Got troll trouble sometimes or often? Want to keep the conversation productive on your blog or social networks? If you haven’t already, please see my previous post with more background on the rise of Internet trolls, cyber-bullying and my first proposed tactic: The Hall of Shame. This time around, I will be focusing on a second essential practice when managing unruly and disruptive online visitors: The Passionless Voice.
The Passionless Voice.
This practice was learned the hard way when moderating controversial debate spaces for corporate clients. People hostile to some of the ideas being discussed on these sites would lurk day and night baiting the moderators and other participants with irritating or insulting content and generally try to make life difficult for everyone. Sometimes, it all blew up and several staff had to monitor and ‘clean’ the threads at all hours when a troll and his or her buddies decided to launch concerted attacks.
After analyzing the many occasions on which disruptive participants managed to escalate conflict to a major headache level, we concluded that the catalyst was always an instance in which the Moderator had let his or her guard down by giving the troll an emotional response. This always fueled the fire and gave the troll something to latch on to allowing momentum to build towards an all out explosion of negativity.
In a nutshell:
You may be reading this and find it all commonsensical and unnecessary to dwell upon. Still, there are a couple reasons why the “Passionless Voice” needs to be enshrined as a strategy.
The Passionless Voice is counter-intuitive:
Social media is, after all, a space of humans talking to humans. When Moderators get personally insulted online, it is very hard to remain dispassionate. Some trolls are especially good at getting under your skin and pushing you to the limit. In such cases, there is nothing more natural than meeting anger with anger, sarcasm with more sarcasm etc. And that is where it all comes apart. Resisting the lure of engaging trolls becomes all the more complicated when a space is overseen by a team of junior Moderators, who cannot be expected to be Zen masters day in and day out. This is when a thorough briefing on the Passionless Voice is well worth it, as those interacting online need to understand why the practice is so important and what the risks are of deviating from the protocol.
Clients don’t get the Passionless Voice:
Trust me on this, I am speaking from experience! When a corporate client on a social media project looks over your shoulder from time to time, they may see your responses to troublesome guests and comment on the repetitive or robotic tone employed. Often, clients can be like backseat drivers and feel that they have come up with exactly the right statement for putting a troll in their place and ask you to publish it. While this is understandable, it must be resisted as the ecology of an online space is a complex thing and it is the moderators who will have to live with the consequences of a space that goes toxic. This is why the Passionless Voice must be hard-coded into a Moderation Protocol, which should be presented for client signoff as early in the life of the project as possible. Clients are generally reassured to see that there is reasoning behind the moderation and will then tend to back off, leaving you to defend yourself against troll freak outs as best you can.
More troll tips to come soon. Have any of yours to share?