Many libraries have blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, Instagram accounts…name your social media and you’ll find libraries there. At some point, an internet troll may find your library and go to work. It is very important that you don’t engage the trolls!
Internet trolls are people who are antagonistic online, posting argumentative, off-topic comments to posts. They’re everywhere, and no one is immune. It’s one thing to post a differing opinion; as a blogger, I encourage a good discussion. It’s another matter to simply pop off with no discussion value. I’ve seen it dozens of times: commenter doesn’t like blogger’s ideas and writes a long-winded comment that ultimately veers off topic and slays the blogger personally. Blogger tries to set commenter straight. It goes back and forth, one-upping each other and getting more and more off-topic and defamatory.
Again, don’t engage the trolls!
- Don’t be defensive. Responding to a troll with “That’s wrong and here’s why” (even if they are clearly wrong and you really want to tell them why!) comes off as defensive, especially if you point blame elsewhere (“It’s not us! It’s the Township!” This is bad.). Don’t worry, though – often one or more people will come to the library’s defense and set the troll straight on your behalf. Just monitor the situation and make sure that truthful information is being posted. You also need to be sure that it doesn’t turn into an all-out word war between the defenders and the trolls. That’s not productive either.
- There are certainly times when you can respond with helpful information, but be very careful to word it positively. Think of it as an opportunity to share information with everyone who may be reading the post and comments. If the trolling continues, you’ll have to decide at what point to let it go. Not engaging trolls means limiting opportunities for them to keep going. Offer a meeting with them in person (a true troll by the definition won’t go for it. A concerned citizen with an aggressive – but not offensive – online style might.)
- Do monitor your profiles! Moderation may take time and attention, but it is necessary to sift through what is purposely antagonistic (foul language, name-calling, singling out specific people) and what is constructive criticism. Take the constructive criticism and respond with a real, honest intention to do better. You can just delete anything truly offensive or hostile. There is no place for that in a public forum.
Most important, though, is to remember that your blogs and social media platforms are public forums. Anyone, anywhere, can watch the action. Own your words and respond appropriately, but don’t engage the trolls!