10 Forms of Online Harassment

Trolls live to get a rise out of other online commenters or the writer of the article, by posting offensive remarks — pretty childish behavior. Andrew Rich/E+/Getty Images

Every once in a while, I'll read the comments section of a story published online, only to fervently wish that I hadn't bothered. They're usually filled with unnecessarily hostile commentary projected toward the writer, people discussed within the article and even other commentators. Sadly, trolls, who are known for inciting or chiming in on online conversations solely for the purpose of upsetting or angering others, get off on fueling people's hate fires.

When it comes to dealing with them, the experts say the best response is usually none at all. Trolls' sole intent is to get a rise out of others, so taking that potential away is the perfect punishment. Writer Lindy West might disagree. She had grown scarily accustomed to the legion of trolls who bombarded her social media and email accounts anytime she wrote about a topic like rape or feminism. When one consistently hateful troll created social media accounts purporting to be her recently deceased father, however, she turned the tables and addressed the violation in an article.

Imagine her surprise when the troll emailed her to express remorse for his actions and apologized profusely. She contacted him and asked why he wrote those nasty things about her. "He said that, at the time, he felt fat, unloved, 'passionless' and purposeless. For some reason, he found it 'easy' to take that out on women online," West wrote.

Doesn't sound like much of a reason. If you ever feel tempted to troll, take a hot minute to consider two things: First, would you have the guts to look the person square in the eyes and make the same comment? Then, how would you feel if a troll addressed your mom, daughter or other loved one in the same way?