A troll is an insecure person who seeks to transplant and proliferate their insecurities upon others. They hide behind anonymity, afraid to show themselves to the world. Doing so would open them up to criticism and compromise the impenetrable defense from which they launch their attacks. They pick apart and point out the flaws in others while concealing their own imperfections.
Their attacks can be effective but only against victims with a particular frame of mind. Many people are insecure to a degree, and everyone has flaws. Trolls will target the imperfections of others, and rely upon the victim’s very own insecurities as a vector of attack.
Many reading this will already be familiar with the old adage, “don’t feed the trolls”. It is one of the most useful memes of our time. It encapsulates perfectly how one should defend themselves against them.
It’s worthwhile to spend a moment breaking down what it actually means.
I presume it owes its origins to the common refrain, “don’t feed the wildlife”. So first we have to understand why it’s a bad idea to feed the wildlife.
There are a number of reasons why it’s a bad idea to feed wild animals. Chief among them is that it makes them dependent on humans if not for survival then at least an easy meal. It potentially deprives them of the skills they need to survive on their own. Similarly, feeding trolls by engaging with them and therefore legitimizing their attacks, prevents them from looking inward and maturing. If deprived of food, if ignored, the person behind the facade soon realizes they must turn elsewhere for a sense of fulfillment. Ideally they’ll have a moment of self reflection and change their ways.
You can quarrel endlessly with trolls but it’s best not to engage with someone who has nothing to lose. Engagement only encourages more trolling, and you’re unlikely to come out unscathed. It’s better to ignore them. It gives them a chance to change, and there’s no risk of inflaming an insecure, perhaps unstable individual, which would only make things worse.