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Trolls — Not Just for Fantasy Novels

dont_feed_the_trollsI was clicking through my Google Reader earlier today and came across this post from EW’s Shelf Life blog, on the subject of “the explicit books teens read.” I read it, thought it made some good points, disagreed with one statement, and reminisced about my own teenage reading, in which I skipped right from Judy Blume to Jackie Collins, and never looked back (until I became an adult, and decided to specialize in that genre of fiction that didn’t really exist when I was “YA”). As is my wont, I added a comment on the post, praising today’s YA novels for talking about the tough issues and showing teens there’s hope, even in the darkest of situations, through fiction.

And then a troll responded to my comment.

I won’t granted them the dignity of repeating their comment here — that’s what they want, you see. An internet troll doesn’t hide under a bridge trying to catch unsuspecting goats. According to Wikipedia, the term “troll” “is thought to be a truncation of the phrase trolling for suckers, itself derived from the fishing technique of slowly dragging bait through water, known as trolling.” Going on, “a troll is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with trolls, of course, but the last few weeks have reminded me of the best advice about them. That is, of course, “Don’t Feed the Trolls.”

Anyone who spends a fair amount of time on the internets ignores that advice at their own peril. Imagine, by way of example, you tweet about something political. Someone disagrees with you (someone ALWAYS disagrees with you), and responds with an inflammatory comment. You try to explain your point politely, maybe even taking your conversation to a private DM. They criticize you for not having the backbone to stand by your convictions in public. You go back to a public response, and they call you a bully. Or, someone writes a widely inaccurate article or blog post, and you attempt to counter it with your experiences. They write back, and try again to prove your point. You could go back and forth forever, and never change anyone’s mind.

You can’t win.

There’s an important lesson to be learned about trolls on the internet, and it comes from a movie made before the internet even existed: “The only winning move is not to play.” (From War Games.)

If you’re an author and you have a public presence on the internet, chances are someday someone is going to disagree with you, or say something that makes you feel the need to correct them. Don’t. That way madness lies.

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