The TRUTH about TROLLS
I'm not going to waste time explaining what a troll is. 10 minutes in most Twitch chats will do that for you. Instead, we're going to be pragmatic about this and talk about why they're like this, how to deal with them, how to get back into a better mindset afterwards, and how to identify the truly damaging/dangerous ones versus the playful ones. Let's dive in.
Why are they like this? - The first truth.
At their most basic, malicious Trolls are seeking NEGATIVE attention, especially of the public variety as it pertains to streaming. I think most humans can agree that attention of the positive persuasion is preferable. Everyone would rather be liked than hated. So why do trolls... seem to want the opposite?
The first thing to understand about a Troll is that the worst thing to them is to be voiceless and ignored. The worst (humane) punishment, is being alone. It's the punishment society imposes on literal prisoners in jail. Even when surrounded by criminals, and constantly in danger, it's considered worse to be alone. So what's the best way to feel like you have an impact in the world if you CAN'T get positive attention? Negative attention.
So our first truth is: Most malicious Trolls are Lonely, and have difficulty receiving positive attention in their lives. To feel less lonely, they force people to acknowledge them for being bad instead of good.
Why are they like this? - The second truth.
I think we can agree that Trolling on the internet isn't a productive use of time. Time that could be better spent creating something, helping someone, working on goals, or performing maintenance tasks. So we have to infer that a troll either hasn't come up with a better use of their time, or isn't able to act on a better use of their time because of their circumstances.
Adults don't usually have this problem, though there are exceptions. Between working full time, home ownership, vehicle ownership, familial duties, personal finances, romantic relationships, and side-hustles there's no shortage of responsibilities that eat up free time. Prioritizing trolling over some of these would even borderline on the immoral (like neglecting family or work). There's just not enough time as an adult to be a Troll.
So we arrive at our second truth: Trolls either don't have obligations or refuse to prioritize worthy ones. Which means they likely skew younger. And if they're older, not being able to prioritize their time correctly has deep and far reaching implications on their personal relationships, suggesting possible familial or romantic difficulty.
Why are they like this? - The third truth.
When someone's lonely, and they've got a lot of free time, they'll seek out things that make them feel less alone. It's probable Trolls see kinship in other trolls. After all, they're spending their time doing similar things and finding enjoyment the same way. They likely have the first two truths, loneliness and lack of obligations in common. Common ground makes for fast friends.
The problem here that coalesces into a giant fuckfest, is that Trolls can reinforce each other's bad behavior. This is how group think works. This is how bad ideas and awful movements gain momentum. In exchange for sacrificing morals, Trolls gain kinship, acceptance, and can convince themselves they're finally receiving the positive attention they've been denied.
And that's the third truth: On a long enough timeline, Trolls will find other Trolls that validate their own bad behavior. They'll multiply like gremlins if you let them. They often come in packs and they're willing to sacrifice standards to avoid loneliness. They've lost sight of what good behavior is, and they start to view the other bad actor brethren as being oppressed.
How to deal with them?
First you need to separate the harmful ones from the playful ones. Playful trolls are great. They keep chat moving, they're good for a laugh, they're healthy. They also let you demonstrate your acceptance of quirkiness which generally makes chat a way more welcoming place to hang out in.
Harmful trolls, on the other hand, are poison. They make chat unwelcoming and combative. They push other viewers away and prevent people from engaging - especially NEW people. They'll actively spurn good people and, because of the third truth above, attract more people like them. Left unchecked, a harmful troll chat will snowball into a bigger troll chat. See the third truth above.
That's why the low hanging fruit here - racists, misogynists, and anyone who is intentionally combative or hurtful with other humans - should be banned immediately. In fact, they can't be banned fast enough. Twitch has done AWESOME by making banned users unfollow a channel, and making additional accounts from the same IP address shadow banned in chat. WOO!
The non-obvious Trolls all fall under one big blanket classification: Anyone who's behavior puts you off mentally. If you can feel your heart rate rising or face frowning, other people can feel that in chat too. Emotions are even more contagious than diseases. Our emotions are reflected in our voice, in our body language, and in our facial expressions. Humans learned to recognize these things before they learned spoken language. "Trust your instincts" is as basic bitch advice as I'll ever give, but it's also ingenius. It's the best method for recognizing when you should remove someone from chat who's impairing your ability to be entertaining and connecting with other humans. (First try a 10m timeout, followed by a ban.)
The last thing: Don't be afraid of losing a viewer. If someone's behavior is pissing you off, you're going to lose more viewers from retaining that emotion over the long term than you would if you cut them loose. No one viewer is worth being pissed off for.
How to get back into a better mindset?
Step 1: Don't Cross the Hurt Line
A rule in stand up comedy is to never show you're hurt, and to never try to hurt anyone's feelings. It's gonna be hard. When we're abused, it's often our instinct to hurt back. Don't give in. Even if it seems like they deserve it. Keep the show going as normal, and don't give the troll the attention they want. Chat's gotta keep flowing. If you must, institute a chat command of your choice that keeps things scrolling quickly so no one dwells on a timeout or ban. You really don't want people asking why they were banned, because it gives the troll some of the attention they were seeking.
Step 2: Be a little empathetic.
The best way to normalize your thinking after timing out or banning a troll is to realize the three truths above. They're lonely, they're lacking positive attention, and they're surrounded by people reinforcing socially destructive habits. Their lives aren't pleasant, and the behavior they're exhibiting would get them ostracized in real life, and probably does. So imagine this is the last day they were alive, or imagine you're at their funeral giving their eulogy. What would you say if this were their last day on earth? Have empathy, not anger. "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." - Buddha
Step 3: Imagine a Hug. AKA OXYTOCIN IS A HELL OF A DRUG
Science has proven that imagining a 20 second hug from a friend is enough to release oxytocin in your brain. Oxytocin is known as the "trust" hormone. In the human brain, it produces feelings of love, social bonding, and well-being. Stretching out and getting a good dose of oxytocin can quickly put you back in the right emotional mindset, body language, and facial expressions to engage your audience. Positive emotions are contagious too! If that's not enough, try coming up with 3 things you're grateful for. Like your friends, a properly functioning body, or living in a time where you can stream on the internet to an awesome chat!
Some Warning Behaviors
Trolls who evade bans are more indicative of fucked up behavior than ever before now. Banning a user now IP bans them from your chat. Any troll that's motivated enough to evade an IP and account ban likely has some pretty serious issues. These users should DEFINITELY be reported to Twitch.
Whispering your viewers and Discord Members
You need a no tolerance policy on harassment. Every channel does, and you need a direct line of communication open for these instances. If users don't feel safe in your Discord or channel, that's a no-go. And yes, there have been sketchy people known to whisper, for example, any feminine sounding username within a Discord. Ban them ASAP, don't look back.
Check the user name list on Twitch every once in a while for people imitating your username. Trolls have been known to create imitation accounts to pose as a streamer. Luckily Twitch has been pretty fantastic at banning impersonators.
Intentional Line-Skirting or Edginess
There's users who intentionally skirt the lines of ToS. (For instance, saying they're 12 and a half years old where the Twitch user policy bars anyone under the age of 13 from using the platform unsupervised). They'll post pictures of violence for no reason, or gross stuff to get a rise out of people. And they'll often argue that it's not against ToS. Fuck ToS. If you notice anyone getting enjoyment out of increasing the risk to your channel if you didn't properly enforce the ToS, these people need to go. Additionally, tolerance of intentionally "edgy" people is offputting for most viewers.
"Why was I banned/timed out?"
A user that doesn't understand that they were banned/timed out for the behavior that occurred directly before the ban, is an idiot. Playing innocent is manipulation. Don't fall for it. Additionally under the current system, these are also people who've evaded bans. If they got banned, they shouldn't be able to talk to you.
"I'd sub if...", "I'll sub next month..." Basically if they're talking about subs and they don't have a sub, they're signaling for someone to buy them one. While sub gifting actually supports a channel, most viewers find it annoying. Time these guys out, but only ban them if they keep going. The purpose of a stream is never money. It's always entertainment, and below 100 viewers it's ESPECIALLY about community and friendship.
Temporarily switch to sub-only mode and run an ad for your stream. The bots should vanish in a couple minutes, and you make a little ad revenue from all the bad actors. If you own a Streamdeck, you can actually make a button for this. You can also try out the "emotes only" function to combat spamming too. Additionally, report a few of the usernames to Twitch using the report function: https://help.twitch.tv/s/contactsupport
Trolls aren't an uncertainty in streaming. You will have them, but now you've been prepared. You've got strategies to identify them, deal with them, and to get back into the right mindset. That's everything you need! Thanks for reading till the end, boneheads. Till next time! - Skullstream