For most people who have spent at least five minutes on the internet, they will know what a troll is when they see one. I know most people just block trolls and get on with their lives, but I have always found it amusing to troll them back.
Types of Trolls
I’ve been on the internet since the early 1990s. When I began, the browser Mosaic hadn’t even been launched yet. Back in those days, I spent most of my time either chatting on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) or on Usenet (a worldwide distributed discussion system). Suffice it to say, I’ve seen my share of trolls over the last couple of decades. Here are a few types I run into often.
The most common are the “instigators.” They like saying something inflammatory in order to produce emotional responses. Many of these I will ignore and block because they have nothing intelligent to say and are generally not entertaining enough to bother with. However, there are some instigators who are more subtle in their approach. I will engage with these types of trolls because they often have interesting responses. However, once they begin using ad hominem arguments, I know it’s time to block them and move on.
Another type of troll are the friendship/romance “scammers.” These guys are more insidious because instead of trying to upset people, they are trying to scam them out of their hard-earned money. Why do I call them trolls? Because they will often turn to ad hominem arguments if you call them out and expose them. They play nice if they think they have you on the hook. However, as soon as you start to call them out for who they are, they often will turn nasty. That’s when I report them before blocking them.
The other type of troll I encounter frequently is the “condescending expert.” These trolls love to hang out in social media groups and communities, just waiting for an unsuspecting victim to ask a question. Instead of providing a helpful reply with constructive feedback, these trolls tend to be the kind who are likely to say “here, let me do that for you.” They love to imply that the person asking probably isn’t smart enough to understand an actual explanation. They are also the most difficult to troll back, so I often have to ignore or block them when I’m looking for helpful feedback.
How Do I Troll the Trolls?
I don’t always do this, but when I have some free time and I’m in a particular mood, trolling back a troll causes me great amusement.
For the “instigator” type troll, I found the fastest way to get on their nerves is to respond back politely and thoughtfully. Also, backing up any assertions I make with references brings out their bluster and the discussion often devolves to ad hominem arguments soon after.
When it comes to the “scammer” trolls, I play it one of two ways. Sometimes, I start out playing along with them for a while. Occasionally, they keep the conversation friendly, other times they quickly try to delve into more sexual discussions. If they start getting too personal with their questions, I will tell them that I know what they are up to. Usually I’ll show them a screenshot of a reverse image search I’ve done with the profile photo they are currently using. From there, I report and block them fast, before they can block me.
Sometimes I’m not really in the mood to play along with the “scammers,” so I’ll let them know right away I’m on to them. Then, I report them, but I don’t always block them right away, just to see what they say. Some will come clean and confess. Some will get downright nasty, throwing expletives at me, and others will deny the allegations and try to defend themselves. In either case, they are soon blocked.
As I stated earlier the “condescending expert” type of troll is the most difficult to engage with for amusement. No matter what you tell them or what references you cite, they know better than everyone else. Even when people who are actual experts in a field join the conversation, these so-called, self-proclaimed “experts” will try to discredit them. These are the only ones I rarely engage with because it’s never worth the effort.
Have you ever wanted to get back at a troll you’ve encountered online? Did you? Share your encounter in the comments!