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Kill them with Kindness: How to Deal with Online Trolls

Kill them with kindness How to deal with online trolls

Kill them with kindness

 “Broadly speaking, a troll is someone whose primary intent is to disrupt and stir up tempers, usually by provocative language or actions. Think of it as drive-by discomfort. They want to get people hot under the collar, and eat popcorn while chaos unfolds.” – Vanessa Paech, Co-Founder at Swarm.

As a Social Media Manager, I’ve certainly experienced my fair share of trolls on Facebook. As much as you try to ignore them, not take things personally (because they can tend to get very personal) and move on, it’s often not that easy.

Managing any social media account is not something for the faint-hearted, you need to be prepared for these idiots that come online. But even so, when they do rear their ugly heads, it’s not nice and can be quite stressful and upsetting, particularly when it gets personal.

Over time I’ve learnt more and more about how to deal with these desperados and I’d be lying if I said it’s easy. No matter how many times you deal with them, it doesn’t get any easier. But, the way you deal with it can certainly make a difference.

A bit more about online trolls

I read an interesting statistic in an article by Erin Doyle in B & T Magazine, apparently 5.6% of internet users either considered themselves to be online trolls or, at least, enjoy partaking in the occasional trolling activity. As of 2015, the International Telecommunication Union reported there are 3.2 billion people with internet access – this means that more than 179 million of those users consider themselves trolls.

The characteristics of a troll are actually NOT that surprising to me.

Firstly there are the narcissists with their huge egos and self-obsessions, then there are the sadists who thrive on the misery of others, there are the psychopaths that lack any feelings of guilt or empathy and lastly, yep, there’s another one, the Machiavellians who get off on manipulating and misleading others. What a lovely bunch.

These folks absolutely thrive in the anonymous environment of the internet, the live and breathe the anonymity. They are the online villains who love seeing their name all over a viral post, it’s how they get their 15 minutes of fame.

The problem is folks, they are here to stay and so it’s up to us, the other  internet users, to deal with them.

There’s no right or wrong way to deal with a troll, it all comes down to what you feel comfortable with and particularly, if you’re running a business, what is in line with your social media policy, vision and mission.

How to respond to trolls

Kill them with kindness

This is my favourite one BUT the one I’ve found difficult to do because I tend to take things very personally.  Just imagine the good old troll is sitting there at their computer, their popcorn in hand waiting for a negative or defensive response to fuel their addiction.  And just imagine what happens when they get kindness in return? POP! Their ego is instantly deflated and they likely move onto their next target.

Ignore them

To be honest, for the time I’ve been managing social media accounts, I’ve heard various people say that you should always respond, but I’d have to disagree. Some trolling comments simply don’t warrant a response, especially considering that’s EXACTLY what they want. DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS. If you don’t, they’ll just move onto their next victim.

Delete their comments

This is another widely debated area with many people suggesting that you should never delete a comment from a troll. Again, I’d have to disagree. Yes, there are some heated debates that happen on social media and it’s important to leave a comment if it’s simply someone voicing their opinion, even if you disagree with it. But, when it comes to racist and offensive comments, when personal attacks are made and the conversation is taken completely off course, then it’s time to delete the comments.

I think you have to be very careful with deleting though, particularly when it comes to the timing of the deletion. If a thread is heated and you instantly delete the trolls comment/s, it’s likely the troll will arc up and give you even more trouble than you started with.  Try waiting 12 to 24 hours to delete the comment/s, this will give the troll time to divert their attention to something else. If you feel really uncomfortable waiting for so long and you’re worried it may affect your audience, then ban the user.

Use your sense of humour

Now, this is one tactic that I haven’t used yet. I think it takes a certain type of community manager to really nail this, you need to be a quick thinker and know the right time to make the comment.

Tesco Mobile won the internet with this response:

Troll: When you call someone and it goes through to their Tesco Mobile Voicemail…LOOOOOOOOOOOL

Tesco mobile: When you realise your mates are ignoring you LOOOOOOL #nojoke

Isn’t that a beauty!

Another thing that always crosses my mind when it comes to trolls is to consider their state of being. It’s like I always say, you can’t compare yourself to someone without knowing what’s really going on in their life.  It’s the same with online trolls.  As much as I want to judge them and hate them, I do think about what may be going on in their lives to make them act in such a way. This is why the approach of ‘kill them with kindness’ is my favourite because it also considers the possibility that these people are perhaps in a very unhappy place.

How do you deal with online trolls? 

Eva Lewis


  1. March 11, 2016 / 8:30 am

    Great tips here. Touch wood I have had limited experience with trolls but mostly I have ignored, depending on the tone in the message. Some I believe just want they voice to he heard and if you don’t respond, they keep going.

  2. March 11, 2016 / 10:34 am

    I’ve taken down blog posts once the trolls started offensively attacking my followers – but kept them for legal reasons. That way if they ever do it again, I’ll be going to the authorities, with a lot of evidence. As for the normal trolls – twitter or FB – I just ignore, respond with kindness or humour, or block. They’re either after a flare-up and/or a fight, and you are right, responding with humour or kindness kills that. Or they aren’t worth my time.

  3. March 11, 2016 / 2:00 pm

    Great advice on the deleting bit. Waiting 12-24 hours. My daughter gets the occasional negative comment on her social media (she’s a model) and we choose to keep her space a positive place so she will delete anything that borders on abusive. She’s never had any ongoing issues with it. But perhaps waiting is a good thing … in case the troll becomes more aggressive. Thanks!

  4. March 11, 2016 / 7:41 pm

    I’ve only had one or two experiences with trolls and I had to block and delete in the end – there is no arguing or debating with them. I do wish I had the wit to combat them that way – sadly I’m the sort of person who always thinks of a good comeback 2 weeks after the fact!

  5. March 17, 2016 / 6:02 am

    I’ve only had them via email and give their voice no credit. Not really sure how I would deal with them on FB or the blog, but I think always best with kindness xx