Paul Jun once teamed up with several others to kill every single person at a wedding.
It wasn’t a “real” wedding, of course–it was a ceremony that took place in the video game World of Warcraft.
Still, the spirit of the attack was pretty blood-sucking, and there was emotional fallout for weeks. The wedding guests (not to mention the bride and groom) were understandably outraged at the onslaught and wondered who could be small-minded enough to coordinate a bloodbath on a day meant to honor the union of two souls.
The fact is, online bullying can have devastating effects in real life. Rehtaeh Parsons was just 15 when she committed suicide after being sexually assaulted, then bullied about it by classmates on social media. Even in less extreme cases, what is said online does impact us offline–sometimes dramatically.
In a world where anonymous comments form a part of our daily lives (not to mention un-anonymous comments on Facebook), learning to protect ourselves and our children is a worthy pursuit.
And Jun, a self-proclaimed former hater, is the perfect guide. He says there are a few key rules when it comes to repelling that most repellent of all online personalities: the troll.
1. Never feed them. Period.
You’ve heard it before, but it’s time to really internalize it: Feeding trolls never works. As Jun says, “I have never seen a troll lay down his or her arms and say, ‘You know what, you’re right. I was so wrong.’ ”
Yes, it’s hard to not respond when antagonized. “When someone unknown comes at us, it’s part of our human nature to defend ourselves,” Jun says. “A part of us doesn’t want to stay silent, because we think silence means surrendering, and surrendering means losing.”
But when it comes to trolls, Jun says, silence is actually the opposite of surrender–it’s the only way to win:
“When I trolled other gamers with words–harsh words–many times they would ignore me…. I remember being bothered by that. ‘Why won’t they defend themselves? Entertain me!’ The ones who ignored me, and even better, put me on their ‘Ignore List’ so that they couldn’t receive my messages, were the ones who understood this principle.”
Attention is like food for trolls.
2. Do vent.
Getting attacked online affects you physiologically. This is real. So don’t just sit on anger or hurt feelings–get support if you feel attacked. Talk to a friend, get a hug, scream in your car, tell a safe person.
Then remember that that troll probably has a very sad life. We’ve all heard it, but it’s immensely satisfying to hear Jun validate it: “A troll’s behavior reflects a deep insecurity…having someone respond to their words gives life meaning, regardless of how pathetic that may sound.”
He admits, “I raided that wedding because I wanted to be noticed and talked about. Random people cursing me out through private messages or the general chatroom invigorated me. I was so bored with my real life…that I learned to find joy in harming others.”
Now imagine for a moment that meaning in your life actually came from a random person responding, “F*** you!” to a hostile comment you made in a chatroom. How much meaningful human connection is in your life if that’s what you do just to be noticed for a moment?
3. Have rules about how to deal with trolls. Follow them.
Jun calls them principles, not rules, but the idea is the same: Know what your strategy is, and follow it.
For example, if someone posts something hateful or hurtful on your Facebook wall and you’ve decided to protect that as your own space, delete it. Every time. No need to spend an hour drafting the perfect response, trying to change the person’s mind (you won’t), or proving to other followers that you can stand up to bullies.
Same thing on Instagram, Twitter, etc. There’s a “block” feature on these platforms for a reason. Deprive trolls of the ability to suck your energy by using it.
4. Remember the 30 percent rule.
According to well-known and -loved author James Altucher, “[N]o matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter who your audience is: 30 percent will love it, 30 percent will hate it, and 30 percent won’t care. Stick with the people who love you and don’t spend a single second on the rest.”
To which Jun adds, “File those trolls under the proper 30 percent and move on.”
In other words, know that if you reach a certain level of success, you will attract haters. It comes with the territory. But you have the power to choose what to do about them.
So don’t hang out with trolls in their dark, dank caves. Keep your head in the game and your face in the light.
“So did that couple ever get married?” Jun asks. “My best guess is that they did. Meanwhile, I spent hours on a video game, tormenting strangers, ultimately getting nothing done…. At the end of it all, I did nothing but harm my mind and body.”
He may have harmed his mind and body years ago, but perhaps he has helped redeem his soul by telling us exactly how to bypass hate and stay focused on what really matters: creativity, contribution, and connection.