We all do it. We see absolutely outrageous posts by nameless and faceless trolls and we tell ourselves, “I will not respond.” Then we do.
When a complete stranger, one too cowardly to put his words with his name and face, attacks us and our work, we feel compelled to defend it. Especially when we work in climate change science, when the consequences of our work reach far beyond our own labs.
But we can’t. If we were telling a story about where Elvis was buried, and someone blurted out “but Elvis was abducted by aliens” (as some people believe), we wouldn’t waste 10 minutes trying to prove to this individual that he wasn’t in fact abducted. It’s an outrageous assertion and isn’t worth the breath it took to say it. The same goes with climate change. Highly misinformed or intentionally belligerent individuals who no one will listen to in the “real world” head to Twitter in mass to challenge the consensus of the scientific community in an attempt to bait us into an argument.
When you toss the internet, namely Facebook and Twitter, into this mix you get highly volatile, misinformed blank faces with no names who won’t ever face any repercussions for the things they say and do online. It truly is a coward’s medium.
You might think, “I’ll just correct this one part and leave him/her alone.” But it won’t work. It never does. You feed the troll, and it keeps coming back. They absorb your time, but not information. They detract from serious conversations, and divert the attention to a small, radical group of individuals who cannot be heard anywhere else because of the sheer lunacy of their beliefs.
It seems so simple to us. “How can they not know this?” we often ask ourselves. They don’t want to know the truth or hear the facts, otherwise they wouldn’t be trolls. That’s why I say: Don’t feed the trolls. It’s very hard – they’re crude, nasty, and lack any form of civility or human decency. They will try to attack you personally and troll your personal websites, blogs and other accounts. They will make you so angry and frustrated that you want to pull your hair out.
But do not feed it. Focus on the real people who have questions, and help guide them to accurate information. Address legitimate concerns, not conspiracy theories. Despite the overwhelming urge to prove how wrong the troll is, you never can because they are a troll. And troll’s never change.
Don’t feed the troll.