Hungry Trolls

Something that I learned from The Gift of Fear, among other readings, is that any reaction reinforces a behavior by demonstrating the threshold for provoking a reaction. Yes, that’s tautological, but it’s important.

If someone isn’t constrained by other concerns like their reputation, or the perception that you could materially punish them, or sheer emotional stress from conflict — and there are many people who aren’t constrained in those ways, especially when anonymity is an option — then a troll from that unconstrained population will prefer a negative reaction to zero reaction.

In that case, any sign that you’re paying attention and being affected by someone’s behavior will encourage them to continue. Hence “never feed the trolls” is a decent heuristic despite its edge cases. See also: “Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig enjoys it.”

In closing, think carefully about when to feed the trolls. How motivated is your adversary or group thereof? What’s stopping them from escalating further? Do you have any leverage?

Fin.


My thoughts above were originally posted as a Twitter thread. Lightly edited for this format.

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Social Cohesion via Memes

“The actual propositional content of doctrines has little to do with how religion works socially. Far more than the content of faith as such, what makes religion religion are the images and rhetoric loaded with atavistic and esoteric archetypes (chaos; order; Kek; frogs; a ‘God Emperor,’ to use a common 4chan appellation for Donald Trump) that tend to propagate virally, independent of a centralized source, because they tie into the cultural zeitgeist or answer some cultural need. […] Every time a meme is replicated or a symbol is reused, it only strengthens the socially determined bond of meaning.” — Tara Isabella Burton

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