Ever frequented a forum just to find someone whose sole intent is to ruffle everyone's feathers? Referred to as a troll, this is the person that may resort to starting a controversial topic and then systematically shoot down everyone's opinions with condescending, inflammatory remarks. He or she wants to you to know how stupid you sound, how awesome they are, or how incapable you are of being good at anything.
The reactions from good people vary when dealing with trolls from outright rage, attempting to counter with the same types of remarks right back, or just plain laughing at them. Others may tell everyone to stop giving them attention. I've watched these interactions on some forums and felt the urge to grab a bag of popcorn and a soda as I read the drama unfolding.
In most cases, online heckling is just annoying. But in some instances it can be dangerous, especially when it takes the form of online bullying. Especially with younger kids this can be concerning as they are still developing a social consciousness that is trying to assimilate into social roles. Getting feedback from peers is crucial to a young person's mind trying to figure out their own identity. In cases of cyber bullying, it is the parents' job to monitor their childrens' online interactions and teach them how to effectively cope.
The trick to effectively dealing with online trolls is actually very simple, and the fact that it can be so simple is what makes it difficult for some. Because the answer to dealing with them comes from within your own mind, not from outside with a witty post remark.
Truly dealing with trolls requires self-confidence and a self-awareness that transcends any and all of the hecklar's remarks. You must feel confident enough in yourself to realize the true intent of the troll. The troll wants to get your goat and push your buttons. Trolls thrive off your frustration and insecurity. Why? Because misery loves company. If they aren't happy, feel inadequate, and are angry, then why shouldn't you be too? That's what's going on in their head. What needs to be going on in your head is reminding yourself that they are expressing their discontent with their own situation, not yours. Know that you have done nothing wrong, and to know that, you must be grounded and self-secure.
You're not going to win by interacting with an online hecklar, no matter how you respond. They may be making horrible grammar mistakes or contradicting themselves left, right, and center. Pointing it out to them only feeds them an invite to attempt to make you miserable with their words. Getting in an online shouting match puts you in a situation where you might as well sit down and have a drink together at the misery bar, because at that point you're acting no better than the troll.
Ignoring the troll altogether, however, lets them know that you're button has not been pushed. It lets them know you have no intent on joining them in their misery. To them, you will be untouchable. It doesn't matter how much they call you out. If you know their reason for calling you out, it makes it a whole lot easier to ignore. If a bum standing in a back alley yells at you to "come here, loser", are you going to go there and engage him in conversation? I sure hope not! Why would you do the same with someone doing the cyber equivalent of throwing up all over the internet?
They want attention. Plain and simple. It doesn't matter if it's positive or negative attention. They want it any way they can get it. Give it to them, and they win every time. Don't give it to them, and you maintain your dignity which is what they are trying to take from you. If your self confidence is strong, you will have no problem not giving them what they want, because you will remain secure in that their reasons for spreading angst are not yours. Even a comment of telling others not to give them attention is, in fact, giving them a form of attention. Simply put, don't react to or acknowledge them at all. After seeing they won't get a reaction from you, in time, you will not remain one of their targets as they will know they can't receive anything from you. Let them wallow in their own misery without your company.