Dealing with online trolls can be a challenge. Back in the BBS days, it was easy. There were only a few hundred members of Israel’s Ultinet, so when someone went too far, they were given a few warnings, then a few suspensions and finally the rare banning. We had I_Flame for letting it loose anonymously.

When AOL connected to the internet, the trolls came out of the woodwork. In the 90’s, it was fun to join email lists and participate in message boards (forums). Quality discussions took place – from politics to music and culture, ideas were exchanged and we respected one another.

That changed in the year 2000, when the Internet population hit a critical mass. I saw it coming when I had to leave a few online music forums. Who wants to wake up and read people trashing each other over our morning coffee? Even though I wasn’t the one being attacked, I didn’t want to expose myself to it. A friend who is a fan of The Lion King told me the same thing – he left a big Lion King email list for the same reason. Who wants to deal with trolls on a Disney forum?!

Crashing a Warcraft Funeral Ceremony

The World of Warcraft forum took trolling and online rudeness to a whole new level. You can’t imagine the immaturity that went on there. The in-character trolling that I saw was a reminder that there will always be a need for therapists. Perhaps the lowest level of online game trolling took place in 2006. A girl died of a stroke (in real life) and her Warcraft friends decided to have an in-game memorial service in a contested area, so friends on both sides (Alliance and Horde) could pay their respects.

They posted messages about the upcoming ceremony so friends would know when and where to show up. When dozens gathered, a rival clan rushed the scene en masse and massacred everyone. You can watch the video here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHJVolaC8pw. The text that accompanies the video will give you a taste of online troll weirdness. While they weren’t breaking rules of the game, it was definitely low life behavior. Can you imagine waking up and deciding to ambush an online memorial service? I’d rather listen to Ringo Starr outtakes.

Anti-Israel Trolls

Every active Internet user has seen or experienced online trolling. The Times of Israel — or any online newspaper — will never have the resources to delete every rude comment, so they deal with the worst of the worst.

As you all know, everyone has an opinion about Israel and how we should solve the conflict. I don’t have any solutions for it and am bored of reading about it. I barely care about my own view of what the map should be, much less someone else’s. I only watch the news when missiles fly. Wake up me when there’s a peace referendum is what this reformed news junkie thinks. I think the politics trolls (whether on our topic or others) are pathetic. They don’t seek a dialogue, they’re just venting.

I don’t read the talkbacks and comments on articles – in Hebrew or English. I don’t visit online forums anymore. I got to a point in life where I have my views on everything from alien life to how to save the Amazon. I’ve heard all sides and am not interested in engaging in an endless discussion. Why should I care what a stranger thinks about an article in a newspaper? To me, this isn’t cynical, it’s mature. In fact, it helps me to wake up with a smile and have a positive outlook on life. How is reading snarky comments going to help me achieve my goals?

Dealing With Online Trolls

Imagine you’re sitting in a restaurant having a pleasant conversation with a friend. A stranger walks up to you and starts cursing and trashing you. What would you do? Would you invite him to your table for dessert? Absolutely not. You would tell the waiter and do your best to ignore it. Eventually, you and your friend would get up and leave.

Trolls are strangers who you would never invite into your home. The same rule applies online. You have every right not to allow them into your personal space. The temptation is to respond, but your best bet is to say it to yourself and not type a thing. That’s exactly what the troll wants from you — attention and the sick thrill of knowing he or she made you angry.

Just as we learn in the real world who to allow into our lives and who not to, we need rules for dealing with online strangers. Picture the troll knocking on your door and yelling at you. You know exactly what you would do – quietly shut the door, sit down on your couch and press play.

There will always be people who can’t con-troll themselves. Like Ben Gurion’s classic quote (forgive me!), “what matters is not what the trolls will say, but what we will do.” Or not do.

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