Internet Etiquette for the Beginner

I’d like to spend a few minutes to discuss an unusual internet phenomenon of negativity. The two examples I’d like to focus on today are trolls and haters.

“Troll” is the term used for a person who deliberately provokes conflict online. Trolls* thrive on drama, so they’ll join any fight they see, regardless of whether it affects them personally. And if they can’t find a fight to join, they’ll post controversial things on social media and blogs until they get the attention they’re looking for. If that doesn’t work, they’ll post aggressive comments on other people’s otherwise peaceful threads. In this way, the wild troll can be a predatory animal, striking where it’s least expected.

For example: I post something on facebook about my cat. My dad comments, asking when I got a cat. I respond that it’s not my cat, but a stray I’m taking care of. My friend Janae hits the “like” button. And some friend-of-a-friend named Beefalo Buff comments, “I hope you got that cat fixed, because my little brother got a horrible infection from a stray cat, and if that cat breeds, it’s only going to overpopulate the world and spread disease.”** In real life, this post would have less punctuation, poor spelling, and no capitalization – because it’s not about grammar, people. It’s about people like me ruining the world with cats like Miss Tiff.


If a troll is someone who thrives on causing negativity, a hater is someone who lives off of positive energy. The problem with haters, though, is that they live on positivity the same way a vampire lives on blood. They don’t make their own, they steal it from those around them. Haters are bitter, angry people who are determined to justify their own mediocrity by tearing down the people around them.

For example:  I post something on facebook about my cat. My dad comments, asking when I got a cat. I respond that it’s not my cat, but a stray I’m taking care of. My friend Janae hits the “like” button. And some friend-of-a-friend named Millicent Tweed comments, “Well, aren’t you just something special. Boy, I’m really glad you have a cat who will stick around just long enough to steal some free food from you. You realize that cat doesn’t actually like you, right? Stop trying to make yourself look like some hero for feeding a stray cat when there are thousands of hungry children in the street.”

Haters are the dementors*** of the internet. They see somebody indulging in a little happiness and say, “Ooh! I can change that!”

 cat haters

For the most part, internet users understand that the internet – especially social media – is not for hatred. It’s for information, exploring new perspectives, posting silly cat pictures, and sharing stupid videos. It’s for communicating across the globe. It’s for learning new things. It is not for attacking one another willy-nilly like a box full of rabid ferrets.

Imagine you were at a table in a cafeteria, discussing politics with your distinguished colleagues. You have differing opinions, and you’re explaining your viewpoints, when some wild-eyed woman holding a ketchup bottle comes running across the cafeteria, screaming, “Obama killed my brother!”, and proceeds to empty the ketchup all over the lunches and briefcases of all those seated. Surely you would be unnerved. Most likely, you would ask this woman to calm down. You would probably adjourn, and one of you might call security.

There’s a significant difference between calmly asking to join a conversation, explaining that you have a strong and valid perspective on the topic being discussed, and just launching yourself in like a cannonball with severe Tourette’s.**** I’m not saying you have to be happy and perky in everything you do – just do it civilly, and relevantly. And if you enjoy saying hateful things, you still can – but keep it between you and your other hateful friends. If a post wasn’t directed at you, be courteous in the way you invite yourself in. The internet is public space, but that doesn’t make it your space. Be considerate. ♦

*No offense is meant here toward any actual trolls or troll dolls.

**This post does not reflect the author’s actual opinion toward cats.

***I do not have copyrights to this Harry Potter reference. I’m using it anyway.

****No offense is meant here toward any persons or cannonballs with Tourette’s syndrome.


3 thoughts on “Internet Etiquette for the Beginner

  1. No wonder kids are learning to bully others via social media because the adults in their lives are doing it! Let’s not be negative Nellies, all!

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