Based on my news feed, there’s been a lot more fear and stress at Penn than usual. Some of it comes from Trump’s election, and some from the validation of bigotry some believe his election stands for. There’s certainly no shortage of things to be afraid of these days.
That said, the increase of trolls in real life is not one of them.
To those unaware, trolls are people who commit crimes anonymously to incite a large, generally negative, reaction from a community. The larger the reaction, the greater the troll’s rush. A troll’s favorite nourishments are fear, rage and disgust, second to any evidence that you take them seriously in the first place. Fighting trolls comes as nothing new to active members of internet communities, but Trump’s election, for better or worse, has brought many of them into real life. For those unfamiliar with fighting them, here are some recommendations.
Don’t ever let them see that you’re scared, or even bother wasting your time on their vitriol. To do so only tempts them to do it again. More specifically this means no more posting about how you feel unsafe and unwelcome. Your safety hasn’t ever been in the hands of a troll, but when you complain that you are afraid, you suggest that it might be. Don’t.
Record everything. Be thorough and quiet about it, and if you are able and willing, try and assist authorities in determining who the culprit(s) are. Trolls rarely have the courage to act alone.
Trolls irl are on the rise, but they’re also easier to fight. Without anonymity, trolls irl are just overgrown bullies. It takes one confident voice to ask, “if you think we should leave, then make me” to silence them. To be clear, that voice needs to be there, looking the bully in the eye, and most importantly, alone. Not being able to see the individual they harm in front of them is exactly the mental stopgap trolls irl need to feel enabled to act. If they try to resort to physical violence, report them to the authorities. That said, bullies, cowards and trolls tend to be cut from the same cloth.
To institutions, boards and all other official statement writers:
Learn how to distinguish trolls from real threats. Trolls generally only act alone or in very small, uncoordinated groups. Real threats are more sophisticated and act under a clear banner, if not by name. Trolls cry wolf a thousand times, so when the wolf really does come, both the sheep and hunter have grown complacent. Stay vigilant, but also try to avoid validating trolls’ actions with recognition.
Don’t ever let them see you panic. When asked for public opinion, say, “this is nonsense.” When asked, “don’t you condemn this sort of behavior?,” say, “obviously, and the punishment for it will be severe.” Unfortunately, when institutions must constantly reassure student safety, it grants trolls the notion they had influence over safety at all. Again, they didn’t, so don’t give them the idea.
Be swift, ruthless and most importantly, silent about delivering punishment. The media will look for heads to put on pikes, and people may think that punishing criminals in the town square deters others. In the case of trolls, however, it does not. Their publicized heads are a victory for the trolling community, because, again, all they want is the attention. When trolls start to realize their compatriots are being namelessly axed — that’s when they’ll stop. When the media asks about how you’ve tackled the issue, simply respond, “They’ve been dealt with.”
To trolls: There are healthier ways to get recognition, really. Try pottery.
To keyboard social justice warriors: I get it. There’s a “this-doesn’t-make-the-problem-go-away-but-somehow-social-media-validation-makes-me-feel-like-I’m-not-alone” feeling you get when you write all your feelings down cohesively and get more than 100 likes. I’ve felt it before. But you have to realize that when you only complain about the systems of oppression, you stay oppressed. Just crying loudly about someone else’s privilege doesn’t take it away from them; in fact, it’s clear that these days, it annoys the moderates and feeds the trolls, doing more harm than good.
Fighting the power is unfortunately more about the fight and less about the war cry. It means that even if you have to work twice as hard for half the recognition, you work five times as hard, come out on top and still have the energy to mold the world to your ideals.
One hardworking minority in a real position of power is worth a hundred “woke” keyboard justice warriors crying about their lack of it. Be that one.
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