Sometimes, I see the stuff that Twitter users write and I can’t believe it. The attitude, the language and the attacks make the “liquid courage” of alcohol seem like an emotional inhibitor by comparison. Last weekend, though, a couple of Twitter “trolls” came after me.
I attend the first-ever basketball game between Syracuse and Duke at Duke’s legendary Cameron Indoor Stadium. Several of my friends asked me to “live tweet” my experiences and, along the way, I posted some photos and behind-the-scenes points of view. The game ended in controversial fashion and I posted, appropriately I think, some opinions about that. Later in the evening, a couple of Duke “trolls,” people I don’t even know, who don’t follow me and with whom I had never interacted before, essentially harassed me via Twitter, because of the opinions. I found it uncomfortable, at best, and at worst, pathetic. Do people really spend their time searching Twitter for opinions so they can lash out at strangers? Yes, they do.
That led me to wonder how Twitter uses far more public than I handle the venom on a regular basis. How do they deal with being attacked? What type of thick skin is necessary? I asked a few and here are their responses:
Scott Hanson – host NFL RedZone, NFL Network (73,000 followers):
95 percent of the feedback I get for my work is positive. But, I encounter trolls after every NFL RedZone broadcast.
I usually deal with it by ignoring, or believe it or not, responding with something very kind — just to see how they’ll react. If someone says, “you suck!” I might reply “just general suckiness, or anything in particular you don’t like?”
Believe it or not, some people who displayed vitriol ten minutes earlier, immediately try to become your best buddy when they realize you took the time to respond.
The “great” thing about Twitter trolls is they are all 100% vulnerable to the block button. I’m usually slow to use the block button. But repeated vulgarities over multiple tweets will get you banned from my timeline.
I had one guy — let’s call him “Frank” — who, after being blocked, called upon at least a dozen of his friends to Tweet me, “Frank says you suck” one at a time for the next two weeks. I blocked them one by one, and Frank relented that my thumb stamina was easily superior to his ability to make new friends.
Stephen Clark – news anchor WXYZ-TV and known nationally as “The Tweeting Anchor” (nearly 15,000 followers)
You’d think as much as I tweet that I’d encounter more trolls. It happens but not to the point it’s unbearable.
I will almost always try to engage the person in conversation. Some people are just looking for a reaction. Some people have a legitimate gripe or question. I try to figure which I’m dealing with. 90 percent of the time I manage to “convert” the troll to someone who is willing to temper their comments, take part in a civil conversation and gain actual insight.
I’ve actually had phone conversations with a couple people who started out as “trolls” but have since moderated their own tweets to become much more “sociable.”
Those people who insist on continuing to sling negativity, I will unfollow or block. But I’ve only done that 4 or 5 times. The funny thing is I often don’t have to say anything to people who attack me personally.The regulars on the #backchannel come to my defense and drive them off.
Jamie Samuelsen – sports talk host, WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket (19,500 followers)
My general policy is to ignore them completely. Nothing is to be gained. You’re not going to change their mind. And you’re only giving oxygen to their quest. But every so often I fire back – not with anger or vitriol – but more with logic and reasoning. I’d say half of those respond with either an apology or near incredulousness that I even responded. Then they’re quickly spinning in reverse. But the other fifty percent just keep firing at which point I back away.
I used to have a poilicy of not blocking followers figuring that they had a right to be heard. But when they cross a certain line (i.e. ripping some member of my family) – I block.
Bottom line – you’re always going to have detractors. Just check out the Kimmel bit he does on Twitter trolls. It’s hilarious. I can’t imagine being a prominent athlete or actor in this type of setting.