Here’s How to Protect Yourself Against Social Media Trolls Now
I’m not sure how you’re feeling about social media right now, but it’s hard out here for many of us. I’ve never seen a nation so divided or divisive, and I observe this daily on Twitter and Facebook (more than other channels), particularly as a sexual abuse survivor with a large author and advocacy platform.
I fully realize, and accept, that by being vocal about my stories, experiences, and beliefs on public channels, and sharing content on controversial topics (gasp: violence against women, sexual assault, rape, and the F-word: feminism) puts a huge target on me and I take the good with the bad (more on that in a moment). Oftentimes, it’s men in particular who have Something To Say about what I’m supposed to say or should do or present myself a certain way. It’s pretty comical.
Until it becomes threatening and scary AF.
I follow who I want to follow, I unfollow, mute or block who I don’t want to interact with. Sometimes, though, that’s not enough. I’m often attacked by others who don’t approve of the way I’m sharing my stories, or even by others who want me to do things for them and when I decline, I’m somehow the bad guy. I also see so many survivors are consistently harassed, stalked, doxxed, and even threatened — it’s become seriously disgusting.
We must protect ourselves.
Social Media Trolls
Twitter and Facebook agree (finally), and have given us ways to cut down on interaction with these trolls. Because my business (as BadRedhead Media) is doing social media, I realized I’m maybe a bit more aware than others on how to maximize these options so I want to share some of these tips with you today.
Why? I still believe in the many wonderful benefits of social media: forming community, finding support, learning, connecting, building bridges, camaraderie, a laugh when we need it, the brilliant commentary, and the many forces for good.
Social media is what you make it, so mold it to be the experience you need it to be, and disregard the rest.
Change Your Settings on Twitter
Most people don’t know how to or don’t bother doing this, yet Twitter has made it soooooo easy and you have many options as well.
First, look at your toolbar, click on the Notifications tab and you’ll see a Settings tab. Looks like this:
Another option here is the Advanced QUALITY FILTER, which allows you to mute specific words or phrases from showing up in your notifications. For example, if you’ve just had it with Trump, you can add that as a word that will always be muted, regardless of the tweet, and you will not see it (whether it’s from followers, news articles, quotes, trolls, whatever).
Reminder: all of these settings are changeable, so if you’re having a bad day, do what you need to do and then change it back the next day. If you want to make it a permanent thing, that’s also your choice. These are options for people you DON’T follow.
Note: You do not have to give Twitter your phone number. You don’t have to give any social media channel your phone number unless you want to sign up for two-step log-in verification (something I highly recommend — and even then you can use email instead of text if you prefer). This is to prevent hacking of your account. Again, totally your choice.
Why is this an option then? Bots, spammers, and trolls who create numerous accounts to troll from don’t have numerous phone numbers — Twitter knows this. It’s simple to create a new email and Twitter account in a few minutes — it’s altogether different to get a new phone number to go with each of these accounts. So this option isn’t about you giving your phone number — it’s about protecting you from interacting with bots, spammers, and trolls you don’t follow.
Some people argue that removing words or notifications is akin to putting ourselves in a bubble or echo box, where we only interact with people who agree with us; others say we are censoring others. I say: bullshit. You create and curate your own Twitter experience, and if you feel bothered or upset by what people are sending you, then it’s within your power to cut them off.
You are not obliged to interact with haters or trolls. You are not censoring them, as they will argue (which always tickles me). They are still free to spread their hate and vitriol — you simply do not need to be their final destination.
And on that note, Twitter has made a change to their algorithm: it will use behavioral signals – how users react to a tweet – to assess if an account is adding to or detracting from conversations. If it feels it’s exhibiting troll-like or bot behavior, the tweet will be removed or shoved down to the ‘show more replies’ graveyard. I think this is a great and needed change — what do you think?
Oh, Facebook. What a disaster you have become. If you’re still there (I am. I love my Street Team — click to join! — and survivor group), you have your reasons. Pages are different and important if you’re an author or small business for the sole reason that you cannot advertise your books or services on your personal wall (if you are, stop it. You’re violating the TOS – terms of service) and they have every right to shut you down.
I find it’s almost impossible to post practically anything without someone making a political comment on it — in fact, I posted an article the other day about the legal difference between the terms sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual abuse, and some guy posted on my wall about why he changed political parties and “deep state” political conspiracies. I was like, dude, seriously? Sigh. (For what it’s worth, I kindly asked him to delete his comment. When he refused, I kindly deleted it for him and blocked him as well.)
I do think it’s possible for us all to disagree about politics and still like and respect each other, and have conversations about it if that’s what the designated topic is. Here, it was not. Anyway, I digress.
Managing Your Newsfeed
Did you know you can do that now? Before, you had to put people on lists and it took hours and hours. Days, even. And then you had to keep it all updated as you friended or unfriended folks. So most people didn’t bother. Now you don’t need to. Here’s how:
Click on your toolbar (top right by your face), where the little upside-down arrow is:
Once you click on that, a drop-down list appears. Click on News Preferences:
Now, you just click on this handy box with the weird crab (I don’t get it but whatever). My kids don’t get it either. Can someone explain the crab to me? It’s just weird.
Click on each tab and do your thing. What’s important here is the light blue tab: you can UNFOLLOW people and they don’t know. You don’t see their vitriolic, ranting, or weird, crab-filled posts anymore and they have no idea.
Personally, I have zero issue with blocking folks and find a kind of sinister glee in it, yet I know some of you feel bad about that because you have hearts and stuff. Again, do what makes you feel good.
A Bit of Advice
If I choose to engage with someone who comes at me — because what’s the point of having this platform if I don’t use it, right? — I have The One-Reply Rule: I reply once (if at all). If that person comes back at me with ad-hominem attacks, circular logic, straw-man arguments, or are just plain ridiculous, etc., they’re gone. If, however, we can engage in some kind of discussion that is educational, beneficial, and all that, cool.
Listen, I get that people have feelings and need to feel their feels. Most people in this world just want to be heard.
None of us needs to be the target of someone else’s hate, though. Do not feel obliged to engage with anyone on social media, ever.
When all else fails and it becomes too much, turn off social media. Walk away. Turn off all your notifications. Your mental health is far more important than social media.
If it helps, here’s what I do with regard to social media (and remember, this is my business, too):
- No phone notifications, ever.
- No desktop notifications, ever.
- I keep Twitter and FB open when I’m working on social media scheduling or interacting with people, otherwise, they’re closed
- I always have Hootsuite open because I’m always scheduling or looking for great content to schedule
- I definitely recommend using a SMM (social media management) tool as well as the coordinating browser extension (in this case, the Hootlet)
- I never have social media open when I’m writing (blog posts or my books)
- If I’m working on client deliverables, social media is off.
Some people enjoy the arguments, some people take things personally, and the overall experience can go sideways quickly. Practice compassion with others and importantly, with yourself. If silence is the best answer for your self-care, do that for you.
I hope this post helps you figure out ways to find your peace.
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