Trolls & Trolling: A Guide to Trolling Behaviors

Forum Trolls & Trolling

Forum trolls are people who participate in forum discussions for the purpose of making inflammatory, insincere, digressive, or off-topic messages, with the intention of disrupting the discussion, manipulating other forum members, or soliciting an emotional response from them.

Trolls may believe that they are advancing an agenda, but they are often simply amusing themselves at the expense of others.

Trolls may also be forum users who target others through cyber-harassment, cyberstalking, cyberbullying, defamation, deception, disinformation, extortion, or duplicity.

A troll's target may be a specific forum member, who he may stalk from one forum to another, or the target might be the forum, as a whole.

In some cases, the troll may consider himself to be a proponent of an agenda or cause, but, failing to effectively advance this cause through reasonable discussion, the troll might seek to disrupt the conversation through intimidation, demands for citations that will be summarily dismissed, or through off-topic posts, memes, videos, or photos.

Although trolling behavior is sometimes unintentional, a forum troll is a forum user who purposefully and actively acts to provoke, defame, anger, inflame, or incite other forum users. Usually, the troll does not even know the target of his vitriolic statements and behaviors.

Forum trolls are not new phenomena. They existed long before the Internet became available to the public, as they were active in computer Bulletin Board System (BBS) forums and Usenet groups, which preceeded the Internet.

Trolling behaviors are sometimes obvious, even bizarre, but they can also be more subtle.

Most forum trolls are seeking attention, recognition, pseudo-notoriety, or retribution for a perceived injustice, and are probably fueled or encouraged by the anonymity of the Internet. There is little doubt that anonymity leads some people to behave in asocial ways, demonstrating a lack of guilt or remorse for the harm they may cause.

It is not uncommon for forum trolls to portray themselves as doctors, lawyers, intellectuals, or professional people, although, in reality, the troll could be a forty-year-old man living in his mom's basement.

Forum trolls are usually men who spend long periods of time online, and are likely addicted to the Internet or at risk of becoming Internet dependent. They are likely to have few offline friends, and their online friends are often those who engage in similar trolling behaviors. Fueled by an offline reality of being insignificant, angry, and alone, they may have a pathological need to experience power and control online. Subsequently, when online, they exhibit a lack of empathy, demonstrate a low capacity for experiencing shame or guilt, and behave with callousness. Usually, they are aware of the harm they are doing but take pleasure in it.

Trolls agitate to start fights between other forum members, and to stir up discontent with forum administrators. Sometimes, the goal is to make other forum members uncomfortable or miserable, but it might be to shut a particular discussion down, or even to destroy a forum.

They may torment people who are struggling with illnesses, or with the loss of a loved one. They often troll for weaknesses that can be exploited for their own amusement. They disrupt forums with off-topic comments, brag about themselves, set forum members against one another, and ridicule other forum members.

They use lies and deception to cause damage, and they enjoy every minute of it.

There are several types of forum trolls, although they could be viewed as types of trolling rather than as identifiers for an individual troll, since many of them will utilize several of these methods. In other words, one type of troll may appear as another type of troll, depending on the situation. Nevertheless, several types of trolls or trolling behavior have been identified, and they include the following.

Agenda Trolls -- Agenda trolls join a forum or a forum thread for the sole purpose of pursuing an agenda. This may be a cause that they feel strongly about, but often usually don't understand very well. Believing they are advancing their cause, they might make an attempt to argue their position but, when they are not immediately recognized as the authority on the subject, they will redirect their efforts toward disrupting the discussion through personal attacks on participants they view as being on the other side of the agenda. In the hope of discouraging further participation, they may also use other tactics, such as off-topic comments, memes, or photos, in an attempt to further disrupt the conversation.

Angry Trolls -- These people are angry. They are so angry that they probably enjoy being angry. They are angered by happy people. They are angered by sad people. They are angered by other angry people. They are angry about whatever it is that anyone wants to talk about.

Arguing Trolls -- Demonstrating an uncanny ability to twist nearly everything into an argument, an Arguing Troll might leave the target wondering what the hell just happened.

Artistic Trolls -- These creatures are intelligent individuals who are adept at the fine art of trolling. Their goal is to make others look foolish. Often employing the techniques of the Deceptive Troll, they will string forum participants along until at some point, they will reveal the ploy, admit their deception, and laugh at everyone for being dumb enough to fall for it.

Back-Stalker Trolls -- After selecting a target, this type of troll will pore through older threads and posts looking for something that the target may have written that can be made to seem to contradict something they have written more recently, and then call them on it.

Been There, Done That Trolls -- These trolls know everything, and have experienced everything. They will drown you in facts and anecdotes until you give up. Of course, not everyone who has been there and done that, in a particular discussion, is a troll.

Bitter Trolls -- These are a cross-species. In the beginning stages, they were probably another breed, but became Bitter Trolls after earlier trolling activities were seen for what they were. Frustrated, resentful, and angry about being outed, A Bitter Troll wages a campaign of indignant complaints intended to focus attention on whoever was responsible for identifying him, or against the forum as a whole.

Cancel Trolls -- This type of troll is on a mission to trip forum members up, hoping to elicit a response that can be used to label them as racists, sexists, or some other pejorative. This label will then be used to negate anything they may say thereafter.

Cannibal Trolls -- Often viewed by other forum members as helpful, Cannibal Trolls consider it to be their mission in life to root out other trolls and expose them. Those who do this privately with forum administrators or moderators are benign, and may not be trolls at all, but those who repeatedly expose other suspected trolls in open forums disrupt discussions themselves. The potential problem is that they are so often wrong. Not everyone who exhibits trolling behavior from time to time is a troll.

Citation Trolls -- Citation Trolls are not truly interested in anything that another forum member has to say unless it is something that he agrees with. When faced with a contrary view, the Citation Troll will demand a citation, the unspoken message being that the other forum member's own word is suspect and must be corroborated by someone smarter. The difference between a Citation Troll and someone who truly wants additional information is that the goal of the Citation Troll is to discredit the other forum member without having to actually argue the point and, simultaneously, to disrupt the discussion. Someone who is truly interested in the topic will show an interest and ask politely, or research the topic himself. Citation Trolls are often Agenda Trolls.

Classic Trolls -- Often more sophisticated than most other types of trolls, Classic Trolls will gratify their own egos by pretending to be someone or something they are not. Classics will make up stories about themselves, sometimes mixing elements of truth into their lies. Although there may be ulterior motives, a Classic Troll is often just amusing himself or living a proxy life online.

Colluding Trolls -- These are people who work together to create chaos. One member might use Classic trolling techniques, while others pose as normal members of the community. At some point, these other members will publicly defend the obvious troll, or attack those who are in disagreement.

Comedian Trolls -- Often more mischievous than malicious, Comedian Trolls are sometimes genuinely funny and likely to be appreciated by many forum members. However, the Comedian feels the need to make a joke out of everything, and constant interruptions of humor may not be appreciated by those who are trying to have a discussion on a topic that they are interested in. Keep in mind, however, that humor does not necessarily suggest trolling behavior. Is it frequent? Is it disruptive?

Complaint Trolls -- These trolls will complain about everything that anyone posts, or any decision the forum administrators or moderators might make. They will complain that a thread participant is giving too much or not enough information, that the thread is boring. They will complain if someone is banned, or they might complain that someone hasn't been banned. They might complain that the forum is boring, or that that the forum used to be so much better. They are likely to point out that other forums do a much better job of it, and so on. Complaint Trolls are so unhappy that you've got to wonder why they bother to log in.

Concern Trolls -- Concern Trolls are those who disrupt forum discussions or undermine the morale of participants by pointing out that forum members, or the site itself, may be getting themselves in trouble for some reason. Posting with the air of authority or power, they will point out problems that don't exist, thus derailing, stifling, and controlling the conversation, and causing legitimate forum members to question their safety. Of course, those who air such concerns privately to moderators or forum administrators are not usually trolls.

Conformist Trolls -- A common breed of troll, Conformist Trolls frequent political and religious forums or threads, and are characterized by a disdain for individual thinking. Insisting that anything that cannot be verified by official government sources, the mainstream media, or credentialed experts (who themselves have not been discredited by the government or mainstream media), are not worthy of consideration in the discussion. No consideration is given to anything another forum member might say unless it conforms to their idea of the mainstream. Conformist Trolls often employ the tactics of Citation Trolls, and then dismiss any and all citations based on the source, rather than the information. Conformists don't truly take part in a discussion, nor do they want to allow anyone else to. Rather than using brainpower, they would have the experts decide everything, with the mainstream media and government deciding who qualifies as an expert. In this way, they stifle forum discussion because the government and mainstream media are not forum participants.

Contrarian Trolls -- This particular breed frequents forums or threads whose main opinions are contrary to their own. For example, a Contrarian might join a religious forum or thread for the sole purpose of repeatedly voicing his disdain for religion with the intent of disrupting or demoralizing forum participants.

Copy & Paste Trolls -- If you run their posts through an online plagiarism checker, you will find that these trolls have started the same threads and said the same things, in the same words, on other forums. They do this because, I don't know why they do this, because it's not a discussion. Keep in mind, however, that there's nothing wrong with telling the same stories or offering the same opinions, but when you copy and paste them into multiple forums, you're not participating in a discussion.

Crazy Trolls -- As the name suggests, Crazy Trolls don't make any sense at all, and may use up a lot of words saying nothing that anyone else can understand.

Crybaby Trolls -- Crybaby Trolls live to be offended. If anyone disagrees with a Crybaby Troll, you can expect a lengthy post about why they are never coming back to this forum again. A few days later, they'll be back looking for more abuse. Often, before the goodbye rant, they'll file numerous reports on other forum members for attacking them. If "too easily offended" were an encyclopedia article, the Crybaby Troll would be pictured in the margin.

Cussing Trolls -- They don't last long on forums that don't welcome such language, but they are not uncommon. Cussing Trolls seem to enjoy utilizing bad language wherever and whenever they can. When their language is allowed to remain long enough for a large number of members to see it, they can drive people away from a forum, however.

Downer Trolls -- Downer Trolls are often truly unhappy people who want to make sure that no one else is allowed to have or to express a happy moment.

Elder Trolls -- These are trolls who may once have been productive members of the forum, but who now stick around only to stir dissent or to troll for newbies, often winding up newer members without question from other members, due to their status as a long-time member. Elder Trolls are sometimes also Recruitment Trolls.

Expert Trolls -- Expert Trolls know everything about everything, and they will insist on being the resident expert on any subject that might come up. If the subject is education, the Expert Troll has been teaching for fifty years and knows everything there is to know about the subject, often despite the fact that he can't string a sentence together. Expert Trolls may portray themselves as doctors, lawyers, historians, scientists, or whatever they need to be. In reality, they might be unemployed and logging into the forum from the public library.

Facsimile Trolls -- An oft-used method of garnering support in a forum argument is to register multiple accounts on the same forum, creating false members who can be called upon to support the troll's argument, making it appear that the target is outnumbered. In forums where polls are used to make decisions, Facsimile Trolls may be used to manipulate the vote.

Faux Novice Trolls -- This breed of troll is a subset of the Agenda Troll. He has an agenda to advance but, rather than doing so directly, he pretends not to understand arguments against his agenda in order to frustrate other forum members and to push his agenda further. By pretending to be a novice, he can get away with combativeness without appearing to be obviously aggressive or hostile. Poor arguments can be excused as ignorance or genuine inquiry. The Faux Novice can advance the agenda without putting a lot of real work into it.

Flamer Trolls -- All too common, this type of troll has little or no interest in the topics under discussion but just wants to cause trouble for his own amusement. On a senior forum, a Flamer Troll might be a 20-year-old wanting to incite the old people. Characterized by insults, Flamer Trolls don't last long on a well-managed forum, but they can stir things up before they are banned.

Flirting Trolls -- Flirting Trolls aren't interested in any of the subjects under discussion. They are looking for a date, online sexual experiences, or something else.

Flooder Trolls -- Often Contrarian, Flooder Trolls will try to break a forum by posting the same thing over and over.

Gibberish Trolls -- This breed of troll will spout gibberish in the hopes of boring or confusing those with whom they disagree.

Grammar Trolls -- There are two types of Grammar Trolls. Pure Grammar Trolls can't help but point out every spelling or grammatical error they come across, and believe strongly that a misspelled word negates everything the writer has said. Secondary Grammar Trolls might be another type of troll who will point out spelling or grammatical mistakes as a means of discrediting someone with whom he disagrees or as a way of disrupting a discussion that isn't going his way. Secondary Grammar Trolls will often ignore the argument and choose to pick on the one word that was used incorrectly.

Grand Exit Trolls -- They don't begin as trolls but, at some point, usually when they don't get their way, they threaten to leave the forum forever. Rather than simply leaving, however, they create an exit thread, either hoping that someone will beg them to stay, or to at least enlist other forum members in their defense. Usually, they are back in a few days, and the drama is repeated later. Not everyone who posts an exit thread is a troll, but the effect is the same. Sometimes someone is just angry enough to leave, but changes his mind later. Repetition is the key.

Hate-Monger Trolls -- Although they don't last long in any one forum, Hate-Monger Trolls enjoy posting hate speech wherever they go online.

Hater Trolls -- This type of troll will move from victim to victim, and from forum to forum, saying unkind things to people. Hater Trolls who are intelligent enough are often able to persuade their victims that they had done something to deserve the hate, and they might persuade other forum members to believe that. Like many other types of trolls, Hater Trolls are often timid people in their offline life.

Hijacker Trolls -- As the name suggests, the Hijacker isn't interested in going where the opening post wants to go. Hijackers are just waiting for the chance to interject their own topic or story, despite the fact that it is off-topic in that thread. Often, the Hijacker's post will be well stated, and might have value if it were the opening post in a separate thread, but the Hijacker has more interest in disrupting this discussion than starting another. The Hijacker is often an Agenda Troll.

Holier Than Thou Trolls -- Often believing themselves to be Christian, these trolls will nevertheless display decidedly un-Christian online behavior, often making an ass of themselves and a mockery of the religion they claim to represent. While bringing their religion into every possible discussion, their behavior often includes a great deal of anger and hostility. This type of troll is likely to use Scripture to justify being mean to others.

Honor Trolls -- While espousing the virtues of honor and integrity, these trolls seem convinced that everyone around them suffers from a lack of honor, integrity, humility, and similar traits, but they fail to understand these traits themselves since they use them to smear others. Truly honorable people don't generally apply the term as a label to describe themselves.

Iconoclast Trolls -- Often intelligent and industrious in his endeavors, the Iconoclast is on a mission to help others discover the truth (as he views it), often by saying things that are completely factual, but intended to cause discomposure in the target. The Iconoclast may also post links to contradict the worldview of their target. The Iconoclast is a difficult type of troll to deal with because he uses actual discussion, but with the goal of making his victims uncomfortable.

Idiot Trolls -- The Idiot Troll responds to anything you post with things that a blithering idiot would say. While the Idiot Troll might not be the smartest tool in the box, his intention is to disrupt not participate.

Jerk Trolls -- These are forum members who have persuaded themselves that being a jerk qualifies as a legitimate sense of humor. While they may be jerks in their offline lives as well, these are often people who would never do this face-to-face. They do it in forums because they don't consider fellow forum members to be actual people. In some cases, these are people who would like to do this to other people, face-to-face, but who are too timid to do so in their offline lives. Online anonymity gives them the courage to be a jerk.

Knee-Jerk Trolls -- These are trolls who won't read what you have to say but feel the need to offer their opinion, nevertheless. They will read only enough of a post in order to know what the topic is and will respond with their opinions, usually in disagreement with whatever he thinks your opinion might have been, had they actually read it. If you address anything that he posts, he will respond as if you hadn't.

Know-it-All Trolls -- Whatever you know, they know more. Whatever you've done, they've done something better. These a similar to the Been There, Done That, or the Expert trolls, but they don't generally take the time to do the homework that these other trolls might do. They're just bored with whatever you say.

Liar Trolls -- This common troll simply likes to pretend or to live a forum life that is separate from his offline life. Usually, Liar Trolls are harmless as long as they aren't trying to set up a real-life encounter.

Line-Crossing Trolls -- These are people who enjoy pushing the limits, not because they need to in order to make a legitimate point, but to see how far they can go. The danger is that when a weak forum administrator allows them to do so repeatedly, the original mission of the forum can be lost.

Middle School Trolls -- They're not truly interested in anything you have to say but will interject comments that might have seemed clever when you were in Middle School.

Munchausen Trolls -- Munchausen Trolls will claim any number of things in order to gain the sympathy of other forum members but aren't truly experiencing these maladies. This type of troll may actually suffer from a mental disorder, but may also be doing so for amusement or, in some cases, to solicit unneeded assistance from well-meaning forum members. Forum members who express actual challenges that they are going through are not trolls.

Never-Surrender Trolls -- In their minds, these trolls are never wrong. They are always right and they will battle to their online death to prove it, or to force their adversaries to surrender the fight. When they can't back something up with reality, they'll make something up or simply pretend that they weren't just proven wrong. These people may not truly fit the definition of a troll, as disrupting the forum might not be their ultimate goal, although it is often the result.

Nigerian Trolls -- Although they may or may not be from Nigeria, these are the scammers who are hoping to relieve you of your cash. In order to remain off the radar of the forum administrators, they may prey on other forum members through private solicitations.

Offended Trolls -- Similar to Crybaby Trolls, the Offended Troll is forever looking for opportunities to be offended on behalf of someone else. You probably won't see goodbye rants from them; instead, they will stick around to make sure that no one ever says anything that could possibly be offensive to anyone else, particularly people who aren't even in the forum.

Off-Topic Trolls -- Some people just enjoy taking every forum discussion off-topic. Although not everyone who does this is a troll, those who do it habitually are either trolls, spammers, or scatterbrained. On some forums, continuous off-topic posts might be from spambots, although I don't believe that a spambot has ever gotten through to the SENIORSonly Club forum.

Old Warrior Trolls -- Sharing characteristics with some other types of trolls, the Old Warrior has been there and done that, and has little time to spare for those who haven't already been there and done that, but he does have time to make this clear. The Old Warrior is always right, and anyone who disagrees with him is wrong by definition, and should just shut the hell up. Although his own credentials may be unverified, the Old Warrior usually places a high premium on credentials relevant to the topic under discussion. Old Warriors often elevate other forum members who agree with him against those who disagree.

One-Track Trolls -- This type of troll has an ulterior motive or agenda. Whether through one-off comments or engaging in back-and-forth, One-Track Trolls always want to bring the discussion back to their pet agenda. If this troll's pet agenda is gun control, he will turn every discussion back to the need for gun control. If the original post is about cancer, this troll will post statistics about the number of gun deaths, suggesting that guns are a bigger problem than cancer.

Paranoid Trolls -- This breed of troll is so concerned over online safety that it's hard to understand why they even have electricity in their homes. Paranoid Trolls will voice concerns over a forum's requirement for a working email address, the acceptance of cookies, or other things, and they will do so in public posts, the clear intent being to scare other forum members.

Peacemaker Trolls -- Peace is universally recognized as a good thing, but Peacemaker Trolls can be particularly aggravating to forum administrators and moderators. Peacemakers wait for a point of dissent between another forum member (or members) and the forum administration. The Peacemaker will step in as a self-appointed arbiter, generally in a public forum post. Appearing to want nothing more than to be helpful, the Peacemaker Troll seeks a middle ground that the general public has been conditioned to view as a good thing. If the administration gives in, a line has been moved, and there will soon be someone pushing on that new line. If the administration holds firm, the result will be discontent among those forum members who had viewed the Peacemaker Troll as genuine. While Peacemaker Trolls may not have the conscious goal of disrupting the operations of the forum, that is the result, and the Peacemaker is truly interested only in the power that he has been able to assume.

Playtime Trolls -- These creatures play a game that is short and simple. They are easy to spot because their attacks or provocations are fairly blatant, and their persona is two-dimensional. Playtime Trolls generally don't have a defined target. They are simply amusing themselves before their character is banned.

Point-Misser Trolls -- Sometimes it's hard to tell if the Point-Misser is actually a troll or just someone who has trouble getting the point. They tend not to get the point of a joke, a story, or an argument, and will often reply to something that is merely peripheral to the point.

Preacher Trolls -- Whatever the topic, the Preacher Troll will find a way to turn it into a theological debate.

Professional Trolls -- Believe it or not, there are people who are paid to troll on the Internet. People are hired by political foundations and issue organizations to give you a hard time for having an opinion opposed to their employer's interests. These people are more likely to be found on Facebook, Twitter, or one of the larger social media platforms than on a senior's forum, however. For the most part, we get the ones who will do it for nothing.

Profundity Trolls -- Profundity trolls will post endless lines of pretentious drivel that is supposed to appear wise, but which generally makes very little sense if any. They enjoy asking themselves questions, sometimes answering them and, at other times, leaving them hanging. They seemingly believe that this looks intelligent and lends an aura of mystery to their incoherent ramblings.

Psycho Trolls -- Exhibiting a possibly unconscious psychological need to feel good by making others feel bad, the Psycho Troll may not even be aware that he is trolling.

Ranting Trolls -- Ranting Trolls are angry about something, which may or may not be related to anything said by anyone else on the forum. Regardless, they have something to say and they are going to say it, wherever and whenever they can. Ranting Trolls rarely read or respond to any replies to their rant. Sometimes they make sense, and sometimes they don't, but they have no interest in being a productive member of the forum, which they view simply as a platform for their rant.

Recruitment Trolls -- These are members who may have once been productive members of the forum, but who have since joined another forum with a similar demographic, usually after not having gotten their way about something. Now, they stick around to instigate dissent at every opportunity, and to encourage other members to join the other forum instead, often through private messaging. In some cases, a Recruitment Troll was never a productive member of the forum, but has joined for just this purpose.

Reincarnated Trolls -- When a new forum member sounds an awful lot like another one who has been banned for trolling behavior, that member has probably simply set up a new account.

Rent-a-Mob Trolls -- A troll of any other type might bring an army of trolls into a forum to help fight their cause. Keep in mind, however, that the mob could simply be one person who has managed to secure several member accounts.

Revenge Trolls -- Revenge Trolls are obsessive Bitters who never forget, never forgive, and hold a grudge until the day they die, often copying and pasting old diatribes, or waging complaints about things that leave most forum members wondering what the issue is. Most Revenge Trolls are nearly incoherent, although the more lucid ones can morph into dangerous Stalking Trolls.

Sneaky Trolls -- Sneaky Trolls will often pose as someone who has a genuine interest in the topic before posting messages that undermine the discussion. Commonly, this is seen in political and religious forums.

Snob Trolls -- No one is quite good enough for the Snob Troll. There is nothing that anyone can say in a discussion forum that is worthy of serious attention. This wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the fact that need you to know that you're boring them.

Sock Puppet Trolls -- These are alternate identities created by a sock puppeteer who seems to have a lot of time on his hands. The sock puppeteer creates multiple alternate identities, often using VPNs or even library connections to get around the rules against having multiple accounts. Sock Puppets are used to flank the puppeteer, supporting his arguments or comments, or attacking those who disagree.

Sophist Trolls -- These individuals view themselves as enlightened philosophers or learned experts of the highest order. Often, they are well-educated and capable of speaking intelligently on a variety of topics. They would be capable of being worthwhile forum participants, except that they are an extremely hostile and overbearing species. On their best behavior, they tend to talk at other forum participants rather than with them.

Spam Trolls -- These are people who would rather insert links into a forum post than words. Sometimes they are paid to insert links to various websites into forums, blogs, or elsewhere. At other times, they simply don't want to take the time to become familiar enough with a topic to discuss it so, instead, they post links. Although the links might be to content that would be on-topic in the discussion, they serve to take people away from the forum rather than encourage them to participate in forum discussions. A link posted for clarification or additional information is not spam.

Stalking Trolls -- This is a particularly venomous sort of troll who maliciously sets out to disrupt the lives of forum members with whom they disagree, or who they may have had a falling out with. Once they have focused their hatred on an individual, they become obsessed with every detail of their target's life that they can determine. Stalkers will follow their target from one forum to another, trying to prevent them from feeling comfortable anywhere. If they are able to determine the identity of a target, the Stalking Troll may pose a real-life threat, although many of these people wouldn't have the courage to confront someone without the anonymity of the Internet. Stalking Trolls are probably the worst of the lot.

Strategic Trolls -- Less common, Strategic Trolls have a long-term mission and are often funded by government, corporate, or organizational sources. Usually working in concert with others, their goal is to integrate themselves within the forum structure, becoming moderators or administrators, for the purpose of invading a list of the membership or disrupting a forum with the intent of shutting it down. An example of Strategic Trolls might be a group of agency people who might join a Ku Klux Klan forum for the purpose of collecting a list of members or, perhaps even, taking control of it for a long-term operation. Issue forums may likewise be infiltrated by opposing entities.

Tactical Trolls -- Similar to Strategic Trolls, but not usually associated with a government or an organization, a Tactical Troll will play a long game, creating a credible persona to gain the confidence of other forum members for the purpose of provoking strife in a subtle but effective manner.

Twister Trolls -- They take everything you say out of context and use it to try to make you sound like a douche.

White Knight Trolls -- These noble souls will skim through forum posts looking for something that someone has said that might hurt someone's feelings. Once found, they will don their shiny armor and joust for honor and goodness. They will often do this even when the person who they deem to have been wronged is a politician or celebrity who is never, ever going to read that post or care about it.

Yapping Dog Trolls -- Usually acting as a pack, Yapping Dog Trolls are characterized by vehement, repetitive, and often ignorant criticism of anything they don't like. Yapping Dogs will often focus on one or a few forum members with whom they disagree, and will attack their target over and over again. When their target is a forum, they will often bring members of their pack to join that forum for the purpose of fomenting discontent. When their target is an individual, they may become Stalking Trolls, following their target from one forum to another.

You're an Idiot Troll -- The nature of this type of troll is that he wants everyone to believe that he is better than everyone else. These trolls tend to be condescending and smug, while constantly looking for things to criticize in what others say, or the way they say it. The message that this type of troll is trying to portray is that he is too good, too talented, too smart, or too well-educated to listen to the likes of you.

Please keep in mind that not everyone who disagrees with you in a forum discussion is a troll. Not everyone who is disagreeable is a troll. All of us have probably exhibited forum behavior that could fit into one of these categories of trolling, and most of us will probably do so again in the future.

In most of the behaviors discussed above, the trolls are the extreme.

Often, the thing that defines the troll is intent and repetition, and intent is something that we can only guess at. A forum troll aims to disrupt either the operations of the forum or the comfort level of other forum participants.

Where unintentional trolling becomes a problem is when someone doesn't recognize that he's trolling. Some people think it's cool to post snappy put-downs, or they might casually question the intelligence or sincerity of another forum member. They might simply be tired or in a bad mood. Often, these people would be surprised to be called out as a troll, yet the effects are the same.

Some people aren't doing it for fun, but they lack social sensitivity or are not socially mature. Maybe they can't handle disagreement.

While the goal of some trolls is to wind a target up until they've had a meltdown, or even to close a forum down, others may not even realize that their behavior is disruptive. Some people are simply rude and aggressive.

You are not a troll if you occasionally engage in trolling behavior.

However, if you learn about some of the strategies used by trolls to start trouble, you can minimize your own trolling behavior.

How big of a problem is trolling on the SENIORSonly Club forum?

While there are several incidents of trolling in the forum, much of it is probably unintentional. Keep in mind that we have people on the forum from a variety of backgrounds, with a wide range of behavior patterns, but most of them are not trolls. However, we do see a dedicated troll every now and then, and we have some members who exhibit frequent trolling behaviors, and some of them seem to enjoy setting people off, using trolling behaviors to do so, and that is the definition of a troll.

Please keep in mind, however, that most of us exhibit trolling behavior from time to time, and consider that everyone's experiences here would be more pleasant if there were less trolling.

While we will remove those who are obvious, intentional trolls, this can be difficult to determine, and it has been our practice to give people the benefit of the doubt where doubt exists.

It's probably best not to go looking for trolls under every rock.

How can I avoid becoming a victim of a troll?

While you can't control whether or not you will become the target of a troll, you can decide if you are going to become a victim. Aware that the troll's goal is to embarrass, humiliate, ridicule, demean, and shame you, your reaction is key.

You can be devastated, angry, or whatever emotion the troll is trying to solicit from you, or you can view it for what it is - a mean person being mean. It's only personal if you take it personally. The troll is the one with the problem.

If the trolling behavior is directed at you in a private message, report it, and then forget it. To be sure, we're all human, and we might be seething inside, but don't let the troll know that he got to you. Don't reply to the message, but report it to the forum administrator or to a moderator.

If the attack is directed at you in a public forum thread, you should recognize that the troll had an audience who can see the troll's behavior if they are paying attention, but remember that some of them might simply be happy that you're the target, not them.

Some people recommend that you ignore the troll, and don't respond in any way. In some cases, this can get you out of the line of fire, but it also gives the troll more power, as they had the power to silence you.

Instead, ignore the troll but address the problem with the audience in a matter-of-fact way. Do not respond in a manner that stoops to the troll's level, and do not name the troll. This would not only feed the troll, but it has the potential of having the audience view you as another irritant rather than as the aggrieved party.

Simply acknowledge the trolling behavior, and report it to the forum administration or a moderator. Then, go right back into the discussion where you had left off, ignoring the troll's comments.

In the unlikely event that other forum members pile on with comments in favor of the troll or against you, consider that these might simply be other trolls, and possibly even alternate accounts associated with the original troll, so don't get too excited. In my experience, this is unlikely to happen here.

When reporting trolling behavior in a forum post, use the REPORT feature as this lets the forum administrators and moderators know where the offending post is.

Don't feed the trolls. Trolls seek out emotional responses and find provocation amusing. These are people who may spend hours each day trying to make people angry. By not responding directly to a troll, he will likely become frustrated and go somewhere else.

Try not to take what they say seriously. No matter how poorly they behave, remember that they spend many unproductive hours trying to make people mad. They're not worth your time or your tears.