How I Dealt With my Internet Troll
When I say 'troll', I'm not talking about those adorable little plastic toys with rainbow hair, because we all know how to deal with those - collect them all! Or the troll from that seriously creepy film that used to give me nightmares (though that's how I imagine my troll would look). But the type that creep up on you when you gain somewhat of an internet presence (no matter how small or big) and try to inflict their negativity on you (I had to clear up that definition for my Mother alone).
A troll, is an internet bully, a coward who hides behind anonymity and whose only aim is to make others lives miserable through outlets such as blogs, forums and social media. You might expect a troll to be someone tech-savvy or a teenager expressing their newfound internet freedom, but more often than not, they're actually 'normal' adults taking on a mask, and they're usually someone you know..
Since starting this blog, I've had the time of my life; I love writing, sharing my experiences, recording memories, and re-visiting posts I wrote a year ago, and seeing how much A has bloomed into a beautiful young boy. I enjoy meeting other bloggers, making friends, working with brands, reviewing products and experiencing events that I never would have if it wasn't for Hello Archie.
But I don't particularly enjoy the negative comments.
There's a massive difference between a troll and someone with a differing opinion to yourself. As a blogger, sometimes you'll write about something you feel strongly about (ie. breastfeeding, attachment parenting etc.) and a fellow blogger/reader might disagree and decide to comment with their opinion. Usually, these commenters don't make themselves anonymous, and dictate themselves well; there's nothing wrong with feeling differently to someone and having a mature debate, that isn't what this post is about.
A troll is something different entirely. Someone who honestly believes there's nothing wrong with hiding behind anonymity and attacking someone personally, whether it's because of their appearance, their parenting, their finances, beliefs etc.
The first comment came around a year ago, before my blog had gained any momentum in the online community, and was really just for me and my family — a series of monthly updates on A's development — so from the off, it was odd to receive these comments of hate when I still had such a small audience, mostly of friends & family, some of the occasional blogger who was giving my writing a chance.
I informed Mr J and deleted it immediately. I didn't stop to think, I was just shocked someone would take their time to leave me a comment insulting my blog, how was I hurting them? Anyway, I deleted it thinking it was a one-off; if someone was really so offended by the content of my blog, why would they return?
A couple of days later, another came, this one exclaiming quite angrily (plenty of exclamation marks) how awful they thought my blog was. It appeared to be left by the same person, as they were using the same name and fake e-mail address.
At this point, I was a little confused. If you really didn't like something, why would you keep going back to it? Surely, you'd leave your comment and forget about it? Luckily, I have to approve any comments before they go public and I don't agree with completely unfounded negativity, so once again, I deleted it.
And that was that for a while; I can only assume the commenter realised their comments weren't being made public and decided to give up.
A few months later, I received another comment. This time, it was posted on 'Baby's First Holiday: Devon Valley'. The name was different, but the e-mail address was still fake.
This time I found myself fairly amused, the only way to deal with negative comments is to brush them off and laugh about them (preferably whilst holding a large glass of rosé). Once again, I shared the comment with Mr J and deleted it.
Then another, a couple of days later, this time on one of my Fashion Friday posts — Fashion Friday; ft. a Special Guest — featuring my son & nephew wearing George clothes, once again using the same fake name and email.
I wasn't concerned; I informed my sister-in-law and we had a little giggle about it. I told her I wouldn't post anymore photo's of her children if she didn't want me to, but she had no issue whatsoever. She's a strong person and wonderful Mother and I knew that the only thing she'd want me to do would be to stand up to someone who was being deliberately callous, so once again, I left the post and deleted the comment.
I don't have an extensive history of dealing with trolls, but I was sure that if a stranger really had an issue with me or my blog, they wouldn't keep returning.
I have Google Analytics set up on my site (as most bloggers do); it's a service website owners can use as a way of tracking their stats, and it means we're able to view a vast amount of information about our readers. You can check to see how many page views you've had on a particular post, the most commonly used device or browser, whether they're new or returning visitors and a general location (city/state) etc.
By fluke, I seemed to be able to pinpoint the user who was leaving these comments. I was able to match the timestamp the comment was made, to the users who were online at that time (just the 1). Though there's no way of blocking this user (without an IP address), it at least gave me tidbits of information as to who my troll could be and whether I knew them or not.
I could find a general location, the name of their service provider, the device they were using and the last time they'd visited my blog. This information told me that it was a regular reader, someone who was visiting my blog every couple of days and reading almost every post.
After deleting the comments, I forgot all about it for a while, until recently, when a couple of weeks ago, they started again.
This was the first comment posted on my recent article — Why You Suck at Blogging and Should Probably Quit — a post about the negative sides of blogging and how time consuming it can be promoting posts via social media. This time it was someone 'new', Lisa, and the e-mail address was once again fake.
'Why You Suck at Blogging and Should Probably Quit' turned out to be my most popular blog post ever, receiving 90+ comments in a matter of days, and not one single comment was negative or used a fake e-mail address, apart from 'Lisa'.
I decided to share this comment with my Facebook friends, and ask for their advice and thoughts on the matter. They were all wonderfully supportive and came to the same conclusion I had. These comments were a personal attack, they were probably all from the same person, and sounded as if they were written by someone dealing with some intense jealousy issues — aka a troll.
A few days later, I posted 'The Granny Hair Trend - How to Get Silvery/Grey Locks', a beauty post where I discussed finally saying goodbye to my 5 inch roots, heading to the hairdressers and dying my hair silvery/grey (something I was really excited to do), and in came another comment; 'Lisa' again.
The troll was now visiting constantly, occasionally more than once a day, and commenting on nearly every post.
The most recent comment I've received from 'Lisa', is probably the most personal & offensive to date.
I recently wrote about having a particularly bad experience, and the stigma against young mum's who lack support of their own - The Day I Sucked at Motherhood. It was something I was reluctant to write about and that made me feel vulnerable as a Mother and a writer; but I published it anyway, because none of us are perfect, we have bad day's and that's ok. I've always been honest with my readers and they've always responded with such a huge amount of support.
I've decided not to share the comment here, because it was particularly rude & offensive, but the general gist was that 'Lisa' was amused by my story and that I was blaming my terrible Mothering skills on others.
I shared this comment with my Facebook friends once again, and with the blogging community. I was astounded to receive so much support. I told them the story of my troll and they responded in anger and disbelief (at the troll) and kind words (for me).
This sort of insistent bitterness and negativity can only come from a bully, someone who has no other outlet for their emotions and is relentless, even when ignored, but still doesn't want to offer their victim the ability to retaliate; a coward, a troll.
At this point, I'd had enough of silence and simply deleting the comments, they seemed to be gaining momentum and increasing in disdain. This troll was bordering on stalking me, visiting my blog multiple times a week (sometimes daily), so I decided to take action.
I contacted my host and told them the whole story. I let them know that I was feeling uncomfortable about the comments, that they were extremely negative and that if there was a way, I'd like to block this person from viewing my site.
My wonderful host, intent on online safety, obliged and replied within 20 minutes giving me the date/info for every comment and an IP address that proved they were all made by the same person — there was no doubt in my mind now that this was someone I knew.
Though IP addresses can be notoriously unreliable, they can also be fairly accurate at times and with the help of a friend, I was able to pinpoint a general location for the commenter — any information we discovered matched this person to the user I'd discovered through my analytics, and all of this information pointed to the same person we had all started to suspect over the past couple of months.
I didn't write this post to out my troll, or to cause any public hatred towards them, that is not my intention. I will say that it is someone I know, and someone who has had an issue with me for some time. We rarely cross paths, so I assume her unwarranted anger needed an outlet, and that outlet was my blog.
The intention of this post was to break the silence; the silence written by the anonymous haters that eat away at others, the real seriousness of cyber-bullying and bullying, full-stop.
It's not ok. It's not ok if you're young or old, it's not ok if you're a stranger or a friend, it's not ok if you're a Mother, Father or Grandparent. It's not ok if you're 12 or 54, if you're happy or sad. It's not ok to bully anyone.
And if you're struggling to deal with bullying, speak up. Let someone know how you feel and tackle it head-on, with your friends & family there to support you.
So, what happens now?
I will block the IP address of this person, though they'll still be able to access my blog through other means if they still decide to comment. I will not out this person or make negative jibes, or write about them again. What I hope, is that they learn from this experience, that what they're doing isn't ok, it's tragic, and that their life should be good enough to sustain them. If hatred is involved, there's a problem.
Some people will think that I shouldn't have written this post and that I'm playing into their hands, but cyber bullying is a very real thing, that shouldn't be kept quiet or swept under the carpet. It's real, it happens and some cases can be extreme; if staying silent doesn't stop it, perhaps speaking up will.
I'm not the only blogger to receive negativity. Read this fantastic article — Haters Gonna Hate! Your Guide To Dealing With Trolls! by brummymummyof2 — and How To Deal With Internet Trolls by Kit Steinkellner. Also, check out Internetmatters for help with cyber-bullying.
If you're experiencing or have experienced anything similar, I hope you are able to relate to this post, know you're not alone, and turn to others for help.
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