How to Be a Polite Internet Troll

If you're going to be an Internet troll, you could at least be polite about it.

Richie Frieman
6-minute read
Episode #390

On paper, the idea of trolling is outright rude and offensive—hardly something condoned by a manners guru like myself. However, I’m the MODERN Manners Guy, not the “Living in the 1920's” Manners Guy and I’ve learned that the evolution of our communication capabilities has made for a new era of conversation. Because of that, the etiquette towards any and all ways we interact must be addressed.

After all, trolling is not going away, so why not at least face it head on with some proper guidelines on how to be mannerly with your approach. So, before you spend hours crafting a string of eloquently humorous tweets, designed to annoy the you know what out of someone, let’s take a step back and check out my top three quick and dirty for how to be a polite troll:

Tip #1: Troll with Class

The term trolling is defined as, “the act of making a deliberate offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.” Yeesh, this may seem like a harder sell than I thought! However, a closer look at the definition allows us to make a proper argument for the “eliciting an angry response” aspect as not a bad thing. See, there are two ways to troll: to be overtly obnoxious and to prove a point with class. For the sake of this episode, we’re obviously going to focus on the latter since the former is simply aimed at being a jerk (and not in a good way, as I discussed in a previous article). Now that we have a proper handle on the definition, for the approach of trolling, before you take to an online assault, remember that class and tact is needed in every way.  If you go the route of just being a schmuck—where all you do is yell bizarre allegations—it only makes YOU look bad and therefore ruins all creditability you are trying to own. In turn, not trolling with class will only backfire and gain YOU enemies.

A pretty hilarious example of being a proper troller is when rapper, Drake trolled LeBron James during the Raptors/Cavaliers playoff game. For starters, Drake is highly influential with millions and millions of followers: a cool perk of being famous. Needless to say when Drake goes after you, it will be seen. However, knowing Drakes influence, he had to be very careful to make sure he didn’t come off as mean or offensive, but rather as funny and lighthearted. I mean, James is one of the greatest players of all time and despite being in the playoffs, the Raptors are still tremendous underdogs, making his ability to troll even wittier. Instead of being cruel, Drake posted a photo of LeBron crying in his uniform after the loss with the caption, “Flying home for game 4. @djstephfloss” and added a crying emoji for good measure. He account is of the Cavalier’s DJ with gave way for double impact. Was this the most poetic form of trolling? No. Was it funny and harmless? Yes, yes it was.  Drake and James are friends, and Drake sits courtside for every game, making him a kind of celebrity mascot of sorts. With his trolling, he knew that this one time both he and the Raptors would get under the King’s skin. Even though they lost the series, at least the Raptors had a good laugh… for a hot second.

Tip #2: Picking a Proper Target

When you attempt to troll, you have to first and foremost make sure that there’s an end game or desired “win” to your amusing assault. After all, trolling is intended to get a reaction but that can’t be done if your target doesn’t own a particular handle on a debate that you’re after, nor do they have a proper handle on the reaction you’re eliciting. So, before start to poke every bear on Twitter in hopes of becoming a viral sensation, make sure your arch rival is worth arguing with. Take my example of Drake and and LeBron, two incredibly famous people with an already established relationship. Drake knew LeBron—and Drake’s millions of fans—would see his post and make for a greater impact. Had Drake taken the photo of the eleventh man on the team, or just the DJ alone, it wouldn’t have had as much influence.  Here, Drake picked a highly prominent figure, that would elicit the best/biggest reaction.