This is something I’ve thought about on more than one occasion. Hell, it’s something all people active on the internet think about. I used to respond to trolls all the time, then I went through my avid “don’t feed the trolls” phase. Recently I’ve fallen somewhere more in the middle of things. I have learned something however in this development, and it’s that I don’t appreciate the attitude that people constantly have demanding that we as individuals “not feed the trolls”.
The sentiment itself is not a bad one. As I said I used to feed them and feed them well. Hearing the reasoning behind not responding made sense. It was healthier for me to just ignore them and frankly my constant need to respond was not good.
The problem I have is that like many other things I feel people have taken it a bit too far. More than once I have seen people who have felt the need to respond to trolls then add an apology or explanation for their need to respond. Not feeding the trolls is fine, but what is not fine is determining how people should respond to hate and different stimuli. No one should feel like they have to apologize because they had to respond to a troll, had to say something in that moment.
You have a right to your feelings and when confronted with a large amount of hate you have a right to respond how you want. If you see extreme homophobia should you just move on simply because it’s an online interaction? Racism? Sexism? Bigotry of any kind? Not feeding the trolls is not going to suddenly make this behavior stop. Yes, they are looking for a reaction, but if it hurts and offends you then you deserve to react. You deserve your moment to say, “Hey look that is not okay”. Not only that but “not feeding the trolls” has turned into basically “don’t call out shitty behavior”. How is this a solution? Beyond the fact that it places pressure on people to simply swallow it and not respond, it’s a level of normalizing shitty behavior as well.
Yes, there is a time and a place, and yes, sometimes it is better to just ignore it. The problem is we’ve turned it into constantly ignoring it to the extent that, again, some people apologize when they do feel the need to stand up for themselves or to trolls.
My point is it’s up to each person to decide when they will or won’t “feed the trolls”. If someone crosses one of your personal lines call it out if that’s how you need to respond. And while it’s all well and good to have the “don’t feed the trolls” mantra, remember that sometimes some people will. Some people will need to respond, and there is nothing wrong with that. Also remember that simply ignoring truly bad behavior is probably not the best solution.