The Internet is a dangerous place these days, filled with hardened veterans of the endless troll wars, all willing to make your life hell for… uh, for reasons.
That’s why it’s so important to learn the same survival skills that the trolls have mastered in their years living in caves and basements, fighting their guerilla war. You see, in order to defeat the troll enemy, you must become him.
I know that sounds terrible, but these are strange and terrible times and we all must do what we can to survive, and the only way to truly survive on the internet is to follow these nine rules. If you do so, then you won’t just survive, you will win the whole goddamn Internet.
Maintain Ironic Distance
Whether you’re on Twitter, Facebook, old-school message boards, or the human wastelands known as comment sections (love you!), it is absolutely crucial to never show your true self. You know the dude with actual human feelings? Yeah, that dude will get crushed on the Internet. It’s vital that you maintain an almost sociopathic devotion to not caring about anything. This is the foundation upon which everything else is built, just like a soldier must steel himself for the horrors of war.
Communicate Through A Series Of Popular GIFs
You don’t actually have to say anything, you can just use a series of popular GIFS to express “feelings,” usually “humorous” in nature. There’s a reason both those words are in quotations. Sure, it makes you look like a total asshole, pandering to your fellow assholes, but what you need to understand is this: that’s the whole point.
Anyway, this way, you get an extra layer between your actual feelings and the harsh wastelands of the Internet. And if you do it “right,” it will look something like this:
Mock Your Enemies
And by “enemies,” I of course mean that person who has a different viewpoint. The first step in neutralizing them is to make them look as dumb as possible. Arguing with a liberal? Don’t argue with the, you know, actual substance of the argument. Instead mock them as flighty hipsters. Call them baby killers. Arguing with a conservative? Mock them as out-of-touch dinosaurs. Really go for the kill and call them – gasp! – a white male.
Crush! Kill! Destroy!
After sufficient mocking, so that everyone knows that your opponent is a Bad Guy who must therefore have worthless ideas, don’t let up. Really go for the kill. Look back through his timeline, find something mildly offensive he said and then splash that all over the place. Send it to Salon. Get Gawker to publicly assassinate him. Get on that Sun Tzu level and have everyone else fight your war for you. Sure, originally you were just disagreeing about what the best scene was in Breaking Bad, but this is now a holy war and the infidel must not be allowed to live!
After mocking your opponent and then publicly smearing him so that everyone thinks he is a horrible monster because you proved that he once laughed at a mildly distasteful joke in 2006, force him to apologize. And then after forcing the apology, you should immediately turn around and make him feel like shit because his apology wasn’t “real.” Engage in another round of character destruction, this time focused on how he obviously has “problematic” ideas and is thus responsible for killing babies/rape/terrorism/racism/the cancellation of Freaks and Geeks/everything that you hate and is wrong in your life/all of the above. Shame him until he is on his knees begging you to stop, until all his accounts have been deleted and he has entered the witness protection program. And then shame him some more.
The last three steps only work if you sufficiently embrace tribalism. And by that, I mean that you must embrace all ideas put forward by the group-think of your Republican/Democrat/Tea Party/Feminist/Satanist/Whatever Lives Matter/I could go on and on and on here and you all know it tribe.
That way, you have a gang ready and more than willing to back you up, to pounce like hyenas and finish off your opponent when he’s the most vulnerable. Remember, you can reason with an individual. You can talk to them, even become friends with them. You can’t fight an entire tribe. They will roll over you like a swarm of piranhas, leaving only bones and gristle. Make sure your tribe is the strongest. Or at least the batshit craziest.
Never Back Down
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been proven wrong. You cannot back down. You cannot show any weakness, or else your opponent’s tribe will go all piranha on you. This means never saying “Well, that’s a good point…” It means never admitting that you might have made a mistake, and for god’s sake, it means never, ever, apologizing. Because apologizing is just a trap, and once you get someone in there, it’s all over. Your whole goal is to force someone else into that trap, and then you can shame them some more, or even better…
Get People Fired
Once they stop fighting back, it’s time to truly unleash the piranhas. You haven’t won until Gawker has them fired. Force that apology and then beat them up with it. Make them admit that they might have been wrong and suddenly you’ve induced a confession! You have guilt! Have the town elders string them up and burn them as witches. Or, you know, embarrass them to the point where their employers have no choice but to save themselves and fire them. Bonus points if you can trigger a divorce or maybe even a suicide. Serves him right for saying he liked Walter’s “I win” scene better than the “Say my name” scene. These things matter.
Don’t Get Involved At All
Much like nuclear war, the only way to truly win the game is to not play. Sure, it’s less fun that way, but at least you won’t have your life ruined. Keep all your real opinions to yourself. Never engage. Coast through the internet using that twin tactic of irony/copious GIF usage, and you might just make it out alive.
But just in case you do get cornered by the vicious predator known as the Internet troll, you now at least have the tools to defend yourself. I can’t promise you’ll win for sure, but at least you’ll ruin the life of a complete stranger. And, really, isn’t that what life is all about?
Man crushing laptop image by Shutterstock