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How to Not Be an Internet Troll

Photograph by Twenty20

You may be wondering, "how can I prevent myself from turning into a spiteful internet troll?" Glad you asked! After careful research and experience fielding hateful remarks from bonafide hairy bridge-guarding monsters (aka online haters who post nasty comments), I've composed the following helpful list. Use this handy guide to determine if you have developed any potential troll-like tendencies that may lead you into the dark waters of The Great Trolling Sea, and stop yourself from further trolling, before it's too late. Moms tend to be more judgmental online than face-to-face when they're behind a computer screen, alone at home. (And how we behave rubs off on our kids, too.)

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Let's be honest – trolls are jerks. Rejoin the ranks of humanity and make friends that will last a lifetime by practicing the following rules for appropriate, healthy online interactions, whether it be on Facebook among friends, or in the commenting section of your favorite websites.

1. When someone disagrees with you or your beliefs do not comment about their body type or appearance.

However tempting it may be to mention someone's weight or tell them their face makes you regurgitate last night's dinner, don't. Instead, stick to discussing the actual issues at hand and use facts, not descriptions of their physical self to validate your points.

2. When attempting to debate with someone, make sure your caps lock key is set to "off."

TYPING IN ALL CAPS DOES LITTLE TO PROVE YOU'RE RIGHT. INSTEAD IT COMES OFF AS AGGRESSIVE AND ANNOYING. Instead, use standard letters to share your perspective and rely on your language skills rather than your font size to make your point.

3. Resist the urge to search for personal, private details about the person you disagree with and then publish said details in response to their comments.

Just because someone thinks differently from you, doesn't mean you're entitled to harass or humiliate them by sharing delicate information about them with the public. That's gross. Just don't.

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4. Do not photoshop or otherwise alter personal photos of the person you do not agree with.

Like above, it's in poor taste to edit or alter images of a person and post them online to embarrass them or their family. Besides, why tell the world that you have so much time on your hands, that you practice photographic wizardry just to hurt others? Wouldn't it be better if you focused your time and energy on spending time with your kids, friends or checked an item off your bucket list? Do something positive instead of negative.

5. Take stock of your last 50 replies to comment threads online. Are they overwhelmingly argumentative and defensive? Try to respond to things with kindness and positivity, also.

It's easy to lose oneself in passionate discourse, however, it's important to recognize when speaking your mind crosses the line into "stirring the pot" or "starting shit for the hell of it." Are you spending most of your time online fighting with others? Step away from the keyboard and remember that sometimes, if there's nothing nice to say, it's best to say nothing at all.

6. Refrain from rallying the trolling troops to spam and otherwise harass someone who posts something with which you don't agree.

Children typically resort to gathering their friends for support when trying to settle their differences with someone else. Don't be a kid. You're a grown-up now and you can handle disagreeing with other adults without roping more trolls into the conversation.

7. Calling people names is a no-no.

You may not like the position someone takes on a certain subject, but it shouldn't lead to you calling them derogatory names. Remember the Golden Rule: don't be an asshole.

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8. Cursing isn't productive either.

See No. 7, and avoid using expletives while online. (Unless you're talking with your friends about "Making a Murderer" on Netflix, because then it's totally acceptable. WTF is up with that show, anyway?)

9. Delete any fake social media accounts that obscure your identity and are used explicitly for harassing other people for your entertainment.

One pro-tip for stopping yourself from going full-on troll is to post your real picture and use your actual legal name. When your identity isn't hidden, it's less appealing to badger or otherwise taunt others online since they'll know who you really are.

10. Seek counseling if causing anger, hurt or discomfort to others is your favorite pastime while online.

If you find that you're rushing home from work, or not working at all, just so you can indulge in your beloved hobby of trolling others online, and the helpful tips above do nothing to sway your dark, dark heart – it's time you call a professional. They may help you release the pain you're carrying around from your childhood and help you learn how to socialize with other humans without breaking them down the way that bully did to you in third grade. You're better than this.

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