Dealing with Trolls: A Guide for Actors

Trolls don’t just live under bridges; they also have lightning fast Wi-Fi and lurk the web, scrounging around for their next victim. We’ve all shown troll-like behaviour at some point, whether it was an ill-meaning thumbs down, or an irate comment war with your second cousin, twice removed. You’re strolling into troll territory the moment you type something you wouldn’t normally say in person.

As an actor, your online persona is a huge part of your public image. The same way a large company has a crisis management plan, it’s essential to have a strategy for dealing with hateful comments. Or, in Internet speak, dealing with ‘being trolled’.

Step One: Bite your tongue (or um… fingertips)

You may be surprised how passionate and vocal your friends, family and fans will be when a potential threat arises. I see this time and time again. Those grouchy little trolls will find almost anything to be angry about and loyal followers will often immediately jump to your rescue.

The responses won’t always begin in the form of an argument. Often, positive comments will come pouring in to bury the hate! If you hadn’t been plagued by that troll’s remark, your ambassadors would be far less likely to show you the love. Now, because of all the attention, algorithms start kicking in. The Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds prioritize posts based on a multitude of factors, namely, how much attention a post is getting in the short period of time after it has been published. In this instance, both the hateful and positive comments will trigger the algorithm making your original post far more likely to be shown in additional feeds. New viewers of the post may not even notice the hate. The hateful comment will be buried beneath positive comments written by passionate and loyal fans, i.e. they see you and your well-managed personal brand. Exposure. What seemed like a bummer can actually serve as an asset, if handled correctly. Good thing you stayed quiet and didn’t dive in, keyboard blazing.

Step Two: Take a breath and take the note

Hate, sarcasm and thoughtless comments can come at you for all different reasons and often those reasons are ridiculous. However, it may prove valuable to take a moment, put your ego aside and place yourself in the troll’s giant, smelly, scuffed up troll shoes. Minus the offensive language and, presumably, typos, what is the issue? Is there something you can convert into constructive criticism?

Try to be subjective and honest with yourself. Is it possible that you’ve been misinterpreted? Have you conveyed something that doesn’t take into consideration a certain demographic or public opinion? This may be an opportune moment to make that troll feel appreciated and introduce them to the high road (as opposed to the bridge they are accustomed to living under). In general, my clients are encouraged to only make statements online they are prepared to defend or apologize for. If this is an opportunity to apologize, you’ll almost always come out on top.

Step Three: Consider how you would respond IRL (In Real Life)

In real life, we don’t have time to come up with a gripping, flowery comeback, 500 words in length. In a traditional workplace, we would likely brush off the cruel words with something succinct and calm.

The safest way to play online is to imagine everything was happening IRL.

If the comment is vulgar or intentionally offensive, try to remind yourself these types of comments are often intended to get their subject riled up. Try to identify the purpose of the hateful comment. If it’s seemingly just to annoy you, slowly back away from your computer and don’t let Mr. Troll win.

Step Four: Respond, or don’t. Let’s have a glass of wine.

There are no hard and fast rules on the Internet, but these steps will definitely lead you in the right direction. Follow the above guidelines, thank all those who contributed to the conversation positively, and respond, or don’t. If you decide to issue an apology, do so with a friend, agent or publicist by your side to edit your thoughts. If the hateful comments continue, consider blocking the troll. Unless there is hate speech or severe content involved, try not to erase the conversation. Everyone just wants to be heard, and hearing everyone out makes your personal brand look stronger.

If you are having a troll infestation and want some help dealing with it, give me a call and I’ll happily help you out. Good luck navigating these murky, troll-infested waters. As always, try your best, and remember: the one thing that’s more important than looking good on the Internet, is not looking bad on the Internet.

Jenna Warriner is an actor, proud ACTRA member and Social Media Specialist. She leverages her experience in the entertainment industry to help brands start thinking about their content as entertainment for consumers. Her vast knowledge surrounding the growing landscape of social media is informed by a greater understanding of digital marketing and maintained by keeping her finger on the pulse of social platforms.