Online dating continues to be an ever-growing, popular way to find love. Unfortunately, some people online have less than romantic intentions.
Yes, I’m talking about internet trolls. These are the folks who are just online to lurk, harass and waste everyone’s time. Trolls are by far one of – if not the – biggest downside to online dating. They’re annoying, disruptive and will go to extreme lengths to be hurtful and cause psychological duress. Just ask the woman who unfortunately experienced a totally obnoxious man who swiped right just to call her fat. Ugh.
It was once thought that men were way more likely to troll online than women. However, the statistics paint a different picture. A recent study from Lifehacker asked 357 Tinder users to fill out a questionnaire about their online dating behavior and asked “if they had trolled people on the app, sent any shock comments for a laugh, or if they enjoyed ‘griefing’ other people who access the app.” Their research found that women troll online dating sites just as often as men. Yikes.
Sadly, as long as the internet is around there’s going to be trolls. We might as well learn to handle them with grace, right?
Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to online dating trolls.
1. It’s not about you.
Remember back in the day when your parents told you that the reason playground bullies act the way they do is because they feel bad about themselves? Well, the same applies here. Trolls are basically playground bullies with laptops, smartphones and online dating accounts. By using derogatory language to hurt, offend and/or cause you stress, their behavior says more about them than it does about you.
In fact, a 2014 study found that people with higher levels of sadism and psychopathy were more likely to engage in online trolling behavior, with sadism being the strongest predictor. Lifehacker also says that, “In addition, these internet trolls are likely to be motivated by negative social rewards, meaning they are reinforced by creating a disruptive social environment.” Uh, yeah, so it’s totally not about you.
2. Don’t feed the trolls.
While there are lots of creative ways to call out trolls, keep in mind that as mentioned above, they’re often looking to create an anti-social environment. If you return their vitriol by engaging in a name calling war, you’re essentially giving them exactly what they want. If you’re going to respond to a troll, take a page from the book of the women who was fat shamed by that obnoxious dude and take the high road. Keep your interactions civil and to the point (even if they’re not willing to do the same). There’s also the option of just not engaging at all. If you sense you’re dealing with a troll it’s within your rights to simply ignore them.
3. Report them.
If you think someone is being inappropriate, report them. It’s a well known fact in my small hometown that a guy I went to high-school with has been banned from multiple dating apps for sending inappropriate messages and/or trolling women online (#truestory). By letting trolls know that we’re not willing to participate in their shenanigans, we can hopefully create some positive momentum in the online dating space.
4. Use a paid online dating service.
As Lifehacker notes, “Results of our study show that internet trolls may troll as a dysfunctional impulse, and cost-free dating apps may offer the perfect opportunity to do it.” So if you’re looking to minimize your interactions with nasty trolls, you may want to consider actually paying for an online dating service. The financial investment may be enough to deter those impulsive trolls who are just there to torment other users.