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Sadly, dealing with internet trolls is part and parcel of being a photographer in the digital age. People don’t care about the impact of their words. The internet has given everyone an outlet to air their grievances with the world, without taking a second to think about how they will impact other people. In an example on Reddit, one photographer had to deal with an online attack, just for deciding to photograph children during recent protests. Some of the language used by the internet troll was aggressive and abusive, but that didn’t stop the photographer from handling it in the best way possible.
An Internet Troll on Reddit
Reddit user @paigebennettblack shared six images from a protest that featured two young children. In response to the images, another user commented:
“There’s a good chance at least one of these kids will be dead or severely injured before this is all over. But hey, good thing you helped them capture this magical moment instead of maybe helping them by discouraging violent behavior. Good for you. F*cking idiot.”
In response, @paigebennettblack said:
“Nope, the protest ended last night and the whole family has returned safely (started following one of them on Insta.) Thanks for your concern.”
Despite the language used by the commenter, the photographer responded in a very calm manner, not rising to the bait. By just providing facts in a polite and calm way, they worked towards defusing the situation. However, the commenter wasn’t done there. Instead, they had this to say:
“Glad I could help! Your camera is s*it too, by the way! Upgrade your gear before calling yourself something which you are not.”
Still refusing to take the bait, @paigebennettblack closed with this:
“I am literally a master of fine arts in photography from Savannah Colege of Art and Design…”
Thankfully this brought a close to the dialogue.
Dealing With Internet Trolls
Above is a great example of how to silence an internet troll. But I know from my own experience about the impact the abuse people direct towards you can have on your state of mind. When I first started getting published online, whenever someone spoke down to me (in a disrespectful way) I would genuinely lose sleep over it. I couldn’t live with the thought that someone wanted to humiliate me in a public sphere. I’d waste time thinking about witty responses I could fire back in order to make them look more foolish. But none of this was healthy, and looking back, it was totally the wrong way to deal with it.
A key thing to remember is that whenever someone fires unconstructive abuse towards you online, it means nothing. They are not important, nor are their words. People say mean things just to try to elevate themselves from whatever disparity they find themselves in. They are communicating their own darkness and using you as a platform to let it all out.
Today, I mainly ignore comments from trolls or keep my response very brief. I encourage you to do the same. Life and photography careers are too short to be investing your energy in people who are not worth your time. Forget about them and put your time and thoughts into your work.
How Not to Troll
Internet trolls are not people removed from the photography community. They’re consumers of photography, they’re even photographers themselves. Some of you reading this article may be guilty of being an internet troll – here’s how to put a stop to it.
Firstly, an internet troll isn’t someone that disagrees with a photographer or author of a post. Millions of people around the world have read my articles about photography, and of course, not everyone will welcome what I write or publish. I actually encourage a dialogue, even if it’s in disagreement with what I wrote. But there must always be respect between those having a conversation online.
If your intention is to humiliate, abuse, or hurt someone online, not only are you a troll, you’re not a nice person. So be kind and considerate to everyone and be respectful in your disagreements. The photography community will be a much better place to be a part of.