 2019

Nerd Church - An Unpopular Opinion On the 'Don't Feed the Trolls' Campaign

There's a new campaign in the UK using the previously informal hashtag of #DontFeedTheTrolls.

'Don't Feed the Trolls' with a laptop keyboard

The Center For Countering Digital Hate advises that you don't engage with trolls. 

Ignore, block, report. Rinse, repeat.

Now, that's certainly not a bad option for dealing with trolling.

And you should ALWAYS feel that you can use the mute, block, report options, or some variant thereof, if you want to.

Cos you owe no-one, and you need to protect your mental health. Take care, ok?

So, what's my unpopular opinion?

Well, I think this campaign is overly-simplistic and dismissive.

You want an explanation? You should know by now that I never have one reason for anything!

Sit down and buckle-up:

- We simply don't live in a simple world

Yes, it would be great if one simple solution fixed a complex global social problem.

It won't.

People are messy and complex and nuanced, and this is the kind of black-and-white, cut-and-dried, solution that sounds good, but in reality does little to actually fix the problem.

BBC Sherlock: Why can't people just *think?!*
Via Giphy

- This puts the blame on the victim...

You're being trolled? Oh well, you should just ignore it. If you ignore it, it stops dontcha know! If it hasn't stopped... well, you can't have ignored it right!

We've seen this 'you should've...' argument many times before. It ignores the fact that the trolls are the ones perpetrating the abuse.

It ALSO blames the victim for spreading the ideology of the troll, albeit inadvertantly.

How about we blame the troll for spreading the ideology of the troll? Just a thought.

- ...And empowers the trolls

Trolls already claim that people are 'scared' of debate, that people who support tolerance are somehow fragile and weak and can't handle their views being challenged.

Do you think this will stop that? It will just re-inforce those toxic social media bubbles we keep hearing about.

- It tells marginalised people to be quiet and ignore hatred

While it does advise reporting, and reporting to police if necessary, the message that marginalised people should not talk about the abuse they're receiving is... well, basically, horrible.

Marginalised people finding their voice and speaking against hatred is what trolls fear the most. 

And yes, there's backlash to that.

Many trolls are like wounded lions, backed into a corner. But that doesn't mean we should stop living our lives.

(I realise this metaphor was unfair to lions who are beautiful beasts who should never be injured and backed into a corner by human beings. They also don't have the capacity for cruelty that trolls possess. Lions rock.)

BBC Sherlock: 'Dull. Boring. Predictable.'
Via Giphy

Telling marginalised people to be quiet is essentially the very thing the majority of trolls want (esp. the right-wing kind.)

There's also an element of tone policing to that.

I'm not saying that the way to get things done is by automatically gettting angry, whether at trolls or at anyone else... what I'm saying is that denying the anger of marginalised people is a silencing technique.

- Context is everything

If there's 50 likes on that person's abusive comment, and only 5 likes on the positive comment next to it, then that goddamn abusive comment is already getting support and being spread.

Leaving it like that and not engaging implies that both it and the support it gets is acceptable.

So, yeah, sometimes you have to tell that person off, if only to show that it's NOT acceptable.

Historically, bad things happen when people stay silent in the face of hatred.

- Cultural differences are often lost in translation

...To be clear, I mean the translation from English to... well, English.

Someone might regard something as trolling, when it's meant in an entirely different way.

As a Brit, I'm still perplexed by the way many Americans, in particular, miss levels of nuance and sarcasm. Especially sarcasm. 

BBC Sherlock: 'Black, two sugars, please. I'll be upstairs.'
Via Giphy

A lot of Americans will only pick up the surface sarcasm, and in British conversation, sarcasm runs through most, if not all, of the layers.

I find that a lot of Americans take offence to polite conversation, whereas I've seen Brits actively trying to insult Americans and... they just don't get it; they think the Brit is being really nice.

Likewise, I get confused sometimes by Americans who are overly-sincere because... surely they're being sarcastic...? No-one is that brutally emphatic...? But no, apparently they mean it. Who knew.

As a good Welsh girl, I also end up inadvertantly offending people by using endearments. Because apparently people from other cultures don't use endearments like we do..?

It's perfectly normal for me to fill conversations with 'lovely,' 'sweetheart,' 'honey,' 'love,' 'cariad,' 'babes,' and many, many others. It's just what we do - our culture is loving. Sorry. *Shrugs*

I literally had a waitress the other day who called me and my friend 'babes' at the end of every sentence. It wasn't being offensive - it was being friendly.

And yes, we use endearments in arguments. Partly to de-escalate, and partly to point out that we disagree, but we still love you.

Sometimes, yes, there's a sarcastic edge - because we're British - but it's an edge, not all the way through.

No, if I wanted to address you in an offensive way, sweetie, it would actually sound quite polite: sir, madam, miss, mister, missus (no surname - surnames negate the offense.)

(But it's ok for, for example, a shopworker to call you sir or madam if they're serving you - yes, I know, our social interactions are uber-complex.)

- What even is a troll?

Some trolls are easy to spot: threats and slurs are pretty much a guarantee that you're dealing with one.

But others?

The line between abuse and debate is a lot less clear-cut than we'd like to think.

And while I've never been called a troll, I have been called a 'Twitter bully' (by someone getting defensive over Cultural Appropriation)

...and a 'sexist fake-news person' (by someone getting defensive over their racist theories on Asians taking all the jobs in the US despite the fact that they're already rich... or something equally bizarre.)

Not gonna lie, being called a 'sexist fake-news person' made me laugh. A lot. 😂😅

Sherlock and John Watson: 'We can't giggle. Its a crime scene'
Via Giphy

My point, though, is that the people who called me that would probably put me in the categary of 'troll' - simply because I disagree with them and speak out against hatred.

Life ain't as clear-cut as we'd like, dearest nerdlets.

For all that though - there is a golden rule: do what's right for you.

Use the tools available to you on social media platforms.

Understand that you do NOT have to put up with anything, you don't owe anyone anything (except if you like, have a loan or something...) and YOU are important!

It's also totally OK for you disagree with any and all of my points (maybe not the ones involving slurs, just saying...) - it's just what I think *shrugs* 😊

What do you think?
Is there a single effective option to combat trolls?
Can we all agree on who the trolls even are?
Talk to me! 😎💬

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Last updated: 25th Nov 2019


  1. I really agree with you on this. I feel that if you don’t stand up for yourself, the trolls will just keep going and sometimes you really need to just put them in their place. Now this is coming from someone is often too anxious to speak up, but recently my manager has been bullying me a lot and I have made the decision to talk to her next time I see her and stick up for myself!

    1. Thanks Em! I feel like advocating for a one-size-fits-all approach is ignoring the fact that every situation is unique and comes with its own repercussions and implications. Sometimes, ignoring trolls is the way forward. Sometimes it isn't. *shrugs*

      Hope your conversation with your manager goes well! *hugs* No-one has the right to treat you like that <3

    2. Thanks Cee. I actually talked to her today and she apologized for her words and said she will do better. A good example of your post at work!

  2. I agree with what you're saying about how ignoring it doesn't make the troll go away, or the trolling stop. I didn't realise this campaign was going round! I have never had to face a troll before, so I have no idea what I would do... I don't particularly want to find out...

    1. Well I hope your good-luck continues, and you don't have to find out! :) <3


Comments? I love comments! Talk to me nerdlets!