Recently actress and The View co-host Sherri Shepherd found herself on the receiving end of some implied Internet violence.

Oh, Internet! The land where the weak become strong and the strong become morons. Where even the most intelligent person can be lowered by the discourse that – due to its much celebrated anonymity – can devolve quickly into 8th grade name-calling, racist rants, and misogyny.

Shepherd, though, decided she wasn’t just going to turn the other cheek when a user on Twitter suggested that she be dragged into a back alley and raped.

From E! Online:

“@DaCloneKiller You think I should be raped in a back alley?” she wrote yesterday. “Let’s see if the police agree w you & I took a pic of your tweet … I’M FILING A POLICE REPORT. SO TELL ME NOW WHAT SHOULD BE DONE W ME.”

And then again, to the offender himself, “I am going 2 file a police report 4U threatening me. And so help me God, when I find out where U live, charges will follow.”

“I’m tired of folk thinking they can hide behind a celeb Avi & type anything they want to you w/o consequences b/c they can’t be seen COWARDS,” she added. I’m not a little 19 year olds… I’m a grown @%$ woman… seriously you want to threaten me? I’m on my way to the police @DaCloneKiller.”

Naturally, getting rid of online stalkers, trolls, and other abusive types broadcasting from their mother’s basement, proclaiming themselves Internet heroes is easier said than done. While it may have been satisfying for Shepherd initially, she has fallen for the ultimate troll trap.

She fed them. And you never, ever feed a troll.

Internet Tough Guy, DaCloneKiller, responded to Shepherd’s cyber pushback with a not-so-witty: “I just wanna say thank you to all my followers that are supportin me wit this @SherriEShepherd fiasco. FAT BITCH AINT GOT NO MANNERS.”

After alerting the authorities, Shepherd learned that Twitter has to be subpoenaed before DaCloneKiller’s online info can be released. Meaning, again, in her pursuit of one jerk on the Internet (and to make it one less jerk on the Internet), she will be putting ever more energy into a guy who is either A) relishing the sudden attention he so desired or B) bragging to his friends on 4chan’s /b/ board or other online troll hot spots to discuss his successful trolling techniques.

But I know what you’re thinking, “But Danielle! Bullying is bad! We should stand up to bullies!” And that’s true, we should … within reason. There’s a big difference between joining some campaign to stop violence against women or children or violence against young men perpetrated by other men and getting yourself wrapped up in a cyber-war with someone who will very much enjoy this war a lot more than you.

As someone who has dealt with their fair share of cyber stalkers, trolls and weirdoes, here is how you de-escalate a trolling situation by denying them the thing they want so badly – to get into your head.

  • Ignore: My favorite (and tried and true technique) is to ignore what I can ignore – racist trolls baiting me didn’t even work back when I first started blogging in 2004. By ignoring them, they would just rail harder until they’d give up because they never got a response.
  • Delete and Block: When ignoring doesn’t work, usually deletion or blocking becomes the best method when it’s obvious someone has a little Internet crush on you. You don’t need to make a scene when you delete or block them. In fact, it’s ideal if you do it without fanfare at all, as it will remind them of how indifferent they are in relation to the universe. No one likes an existential crisis brought on by their racist rant being deleted or them being denied access to your social networking sites. They will move on for easier to rile up prey. If they’re a tried and true troll. But if they aren’t …
  • Never forget!:  Some trolls are just “in it for the lulz,” others are actual crazy people who get fixated unhealthily on others. For that reason, keep a record of the harassment in case it goes from Shoo-Fly pesky to Call the Cops abusive.

There are other tactics – like tracking and blocking IP addresses or trolling your troll in a bootleg Bourne Identity game of one-upmanship, but the problem with all those things is that it devotes a lot of time and attention to someone whose sole purpose is to suck up your time and attention.

Which, for me, was the biggest mistake Shepherd made. She made her fight so public that DaCloneKiller could relish in the attention. Shepherd should have quietly blocked the offending Twitter account from seeing hers, then contacted Twitter separately, flagging the user for being abusive.

If DaCloneKiller kept at it from there, like by changing accounts so he could continue to follow her and harass her, Shepherd would have a real, clear case for police involvement. And that the guy has gone from “Unsuccessful Troll” to “Grade A Internet Creep.” By forwarding it to her followers so they too would turn around and tweet, retweet and directly confront the user they all fed the troll. Which, as I stated before, is the worst thing ever as that is what the troll wants. Shepherd just made herself “troll bait” in the fact that she expects privacy, decency, even politeness in a crass public forum like Twitter. Meaning she is a great target for trolls because you’re almost promised to get a response out of her, every time.

DaCloneKiller was a successful as a troll because everyone stopped doing whatever else they could have been doing with their life to give over some time and attention to him. Time that could have been spent on better productivity at work, “liking” a Facebook status, taking a nap, deleting useless files from your computer or picking the lent out of your belly button was now sucked up by a phony crusade against a guy who likely wrote what he/she did simply to get this wondrous, well-meaning but misguided response.

Annoying people on the Internet, while initially rude or hurtful, are a lot like zits growing on your face. If you keep picking they’ll never go away. Rub some disinfectant on it and call it a day.

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