Five Ways to Protect Yourself Against Cyberhate and Trolls
In tandem with her Sydney Morning Herald feature story "Staring down internet trolls: My disturbing cat and mouse game." journalist Ginger Gorman shares tips for dealing with cyberbullying.
Although the structures to make you safe online leave a lot to be desired, there are some things you can do to protect yourself from cyberhate.
Here are my top five tips:
1. Get your psychological armour on
Forewarned is forewarned, as the saying goes. Just knowing you may encounter cyberhate is helpful. And if you do end up getting trolled, keep in mind trolls are looking for your weakest point. It feels personal – but in fact it isn't. To them, it's business. They are just trying to get at you any way they can.
Be self-aware and take a mental note if the trolling is causing you to lose productivity or making you stressed. To help unravel the anxiety, ask yourself questions such as: is dwelling on the situation improving my life? Why am I still thinking about it? What could I be doing instead?
2. Be silent to the trolls – but not each other
You will have heard the saying: "Don't feed the trolls." The research supports this. We know trolls are sadists – they want to hurt you and get pleasure from it. So silence is a great weapon. No reaction means they are failing. And it infuriates them. I need to be clear about this though: it doesn't mean being silenced. Keep doing whatever it is you are doing. Just don't react to the cyberhate.
If you need support, reach out to your friends and family for support in the offline world. Debrief and get the stress off your chest.
3. Use the report/block/mute buttons
Social media platforms have been notoriously lax and indifferent when it comes to dealing with cyberhate. However, the report/block/mute buttons exist for a reason. Use them. The "mute" button on Twitter is my favourite because the trolls effectively shout into the ether. (I'm not suggesting for a moment this is a total solution. It's just one tool and it's of limited effect, especially when a tsunami of hate is coming your way.)
4. Turn notifications off at night
It's not realistic to stay off the Internet. However you can turn off notifications for different apps – like Twitter and Facebook – at night. You can do this on all smartphones. It means that while you're in your bedroom trying to relax, you won't be imbibing torrents of hate. For this reason, some people choose to keep devices out of their bedroom altogether.
5. Report trolls to ACORN and/or local police
Acorn is the government-run Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network. Take screen shots of the cyberhate and report it: acorn.gov.au
You can also seek help and other resources from the Australian Government's eSafety Office.