Don’t Let the Trolls Win

Caution road sign against a background of puffy white clouds in an otherwise blue sky. Sign reads: Do not feed the trolls.When I read the Washington Post headline “Fairfax County supervisor race heats up over ‘troll’ remark on Twitter,” I thought to myself, “Another political operative who forgot to count to 10 before hitting ‘send.’”

The troll characterization was lobbed at Democrat Janet Oleszek by the Fairfax County (Virginia) Republican Party Committee. Oleszek is campaigning against incumbent county Supervisor John Cook, a Republican.

In its defense, the committee accused Oleszek of ignorance.

“Anybody who knows anything about social media and the Internet knows what a troll is,” Matt Ames, chair of the Fairfax County Republican Party Committee, told the Post.

I’m a social media junkie, but I hadn’t heard the term used before in a social media context, which the Post wrote “can be interpreted” as “someone who is critical without supporting facts.” Granted, I’m a Boomer who still believes social media posts should be grammatically correct and free of spelling errors. I also tend to ignore stupid social media posts and stupid people who post on social media. I have better things to do with my life.

Curiosity grabbed me by my Don King hair, however, and I Googled “social media slang.” Apparently troll is not among the “9 Millennial Slang Words That Improve Your Social Media Voice.” Nor did troll make the “Big-A List of Twitter Slang and Definitions.” Ditto with a post simply titled “Social Media Slang.” (Though I did learn that “Whoa” is an “expression of surprise.” Whoa! I’ve been using “whoa” for five or more decades! How cool am I?)

I then Googled “social media troll” and found this definition on Techopedia:

“A troll is a member of an Internet community who posts offensive, divisive, and controversial comments.

“Often, a troll will make obvious and inflammatory statements that are meant to bait new users (newbies) into reacting. This is sometimes called trolling. Despite multiple attempts at limiting trolling on the Internet, it is still widespread in social networks, comment sections, and anywhere else where users can post in relative anonymity.”

I am now better informed. But having not found the definition on two comprehensive and one must-know social media slang lists, I have to caution Mr. Ames not to assume everyone knows Internet slang. The old rules of communication still apply: Count to 10 before hitting send and if in doubt, don’t. Otherwise, the trolls win.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at


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