Managing difficult conversations

Difficult conversations are part of the ecosystem of social media. People have a wide range of viewpoints and often lack decorum or professionalism in how they express them. In addition to the guidance noted above, here are tips for dealing with trolls (with thanks to our UC Berkeley colleagues).

Dealing with trolls

Internet trolls are a perennial problem for any public-facing website or social media platform. Though they can be an annoyance and even cause damage to your reputation, there are a few simple ways to avoid major issues.

In case you’re not familiar, a troll is a slang term referring to a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement.

  • Don’t feed them. Sometimes, the best approach is to ignore them. Like some schoolyard bullies, many trolls are just looking to get a reaction. Deny them that, and they often go away.
  • Don’t take it personally. Trolls often make personal attacks to incite a response. Keep in mind that the troll doesn’t know you; they are just trying to agitate you. It’s better not to let them get under your skin and avoid getting drawn into a personal argument with them.
  • Rely on your community. In many cases, your loyal followers will come
    to your defense, sometimes even before you’ve seen the troll’s initial comments. Allowing your most passionate supporters to be the ones to shout down the troll can help preserve your reputation without requiring you to enter the fray.
  • Be careful about censorship. Familiarize yourself with compliance obligations under FERPA and university policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment.
  • Report hate speech. If a troll posts hate speech on a social media platform, you can usually report it directly through the social media channel, motivating the platform to block or ban the troll.
  • Avoid becoming embroiled in legal conversations. If you’re not qualified to make legal comments, don’t. These might be used against you.
  • Utilize official statements. If someone is trolling about an issue that your unit or the administration has already issued a statement on, it may be best to simply post the statement in response to the troll.
  • Ask for help. If you’re not sure how to respond to a troll, don’t. Contact Strategic Communications for input.

Additional considerations:

  • If you’re getting hostile responses, review your specific tweet and decide if there was something on your part that could have caused such a reaction. 
  • If you choose to engage with an angry or trolling response, understand that it is not about "winning." A single response is generally the most effective; respond, but make it clear the attention and response is not going to continue by keeping it short and to the point.
  • Utilize the mute/hide features. Sometimes the way people say things might annoy you. If you find yourself wanting to reply to something annoying or uncomfortable, it may be a better idea to simply mute/hide the person, particularly if it is someone that it seems important to continue following.
  • Block and don't engage with hostile prompts. 
  • You can filter out posts that include profanity from your Facebook page. Go to Page settings>General>Profanity Filter and set the profanity filter to medium or strong. You can also filter out specific words by going to Page settings>General>Page Moderation and entering in the words you wish to filter.

More information on dealing with trolls:

Next: Social media guidelines and policies for UC ANR-branded accounts