Netiquette 101: Don't Feed the Trolls
A guide to not getting mad online.
Welcome to Netiquette 101, in which we'll be using cyber-case studies to teach you basic but valuable cyber-lessons in being a better cyber-citizen. Today we discuss not getting mad.
Case Study: Earlier this month, the city of Peoria, Illinois, had to pay a man named Jon Daniel $125,000 as a result of a lawsuit over a SWAT raid launched to shut down a Twitter parody account mocking Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis. Town officials' aggressive, over-the-top response to a low-follower joke account made the story national news in the summer of 2014; now, as many have predicted from the get-go, Daniel and the ACLU were able to get a payout from Peoria, in the process humiliating Ardis far more than the original jokes did.
For more on that scandal: How a Power-Mad Illinois Mayor Launched a Police Crusade Against a Parody Twitter Account
What We Can Learn: If you're a public figure, you may get parodied on social media. It might be malicious, but most likely whoever's behind the fake account just likes to hang out and joke around on Twitter dot com. Rule number one, then, for being famous or semi-famous, is Don't Get Mad.
This will give you peace of mind, but there's a more practical reason for ignoring jokesters: Nothing riles up satirists like cracking down on satire. The SWAT raid, for instance, led to more Ardis parodies, and at least one of them—featuring a photo of Ardis with a Hitler stache—is still active.
Recommended: Meet the Man Behind @DadBoner
Case Study: Ice T is great at Twitter. The hip-hop legend and acclaimed Law and Order: SVU actor's tweets straddle the line between insanity, self-awareness, and absurdism, placing him in the ranks of Celebrity Weird Twitterers along with Cher and Jose Canseco. Recently, Ice poked the slumbering, misandry-averse bear that is the #gamergate community by admitting he didn't know about #gamergate. After going back and forth with gamers, Ice, who's been a voice actor in several games and is an avowed gamer himself, told one of them to eat a dick.
What We Can Learn: Ice T is no stranger to conflict—he literally invented gangster rap—so it's no surprise he takes to internet fights like a duck to water. Sometimes, there's something lurking inside of us that physically compels us to respond to the haters and losers.
We can learn a lot from how Ice T fires back. Number one, he's funny. Clowning someone by making fun of their use of the phrase "gamer cred" is inherently hilarious, especially if you're the guy who wrote "Cop Killer." Number two, he engaged in a proportional manner: He didn't fire off an angry string of tweets at the guy, and he didn't send the cops to his house. Cool and calm Twitter sage that he is, owned the fool and kept it moving.
Case Study: A few years ago, during the 2012 election cycle, I came across a Facebook post from my cousin's ex-boyfriend about how amazing Mitt Romney was. Wait a second, the most self-righteous part of my brain told me, Someone is wrong on the internet? This demands an immediate response. I quickly typed up a response making fun of him, and it felt great—the moment just before you press "post," when you know you're about to share your correctness with the world, is better than 90 percent of drugs. Of course, my condescending "you're wrong lol" post just led to a flurry of counter-posts, and within an hour I had a horde of his law-school friends (no doubt riding that same social media high) telling me I was a whiny liberal shithead. Soon thereafter, the cousin's ex unfriended me.
What We Can Learn: Whatever you think of Mitt Romney, my cousin's ex is the grown-up in this story. We all have people in our social networks who are essentially detritus from our pasts: barely-remembered high school acquaintances, dorm hallmates we never even said hi to, former flames of distant relations. Some of them have political views you may not agree with, and some of them may be obnoxious about broadcasting these views every chance they get—but that doesn't mean you have to respond. Don't read their rants about Obama. Don't engage with long-winded explanations about why the "official narrative" on 9/11 is wrong. Mute them if you have to. Or just unfriend them! If you barely know them and find their thoughts abhorrent, why are they in your life in any capacity?
Facebook fights are never about the person you're fighting with—they're about demonstrating your rightness publicly to the people who already agree with you. You're not trying to convince the other person of anything, you're only performing your political identity so you can be validated by the people who also hate Republicans/Congress/GMO foods.
So what should you do when someone you care about posts something that you hate? You could ignore it, accepting your differences as the price of admission for that friendship. Or you could voice your disagreement in a respectful reply that makes it clear to your followers where you stand. Or you could just make the conversation private—Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift talked on the phone after they sniped at each other on Twitter about the VMAs, and now it seems like they're friends again. The inherent falseness of celebrity feuds and friendships aside, never underestimate the value of calling someone up and talking to them with your voice.
Even better, you could refrain from giving in to your egocentric impulses and responding negatively to anyone online in any way, shape, or form, ever. It takes two to tango, even on the internet, and as the poet Lil Jon once said, "Don't start no shit, there won't be no shit."
Follow Drew on Twitter.