Let's talk about something that really grinds my gears: Trolls. I'm not talking about the trolls of fairytales and bad-but-awesome Norwegian films (www.trollhunterfilm.com). I'm talking about the people who hide behind message boards in anonymity and make it their mission to provoke negativity in a discussion between others.
Troll is an Internet slang term meaning a person who sows discord by purposefully starting arguments and upsetting people by posting inflammatory or off-topic messages in an online community.
If you ever read a Berkshire Eagle story online, you'll notice that our Disqus commenting widget is located at the bottom of the page, and people can use it to say just about anything they like in regard to the story.
Some people compliment. But there are some people who try to wage war against someone, whether they're the writer, the subject of the story or another commenter.
I have the lovely pleasure of helping to monitor these comments. We do have filters set up to catch spam, curse words and hyperlinks. This prevents certain comments from posting, which is a good thing, because some of the comments we in the office come across are startling.
But back to trolls. Trolls, in my opinion, have no other hobbies but to sit in a dark room and ignite asinine arguments that rile up easily provoked people. But why is it your job to create unnecessary turmoil in a thread that was going somewhere good? I could understand if these people had a few good points in relation to the subject at hand, but they don't.
And they're so hard to ignore. Wading through ignorant posts and coming up with a valid reason to delete them is easy, but having the willpower to hold my tongue from retorting is painful. "It would be so easy," I think, "to give this person a piece of my mind." Then I think, "Nope. You can do better than that."
So I let anonymous ramble on about any number of unrelating topics, only to find someone else out there in an anonymous seat has said exactly what I wanted to. Thanks, anonymous!
When people start an argument online, I find it to be absolutely ridiculous. These people hide behind computer screens, relishing in the momentary chaos they think they've created. Cowards, I say. If -- not all, but most of -- these people were to try to pick the same fight with a person face-to-face, things would go down differently.
Aside from this diss on people who comment negatively way too often, there are people out there who say the nicest things and wish the best for those in a story. They spread the good and bad news, because they know it's news worth sharing. They state their opinion, as is every person's right, and start a decent conversation on our message boards.
There is still some tact required in a message board. Proper spelling and punctuation can make people take you more seriously than if you've entered 1,000 exclamation points. (Like that will prove your point.)
Etiquette seems to be lacking as people remain aloof on thread posts. If you want to start an educated debate, by all means, please do. But here are a few tips that can help other commenters engage in what you're trying to accomplish:
1. Spell check. Read over what you post and make sure things are spelled as well as you know how.
2. Re-read what you're about to post. More often than not, your initial thoughts are not cohesive and will cause unnecessary confusion/anger.
3. No emotion-only posts. A smiley face is not a post. Say something worth reading. :)
4. This is obvious: No cursing or shortened curses, like "dumba**." That's a sure fire way to have your comment deleted and you blocked.
5. Speak your mind, but use your brain. Don't accuse anyone of anything. No name-calling or bad-mouthing is acceptable. We love reader feedback; we just don't like questioning whether an adult or a child posted it.
Laura Lofgren is the online editor.