Saturday, August 15, 2015

Beware of the Trolls: A Typology and Diet Guide

The Internet has given many things to our society - the ability to find information on just about anything (though not always accurate information); a way to communicate with friends, family, and random strangers; and of course, a new way to piss people off. I'm speaking on Internet trolls, who likely were the second species created by the Internet, the first, of course, being the species who says "First" in the comments section of just about anything.

Like the Hodors of the Internet, they can only say their own name. We should feel sorry for them. Fortunately for all, this species is easily recognizable and, like the rest of humanity, "mostly harmless."

Trolls, on the other hand, are a diverse species, some more recognizable than others. My goal in today's blog post is to tell you about the different types of trolls and their favorite foods, so that you can deprive them effectively if you'd like them to go away (or at least, leave you alone).

The Infallible Troll
Regardless of what you are discussing, this troll possesses limitless and relevant knowledge about it, and is never wrong. At least, according to them. These trolls often embody what is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect; this occurs when people with low levels of knowledge of a topic rate themselves as being as competent as people who are very knowledgeable about a topic. Essentially, they do not know enough about the topic to actually know what competence looks like, so they wildly overestimate their abilities. However, if you don't know much about the topic, you may not be able to tell that this person is not an expert because, well, see Dunning-Kruger effect.

Favorite food: Hot topics that most people don't actually know a lot about, though any topic with a relevant Wikipedia article is fair game.

The Humorless Troll
This troll is best identified as the person who either doesn't get the obvious joke or finds it offensive. It does not matter whether the humor is embedded in the original post or brought up by another commenter. The Humorless troll is not amused and wants everyone to know it.

Favorite food: Sarcasm (even if they don't realize it).

The Absolutely No Absolutes Troll
This troll can be found anytime someone uses absolutes, such as "never" or "always." Or even if you didn't, but kind of implied it. These trolls can be found discussing exceptions to rules, including describing themselves to show how they are exceptional and different from the rest. The "Not all men" trolls belong to this group.

Favorite food: Absolutes or implied absolutes. Honestly, any statements that aren't caveated and couched are likely to attract these trolls.

The Chaos Troll
The most disorganized and incomprehensible of trolls, the Chaos troll likes, well, chaos. This troll will argue the other side of any issue - vehemently - simply to get a rise out of people. They are easiest to recognize when they are spouting off nonsensical conspiracy theories.

Favorite food: Opinion-laden posts. It doesn't really matter what the opinion is.


The Master of Disguise Troll
This cunning troll reels in its victims by pretending to be a representative of some group, often a brand, or a celebrity. A recent example of such a troll can be found here. Other examples include countless fake celebrity Twitter accounts. These trolls generally lead short but very active lives; they often do not go away on their own, but are instead taken down when a real representative of the group learns about them. Do not attempt to take these trolls out on your own. Instead, take a screenshot, send to the group in question, and let them assemble the hit squad.

Or, if you're entertained by these trolls - and let's face it, it's hard not to be entertained by them when you aren't their target - just sit back and watch.

Favorite food: Pretty much any kind of reaction to their comments. The one potential exception is realizing that they are in fact a troll - if you get the joke, you might take all the fun out of it for them.

The One-Upper Troll
Whatever the subject of a post or story has done, this troll has done it better, worst, faster, slower, more often, never, etc. This troll is most identifiable by its constant use of self-relevant language (e.g., I, me, my), often multiple times in a single sentence.

Favorite food: Personal stories and anecdotes, especially about triumphs or defeats.

The Parenthood Troll
Nothing you have done or dreamed of doing is as meaningful as becoming a parent to this troll. This troll finds ways to drop references to parenthood and children, and how these things are better than anything else, in any comment. It should be noted, however, that while there are many parents online, very few are Parenthood trolls. How can you tell the difference? Belittling other people's accomplishments as "nothing compared to having children" might make you a Parenthood troll. For example:

Unsuspecting Victim: Just scheduled my dissertation defense! Almost done!!
Parenthood Troll: I thought finishing grad school was the best thing to ever happen to me... until I had children.

Favorite food: Discussions with people who say they do not want kids.

The Just World Troll
This troll is recognizable by its use of the phrase, "got what he/she/it/they deserved." Just World trolls believe that only good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people; this logic goes both ways, in fact, so that if they read a story about bad things happening to someone, they will assume that person is bad (and deserved it). That is, however, as far as their use of logic goes.

Additionally, they may also be recognizable by their use of distancing language - words that make the person or people in a story seem different from this troll, and potentially from the rest of humanity. For example: "that woman" (emphasis on that) or non-human terms.

Favorite food: Comments from people who have been through the same thing, as well as comments about the same terrible thing happening to said troll.

The Religious Zealot Troll
A close relative of the Just World troll, this troll believes that bad things happen to bad people because they are being punished by a wrathful deity. They may also be found wishing that bad people would be punished, and referencing how and when that might occur. Note: A person who believes in a higher power and states such may not necessarily be a Religious Zealot troll. The characteristic of this type of troll is forcing their belief system onto the situation, the individual(s) involved, and/or the other commenters.

Favorite food: Religiously-charged topics, such as abortion, are a delicacy to this type of troll.


The Silver Lining Troll
This is the sneakiest of all trolls. They are very difficult to recognize, and even if you feel their comments are annoying, you feel bad being annoyed by them because they're just so... positive. Do not be fooled. These trolls find the positive in anything, even the most frustrating, heinous, or nonsensical acts. Their comments tend to be long and, on the surface, thoughtful. But there is a passive aggression just beneath the surface, camouflaged by saccharine sweetness. They may, in fact, be an off-shoot of the chaos trolls, because they enjoy being contrarian, but have adopted the whole "flies-honey" approach.

Favorite food: Topics that would annoy or enrage 90% of the population.

The Grammar Troll
This type of troll defines stupid as "imperfect grammar." Though most people would agree that proper grammar is important, they generally recognize that even poorly written statements may have some truth to them, and that a single typo does not nullify an entire post. Not so with Grammar trolls, who long ago developed a defense mechanism that causes them to disbelieve anything containing typos, subject-verb disagreement, and/or incorrect punctuation.

Favorite food: "Your" when you mean to say "you're." See also: their, there, and they're, and sentences ended with prepositions.

The Self Promotion Troll
This troll is limited in communication, mostly speaking in links to their website/blog/webcam and the statement, "Please visit my..." They may be an off-shoot of the "First." They may also be spambots, computer programs who imitate Self-Promotion trolls; however, neither real nor bot Self-Promotion trolls are likely to be capable of passing a Turing test.

Favorite food: Unmoderated message boards.


The Skeptical Troll
This type of troll is most recognizable for the phrase "I don't believe..." Though skepticism is an admirable quality, the Skeptical troll disbelieves even the most well-established information. Multiple stories and photographic evidence are unlikely to convince this troll, who must see things with his/her own eyes.

Favorite food: Speculation.

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