About Scott Hibberson

Subject Specialist in Digital Practice (online learning)

Dealing with Trolls – anonymous or otherwise

I stumbled on an old article Dealing with Trolls in The Guardian whilst browsing my Twitter feed recently. It’s a good read and provides sound advice on dealing with internet Trolls, but that’s not why it sparked my interest.

The article dates back to 2012.

Yes – 2012, and is still no less relevant in 2020.

Eight years is a long time in the world of social media. We’ve seen social media sites rise and fall in that time (remember Jaiku, Bebo, Google+ anyone?), but trolling still remains as widespread as ever.

I can’t help but feel that we should be dealing with this kind of thing much better than we are, so why aren’t we?

Social media in the news

This has been brought into sharp focus today in the news with the Harry Miller case. It does make you question whether many of our laws, such as the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the Communications Act 2003, have kept apace with the times. Furthermore, that blurring between freedom of expression and “hate incidents” can be incredibly subjective, which perhaps explains why trolling has been allowed to endure.

Where do you draw that line between trolling and freedom of expression?

Now I don’t pretend to have the answer to that question any more than you do, but like you (I suspect), I have fallen foul to trolling in my time. And, like you, I have also wrestled with how to deal with it.

Picture of a man wearing a mask.

(Image available on Pixabay under a CC0 licence).

Dealing with the trolls we know

We know that trolls often gain their bravado from anonymity, but sometimes the trolls are those we know too. Without wanting to sound alarmist (or paranoid), how do you deal with trolling from the people you know? Those people who are in your ‘friends’ circle on your social networks, or even members of your family?

That question of where the line lies between freedom of speech and trolling becomes a little more personal when it involves the people you know. In some ways we are in a good position if we know the people, because we have more insight into their foibles and quirks and can make allowances accordingly. Yet on the other hand they can also cause a unique sense of anxiety – because we know them and have to deal with them regularly in real life.

To complicate things further there’s the issue of intent. What could innocently be intended as banter may unintentionally come across as trolling. The more I use social media the more sensitive I feel (some of us) have become. Sensitive in the sense of being mindful about what we say to others and how we say it, but also sensitive in the sense of how we perceive what others say about us.

My approach

First of all, I’m not advocating that my approach is the right approach for you. Let’s get that clear from the start. I am not a preacher.

However, my approach does work for me (usually).

I’ve tried to clarify my approach into a simple flowchart (at this point, you are allowed to laugh). I say simple with my tongue firmly in my cheek, because we all know that human relationships are anything but. The flowchart adopts a practical and consistent way of approaching potential abusive posts from trolls (known or otherwise).

Week Ten: Time to Taper

This is part of a series of posts reflecting on my experiences in the run up to the Yorkshire Marathon in October. I’m currently on week ten of a twelve week training programme. The idea is to write a post every week charting my progress and reflecting on my training.


Without putting too fine a point on it this has been a c**p week for running.

At the beginning of the week I felt run-down (literally) and the long run in the rain last Sunday clearly took its toll. This is exactly what I was afraid of – falling ill just before the race with little time to recover.

What started off as minor doubts have grown into full-blown anxiety, as my fears were confirmed mid-week after an easy run. I have the beginnings of some kind of cold.

The view on my easy run, just outside the village of Letwell

I know, I know – it’s not a disaster. It’s a setback. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. It’s all too easy to lose perspective and let your worries build into something more, something that will beat you psychologically.

So I took each day as it came this week, hoping that I would feel a little better each day. Sadly, I haven’t. I have no energy at all. I feel lethargic and tired.

I haven’t been to the gym or done any running since the easy run. I’m comforting myself with the fact that the training programme allows for a couple of blips along the way. It doesn’t mean I have to quit, but it does mean I have to get better, sharpish.

One other consolation I can take from this week is that it heralds the start of tapering. This means that I’ve already done the hardest runs in my training programme and the distances now start to shorten.

According to the Runners World site tapering refers to reducing mileage because it’s “important not only to allow for full recovery before your race, but also to allow you to reach peak performance in it, too.”

Right now I’d settle for a performance, regardless of whether it’s ‘peak’ or not.

My running number turned up in the post this week too. A subtle reminder that the race is now looming.

My running number – 4671.

When I started blogging I wanted to capture the highs and lows of my training. For sure, this is a low, but I think it’s still important to document it. I want to look back on this as an honest account that reflects not just the successes, but the challenges and fears too. I know I’m not alone in this and I’m sure other runners reading will be able to relate to the concerns I have in this week’s post.

These kinds of fears are normal. I know that.

No day-by-day training section in this week’s post – there’s no point, but I’ll be back next week and look out for ‘4671’ on the 20th of October 🙂


Apologies to those of you who usually drop by for updates about learning technology – I tend to post about that kind of thing on Jisc’s Inspiring Learning blog. I intend to use this blog for more personal, non-related work posts in future.

Week Nine: Lovely weather for ducks!

This is part of a series of posts reflecting on my experiences in the run up to the Yorkshire Marathon in October. I’m currently on week nine of a twelve week training programme. The idea is to write a post every week charting my progress and reflecting on my training.


I don’t think it’s possible to consistently train for twelve weeks without hitting a couple of snags along the way. Continue reading

Week Eight: One month countdown!

This is part of a series of posts reflecting on my experiences in the run up to the Yorkshire Marathon in October. I’m currently on week eight of a twelve week training programme. The idea is to write a post every week charting my progress and reflecting on my training.


I had a bit of a panic this week.

Whilst aimlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed (as you do) I stumbled on this post under the #YorkshireMarathon hashtag: Continue reading

Week Seven: Back on Track

This is part of a series of posts reflecting on my experiences in the run up to the Yorkshire Marathon in October. I’m currently on week seven of a twelve week training programme. The idea is to write a post every week charting my progress and reflecting on my training.


After last week’s adventures over the pond this week saw a return to normality and the programme.

It’s still been a challenging week as I spent the first couple of days in LA, before returning to the UK on Wednesday. Continue reading

Week Six: Holiday Disruption!

This is part of a series of posts reflecting on my experiences in the run up to the Yorkshire Marathon in October. I’m currently on week six of a twelve week training programme. The idea is to write a post every week charting my progress and reflecting on my training.


This has been a challenging week!

As I’ve been on vacation all week there have been plenty of distractions. Having said that though, I’ve run more miles this week than any other week in my training so far. Not to mention walking – I’ve clocked up some serious miles (about 30,000 steps a day). Continue reading

Week Five: Hike to Hollywood

This is part of a series of posts reflecting on my experiences in the run up to the Yorkshire Marathon in October. I’m currently on week five of a twelve week training programme. The idea is to write a post every week charting my progress and reflecting on my training.


This was always going to be a week of disruption for various reasons.

It’s also the first week where I’ve not stuck to my training programme, but for good reasons. Continue reading