Haters and Trolls


Haters and trolls are disruptive and destructive personality types which manifest strongly on the Internet. For some reason, people behave differently in different degrees in different communications mediums.

Face to face, we comport ourselves one way which engages maximum native sensory input of visual and auditory, and at a deeper level, smell (pheromones, BO, etc). Humans are generally more civil and better behaved when we are face to face, and can see or at least hear the other person.*


When using something like a Skype video call, we engage the visual and auditory, with the telephone only audio. Communications taking place in email and online forums present only disembodied text, raw data is all there is to transmit not only the message but the mode of the message. The mode and tone of the message, as a transmission between people, is lost. It’s easy to lose sight of the person on the other end.

Haters hate, that’s what they do. As a mask, as an online personality type, haters manifest in the following ways:

1. They always find fault and focus on the negative
2. They express themselves harshly and dismissively
3. They often characterize what others say in broad terms, presenting a straw man argument
which they then cut to shreds
4. They don’t acknowledge information to the contrary, they do not give thanks when given what they want.
5. They are never satisfied

Trolls bait, that’s what they do. They outrage and then tease the gullible into trying to save them, argue with them, prove them wrong, or whatever. Trolls manifest in the following ways:

1. They get personal
2. They insult and attack and provoke a direct emotional response
3. They escalate to keep the fun going
4. They will never stop unless something else “funner” occupies their attention

Haters and trolls have the common trait of lastworditus, which is to say you will never get the last word in. They don’t engage in spirited back and forth discussions, they engage in a weird psycho pathology which manifests most commonly online.

What to do:

1. Count to ten – it’s tempting to fire off a first draft reply immediately upon being provoked online but in the case of both haters and trolls the best thing to do is to follow the old taoist maxim: do nothing, slowly. Breathe, count to ten, sleep on it, and so on. See how much human common sense is devoted to this same subject?

2. Active listening – discard all of the mode, focus on the message. Text is hard. Terseness reads as contempt. Jokes can be tricky. After you count to ten, focus on the message, what is really being said? What is the true point? Find it, and if you need/want to, respond to that, and not the mode/sarcasm/crappy wrapper it was delivered in.

3. Be polite, always. Be clear, always. Do not try to be sarcastic, clever or oh so witty in response to hating or trolling.

4. If you are being trolled, always, walk away and ignore the troll. Do. Not. Feed. The. Troll.

5. Stay calm. Keep making the world better.

* Except at Santa Cruz City Council meetings. Sadly, many face to face civic meetings have been taken over by trolls and haters. It is unfortunate that this disruptive and destructive minority of people often dominate civic discourse, drowning out and driving away other voices in the community.


  1. One must be careful in applying labels to others in any social context. Often, the labels “hater” and ‘troll” are applied to others who merely disagree with one’s position.

    For instance, in the off-leash dog debate, those who question the appropriateness of off-leash dogs on County beaches are often labeled “dog-haters.” In the climate change debate, the terms “denier” and “alarmist” are tossed about from one side to the other. All too often, the “troll” label” is used indiscriminately against anyone who disagrees with others’ opinions.

    Name calling of any sort stifles cogent discussion of issues. Calling someone a “troll” or “hater” is a personal attack as much as any other.

    I would add to the above guidelines: stick to the issues, discuss ideas, not individuals, maintain strict list rules about personal attacks and have a qualified and able moderator to enforce rules make them stick.

  2. Some people are “better behaved” online than in person — for example feeling less self-conscious and having more time to think about what they’re going to say — but, yeah, there are definitely some others who love to spew garbage and harass people, One very important “What to do” with online forums, I would say, is not to have unmoderated comments sections — if you’re willing to provide a forum for unlimited abuse and spam then it just drives away constructive discourse. Here is a good article on this: http://dashes.com/anil/2011/07/if-your-websites-full-of-assholes-its-your-fault.html

  1. […] that trolls and haters represent themselves online were explored in an excellent way in an earlier civinomics blog post. The author described the ways that haters represented themselves in a […]

  2. […] that trolls and haters represent themselves online were explored in an excellent way in an earlier civinomics blog post. The author described the ways that haters represented themselves in a […]

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