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Top 12 Signs You’re Dealing With Trolls

Posted by / July 22, 2013


Dealing with trolls is one of the costs of participating in social media. These are the folks who combine a strong opinion with a lack of knowledge. A handful of inflammatory and negative comments can neutralize dozens of positive ones. Here are the top twelve signs that you’re dealing with someone who lives under a bridge.

1. Bad Grammar, spelling, and linguistic cues. Trolls don’t capitalize the first word of sentences, use periods, or commas. They have a tough time with homophones (words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings). This has nothing to do with gay rights though trolls have strong feelings about this issue too. They use the first-person pronoun (“I”) and exclamation marks (!!!!) a lot. They type in ALL CAPS. They write long comments using short, simplistic, and goofy words. Example: “PUHLEZE, your completely WRONG about global warming everyone nose that al gore is just trying to cell books”

2. Entitlement. Trolls exhibit a exorbitant level of entitlement manifested in the belief that their time is valuable, and they should get everything for free. Example: “How dare Facebook run ads or try to monetize my content!!!!” “Why does she post stuff on her page that doesn’t interest me and wastes my time???” “Dropbox should be honored that I store my files on its free service.” “If Google+ ever has ads, I’m out of there.”

3. Lack of first-hand knowledge. People with the strongest opinions often have the least first-hand knowledge. When you encounter the certain and vociferous opinion of trolls, ask them if they have first-hand knowledge or experience. You’ll find that trolls just “know” that something is true. Example: “Google+ is a ghost town.” Do you use Google+? “No, but I know no one is there.”

4. Lousy profiles. The profiles of trolls are usually lousy: out-of-focus and poorly-lit avatars, lack of personal cover and album photos, and incomplete biographical information. These people aren’t trying to gain more friends or followers, so they don’t care about the quality of their profile. A social-media profile is a window into a person’s soul. Example: not forthcoming because I won’t give any troll the satisfaction of being called out.

5. Intolerance. Trolls do not embrace diversity. Alternate thoughts, lifestyles, sexual orientations, and operating systems are both wrong and unacceptable. Example: “macs are too espensive and there’re just something Steve Jobes ripped off from Xerox Park. i am much productive than any Mac owner”

6. Pre-Copernicus. Trolls missed school the day that science class covered Copernicus’s heliocentric model of the universe. Thus, they think that they are the center of the universe. Examples, “He’s never left a comment on any of my posts, so he obviously doesn’t know how to use social media.” “She’s never been in a hangout with me.” “He’s never once asked what I think about this.”

7. Perfect information. Trolls expect everyone in the world to know what they did immediately after they did it. (Pre-Copernicus and perfect information is a deadly combination!) If you read the troll’s post, you’ll see that the person or company in question isn’t + or @ mentioned so there’s no way for them to know they were mentioned. Example: “i explained why he’s wrong in my blog, but he hasn’t responded yet.”

8. Cowardly. Trolls are cowards and want to attack and pontificate but not constructively discuss. They do not have the courage to say to your face what they say online. They are bullies who are brave in a pack but shrink away from confrontation when they don’t have a computer to hide behind. That said, you might find that trolls are perfectly reasonable people in person which is a difficult concept to grok.

9. Legal scholars. Many trolls are legal scholars but every legal scholar isn’t a troll. In particular, trolls are experts in selective portions of U.S. constitutional law, U.S. Supreme Court rulings, and Sharia law. They are certain that the founding fathers anticipated the state of technology two hundred years hence. Example: “The Constitutions guarantees that I can protect myself in case a Muslim president sends Seal Team Six after me…im going to grab the AK47 I bought at Walmart and kick their asses”

10. Arithmetically challenged. Trolls are not good at arithmetic, and they oversimplify the facts. When they say “every,” the fact is that they should say “some.” However, their goal is to exaggerate and aggravate. Example: “*Every* post is a promotion for her company.” “He *never* responds to anyone.” “United flights are *always* delayed.”

11. Holier-than-thou. No matter what you do, it’s never enough. No matter what a troll does, it’s exemplary. This often happens in the times of tragedy. You post, “An accident occurred today in London.” Troll responds, “That’s all you can say? I offered my prayers.” Really? Only God needs to hear your prayers–do you need to tell the Internet too?

12. American. It pains me to say this, but I’ve noticed that most trolls are American. We’re hung up on manifest destiny and the belief that we should tell everyone how to live, what to think, and what to do–including, of course, other Americans. Example: when a tragedy happens in the U. S., trolls expect the whole world to come to a halt. It’s as if an American life is worth more than any other country’s.

Now that you can identify trolls, here are five way to handle them:

1. Give them a chance. Respond to a trollish comment and see what the person does. A troll will respond with anger, negativism, and hostility, but people who had a temporary trollish moment will make a reasonable and intelligent response. This happens about 20 percent of the time, but when it does, you can develop a true friendship from a rocky start.

2. Turn off comments in your posts. There’s no law that you have to let people comment. When I post a story about abortion, gun control, or Barack Obama, I sometimes turn off comments to (a) reduce my aggravation and (b) frustrate trolls.

3. Ignore their comments. You can let trolls post their comments and simply ignore the comments. You don’t have a moral obligation to respond to anything.

4. Delete their comments. Think of this as skimming the detritus off the surface of your swimming pool. If you keep deleting, eventually, trolls may tire of posting.

5. Get rid of them permanently. On Google+, for example, you can delete the comment, block the person from commenting, and report the person to the service. There’s a handy Chrome extension called Nuke Comments that will do this in one click.

Go forth and post, and let’s see what happens. Remember: don’t be a troll yourself, and always assume that people are good until proven bad.

All about Social Media.

Illustration by John Bauer

Comments are off for this post.

  • What kind of accent is this? It's troll accent!

    Anyone who recognize that line… you win cookies! 😀

  • …United flights always are delayed.. LOL

  • Oh, but they are a source of amusement…sometimes.  Thanks for sharing, +Guy Kawasaki !

  • This is a well written and entertaining piece! Thanks for sharing.

  • More people should read this.  I have been dealing with trolls before they had a name for such, and this is by far the best guide I've read on dealing with them.  I just wish I wrote it 😉

  • Ever the informative and entertaining poster. I want to personally thank you for your contributions to my G+ stream +Guy Kawasaki . Cheers to you!

  • Don't feed the trolls.

    Seriously, thanks for this in-depth explanation.

  • "These are the folks who combine a strong opinion with a lack of knowledge." Congratulations, you do not even know what a troll is, but you are holding forth on the topic. A troll is someone who deliberately says things specifically to make people mad, usually things that they themselves do not actually believe (though this is not a requirement.) Most of the Americans you have pegged as trolls are actually only ignorant, and not trolling. HTH, HAND

  • waw?

  • what's the point this doesn't do anything for anyone, to. i never see trolls!!!!!!! so why do i need this, that's all you can say??? geeze glad im always in america LOL LOL

  • I'm only at point 1 and I'm already laughing – can't wait to read the rest 😉  Good Morning all.

  • The only issue I have with this is that America is comprised of people from all over the world. So you have to be more specific. The native American Indians don't deserve the derogatory nature of that point.

  • off-topic Google+ should allow for some better (easier) basic text editing features. This post is a mess.

    on-topic We as commenters should try not to eat the troll bait either, though. Nothing is more annoying than a discussion between a bunch of people totally unrelated to the post itself.

  • this is scaring. does this exist?

  • +Ruben Lensvelt is that an actually academic paper?

  • In real life I try to ignore them as much as possible and it has never gotten to the point where I had to get physical i must be lucky . I never let them get under my skin so i just let them go to keep my harmony and inner peace !

  • As someone who regularly focuses on political and scientific content, trolls are constant at my doorstep. Their intent is not to have a rational based, constructive conversation, but rather to attack, derail, and harass.
      While everyone should try to use Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement when engaging these trolls, don't be afraid to take direct action. They are especially harmful if allowed to fester in Communities. These are some great tips +Guy Kawasaki

    More resources to read up on regarding trolls:
    Training Tea Party Activists In Guerilla Internet Tactics – BUSTED!

  • I agree with +Martin Espinoza , this article doesn't fit the definition of troll. What you describe +Guy Kawasaki  are fanboys, bigots or ignorant people, not trolls.

    P.S.: I am not trolling.

  • I haven't experienced this issue on G+, but on Facebook definitely, anything of any social or political nature usually brings out the trolls

  • Do creepers count as trolls? I've seen creeps troll, needless to say, it was creepy.

  • These points describe some obnoxious traits you may encounter but a true troll says things to purposefully make others upset… So that would be number 13 then?

    Entitlement is more of a symptom of being self centered. Trolls may exhibit these traits but not everyone with them are trolls.

  • Guy is describing trolls. Martin is describing ogres.

  • Also agree with +Martin Espinoza , there's a big difference between trolling and ignorance, and that difference is intent. Also, your post is too much text for G+, get a blog.

  • +Martin Espinoza a bit troll much? 😉

  • I thought this was a picture from The Dark Crystal

  • PUHLEZE, your completely WRONG about trollz, who are you to contradict the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Troll v Wade? Anyway, G+ is a ghost town, so it does not matter

  • Excellent illustration! John Bauer was a last-turn-of-the-century artist in Sweden who pretty much defined how Swedes nowadays see trolls and other creatures of Scandinavian folklore.

  • Thank for sharing this +Guy Kawasaki

  • I think you are wrong about 12th. I found some people from other countries, most often from India, Pakistan and the likes who have the same attitude, or even worse. Actually, I think Americans are much better at this. Or maybe I didn't come across a perfect troll.

  • I fully expected the comments on this thread to devolve to nothing more than a series of troll-ish comments that check off each of the dozen traits in a sordid attempt at satire.  Nonetheless, there are only a handful so far, so I'm impressed.

  • This is truly terrifying.

  • I have found that some trolls have several fake "followers" who are actually alternate accounts at the troll's disposal.
    You can often identify fake followers with very little effort.

    In addition to the identifying characteristics of a troll listed in this post, the alternate account / fake followers:
    1. often  "plus" each other but rarely have discussions with each other. (Discussions would be weird)
    2. rarely use + to alert their alternate accounts to an existing discussion. (but somehow, they show up)
    3. never re-post a topic that their alternate accounts posted.
    4.  make the same grammatical and punctuation errors
    5. always agree with each other (a dead give away)

    When you think you are having a discussion with two or more people, you may be mistaken.

  • Amen, +Guy Kawasaki. Well written post.

  • Thank you for the hearty laugh! Especially #1, I find most trollish comments are under the age of 18 (not always though which is frightening)
    I try not to read the comments on a controversial news story it's infuriating, it's a relief when comments are turned off.

  • +Guy Kawasaki I agree about Americans being stuck on manifest destiny.

    I'm an American myself (wish I could change that, but what can one do?) and I don't much care for the culture.

  • Thanks for a good read!

  • cool

  • I love this because I encounter them from time to time and it's so true. I must reshare 🙂

  • +martin shervington sent me to troll this thread because most trolls are actually Welsh. LOL

  • i remember being labeled as a troll on one of
    +Guy Kawasaki's posts ( because i'd said something totally negative. however it was toward someone which i guess i would call a 'llort' or 'antitroll': someone who is basically a troll except that they say positive things instead of negative things. how does one deal with 'positrolls' without appearing to be a normal troll?

    P.S.:  i found the capitalization mention a little bit offensive, since i don't usually use caps for comments, since i don't want to bother with the shift key when i'm saying a tidbit or other informal message.
    P.P.S:  i think, going forward, we should use the term 'positroll', since it sounds like "positron", a particle exactly like an electron in every way except that it has positive charge instead of negative charge.

  • Hmmm;)

  • Spot on! Brilliant. Thanks for posting.

  • Oh +Dirk Talamasca

  • Unfriended 🙂

  • Edit:  Oops, wrong OP.
    +Guy Kawasaki  a useful resource.

    I've been involved in discussions lately where I IDed someone as a troll but was told by the OP and other posters "he's not a troll, he just feels strongly about [the subject].  You can tell he's not a troll because he says the same thing about [that subject] all the time"
    Consistency of opinion despite contradictory evidence is sort of a combination of numbers 5, 7, and 11.

  • And here I thought trolls were simply unattractive people. Lol but this makes sense. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • +Guy Kawasaki may I share this if I give you credit as the author? This NEEDS to be seen by my Facebook folks.

  • +John Bodoni Sure, share away. I did it to help everyone!

  • +Guy Kawasaki is another book coming our way?

  • +martin shervington About what? Always looking for good topics!

  • +Guy Kawasaki I'll have a think…

  • Really enjoyed reading this

  • i have a soft spot for trolls. i somehow like them. my favourite troll is the pope.

  • There is a more simple way to deal with trolls.
    Just imagine them as 12 year old, socially inept, lonely brats with nothing better to do.
    They crave attention. They feed off of it.
    They will post anything to get any kind of reaction.
    Debating back and forth is a feast.
    A heated reply is full course meal.
    Deleted and/or reported are light snacks.
    The more emotional impact they make
    the more delicious the feeding becomes.
    Feeding trolls will only have them coming back for more.

    Ignoring is your best solution.

  • Trust me +Guy Kawasaki , if all the trolls left G+, it would be a serious lamefest.

  • Interesting "slip" photo… You describe the massively, uneducated population that typically love tea but can hardly read the leaves. Evil by nature and dumb by design. Washing of the brain only. Lovers of hate, lackers of empathy and fans of the 3-letter animal that lives underground…

  • Don't feed the trolls!

  • Good Grok, Guy–you just described Ann Coulter!

  • +Guy Kawasaki This is the best troll ever!  Well done!  You kicked off an ostensibly intelligent piece on trolling with an incorrect definition of "troll" and followed it with a bunch of sweeping generalizations that were guaranteed to offend or incite large portions of the online populace.  And the bit at the end where you aligned "troll-like" behavior with contemporary American jingoistic tendencies, that was the masterstroke.  A brilliant piece, 9/10.

  • You are describing "anyone whose comments I don't like". Not trolls. You, sir, would not know a troll if you tripped over one. Poor spelling or grammar are indicative of less-than-perfect English and have nothing to do with whether the person is intending to ruin your thread. You should be embarrassed by the way that you have just painted many of your followers.

  • Honourable mention for #12 which, while not trolling, is definitely annoying.   #golfclap

  • I tend to prefer the definition that includes provocation of response. Idiots had strong opinions before the internet, after all.

    That said the term's meaning has grown a bit fuzzy. I've seen a lot mischaracterized as trolling (including plenty of good faith discussion) and it rubs me the wrong way when I see that.

    For people generally being asinine, I don't think we need a new word for it. Words like "rude," "ignorant," and "disruptive" really ought to suffice.

    To contribute a few things with less nitpicking and maybe a little more value, have some links:

    The old Netizen's Guide to Flame Warriors pics and text are all good for a laugh. The original site was absent, so I haven't been able to determine the dates on these, but IIRC I first read them in '06. The Troller seems especially relevant here:

    Wikipedia's article is pretty informative, especially in regards to origins and etymology:

  • […] Source : […]

  • Trolls are OK as long as they don't use abusive language. All have a right to their opinions but other don't have to bear their profanity.

  • If they're disagreeing and not being offensive, they aren't trolls 🙂

  • So totally not true lol Trolls are not idiots, the best trolls are actually quite the opposite.

  • Can anyone spare a dollar?

  • Wow +Guy Kawasaki you really got this thread heated up over some of the ugliest creatures ever imagined. 😉

  • If that's a troll, I might as well be named "The Geirrodur of G+"

  • O__o
    Nice pic….but me thinks the definition is lacking any true signs of a internet troll.
    IMHO these all define a Fakebook reject. I wish you luck in your endeavours to rid your stream of trolls.

  • O__o
    Nice pic….but me thinks the definition is lacking any true signs of a internet troll.
    IMHO these all define a Fakebook reject. I wish you luck in your endeavours to rid your stream of trolls.

  • This is a far better-written article than that "Are you a Facebook troll?" slideshow on that was making the rounds last week. +TECHNICS take note, this is what trolls are all about, not correcting common spelling errors in someone else's copy-pasted glurge.

  • This is a far better-written article than that "Are you a Facebook troll?" slideshow on that was making the rounds last week. +TECHNICS take note, this is what trolls are all about, not correcting common spelling errors in someone else's copy-pasted glurge.

  • +Martin Espinoza Arguably the definition of trolls has both blurred and shifted considerably since the USENET era. (Hell, these days I frequently get accused of trolling when I point out spelling errors and logical inconsistencies in a post I otherwise agree with.) The meaning of words is hard to pin down for more than a decade or so, often less in these fast-paced postmodern times.

  • Educational and a great insight into trolls and also entertaining thank you lol

  • ok

  • Guy, loved the article. The comment about most of them being American is close. The American Trolls are very loud, they are afterall, American. Trolls, however, are worldwide. Most behave the same. Every country, business, tribe and sub group has them. Some can be nice people, others less so.

  • Relevant: From Defcon 19:

    The Art of Trolling
    DEFCON 19: The Art of Trolling (w speaker)

  • Relevant: From Defcon 19:

    The Art of Trolling
    DEFCON 19: The Art of Trolling (w speaker)

  • Nuke Comments is a wonderful extension indeed. Thanks for sharing, Guy!

  • When trolls find that their efforts are being successfully resisted, they often complain that their right to free speech is being infringed. Let us examine that claim.

  • Shouldn't it be considered calling names to others (including troll) as a characteristic trait of certain kind of trolls?

  • Shouldn't it be considered calling names to others (including troll) as a characteristic trait of certain kind of trolls?

  • […] Top 12 Signs You’re Dealing With Trolls […]

  • I don’t think you know what a troll is.

  • Trolling refers to the fishing act, not a creature, you big silly!

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