People track down my email and social media accounts, sit down at their laptops and exploding Samsung Galaxy Note7s, and actually carve time out of their busy days to grace my inbox with diatribes about how "retarded" I am (nice) and how I "write like a millennial with untreated ADHD" (nice).
"Best wishes!" they sometimes say as a sign-off, which really confuses me.
It's pretty fun!
As a writer and editor though, I can't help but notice some places of improvement these trolls might like to explore in terms of their writing. It's my job, after all, to help people craft compelling, grammatically correct arguments that both inform and entertain, and, alas — I can't just turn that switch off! Even when I'm being told "I hope you have a nice Sunday, but seriously, fuck you." My heavens!
So, because it's in my blood, I've created for you this handy dandy little guide on how to troll me, other Internet journalists and anyone else who expresses an opinion different than your own in the most effective way possible. Because I care.
1. Learn 2 spel
The other day, a girl who works as a Subway sandwich artist and majors in "Pyschology" told me she hopes no one ever "let's" me near their children.
I sincerely hope the same, but I'd also like to point out that spelling and grammar errors really distract the reader from the point you're trying to make. Even a single, errant apostrophe or a gross misspelling of a subject you claim to attend college to study can force the reader to re-read the same sentence several times, get flustered, give up on life, and apply to a Subway sandwich shop.
2. Try not to make yourself look as stupid as you're trying to make me look
For an article, I got a quote from a friend about why she does not want children. She didn't want to use her real name, so I gave her a pseudonym: "Zara." Pretty common practice.
I received the following comment about Zara:
If I met someone named “Zara” and they weren’t from outer space or stepping out of a temporal rift in space-time from ancient Egypt, I would slap them for having such a stupid pretentious name.
Zara is not that outer space-y of a name. In fact, it's a well-known international women's clothing brand. By the same logic, would this writer would also slap people with the last name Sear, Kohl, Applebee, Lowe, or Walgreen? If so, that is a lot of people to slap.
Furthermore, in this example wherein the writer says he/she would assault someone for having an uncommon name, he entirely detracts from his own point that I'm an idiot because it frames both the subject (me) and the narrator (him) as the villain!
I'm supposed to be the stupid one here, not this writer. Now I'm confused who is more stupid.
This same writer also suggested that certain people can afford to have children because "THEY DON’T LIVE IN SF OR NYC WHILST ONLY MAKING $10/HOUR THUS THEY CAN AFFORD RENT."
I am fairly certain middle-class people in both San Francisco and New York City also have children … but I don't know, I'm not a midwife.
All this to say: don't shoot yourself and your target at the same time with the same gun. It invalidates you.
3. Read the article before you make a comment on it
Just as in school you are tested on the material you read, in life, you should read the articles you troll. And I don't just mean the headlines!
I mean the full article! Actually read it!
If you don't, you end up making comments like, "This stupid feminist cunt is the reason why men hate women" when the article was about a dog named McBeef. That doesn't help you!
I want to help you. Help me help you by reading what the article says before you make comments on something it didn't say. That way, you'll show everyone you can read.
An easy way to do this? Copy and paste an offending passage from the article you read, and both explain and disprove it using evidence.
4. Cite your sources!
You can't just introduce an argument like "Spending your creative energies in ways other than pooping flat out wrong ideas into people’s heads is your decision. Please try to make the right decisions from here on out, for the sake of the human race," without proving why you're right and I'm wrong.
Where did you get this information? Why should I trust that it's true?
Just because you say something doesn't make it true. Just because you believe something doesn't make it the right side of the argument.
If you really want to show me who's boss, show me where you got the information you're basing your claims off of. You need to give me credible, valid sources, or you're just posturing. See what I just did there? I cited a source. It's from MIT. Pretty sure I trust MIT more than I trust you.
5. Get your point across quickly; the average Internet reader only has an eight second attention span
When it comes to trolling, there's generally no conventional word count, but I can assure you that today's Internet readers are used to 140 characters or less. If it's taking you double digit minutes to compose a harangue, ask yourself: "Why do I have so much available time, and why am I spending it hurting someone's feelings and making myself look stupid?"
If you must elaborate in your troll rant, it's always prudent to use that space wisely. That means presenting a thoughtful, grammatically-correct, spell-checked and well-researched argument rather than just YELLING YOUR OPINION IN ALL CAPS.
Pro-tip: If you find that you have so much available time in your day because you are so unemployed or socially unpopular that you've written a small, unpublishable novella, it can be helpful to pick out keywords from your long draft to create a short draft. Then, connect those keywords with the necessary conjunctions and sentence transitions. It'll cut your hate speech in half!
Also a good rule of thumb in journalism and non-fiction writing: if it takes you a long time to get your point across, you haven't gotten your point across. Skim me, and I'll skim you.
6. Make the world a better place with your bitchin'
If you're such an expert on the topic you're trolling, why not include some relevant, reputable articles that people can read to educate themselves more about your point of view?
In other words, don't tell me I'm ignorant. Show me.
If you cannot, you've presented an opinion, not an argument. And unless you're an expert — say, a tenured professor or a leader in your industry who has the authority to comment on the subject matter at hand — your opinion holds weight for no one but yourself.
7. Positive bitchin' is always more effective than attack bitchin'
You know how they say "Bad publicity is still publicity?"
Not true will trolling. Bad trolling is just bad trolling. Positive trolling, however, has an actual effect. Positive trolling is when you coherently present a valid counter-argument in a respectful way that benefits both me and other readers by teaching us something new.
I cannot tell you how many times I've been put in my place by readers who thoughtfully and calmly expressed an argument that differed from the one I put forth. I always feel really terrible and dumb when a reader kindly points out something I overlooked, or reminds me of an angle I'd neglected to cover. That's when I really cry in the shower. That's where the progress happens!
Not so much when I'm told, "Someone should sue YOU for taking a big shit into their retinas with this vacuous listicle." That, I just laugh at.
There you go, that's better! Now, you should have all the tools you need to properly and effectively troll not just me, but anyone who dares to publish material you don't like.