NEWS

Should You Confront an Internet Troll? A Spanish Short Film Takes a Closer Look

Film still from A La Cara

Santiago Racaj

Key Takeaways

  • The short film A La Cara (Face To Face) shares a story of a woman who confronts her social media troll.
  • The film gives a look at who trolls are and why they attack people online.
  • Experts say there are ways to react to a cyberbully that leave you feeling empowered.

What happens if you confront an Internet troll face-to-face? 

Spanish Director Javier Marco presents a potential outcome to this scenario in his short film A La Cara (Face To Face), cowritten with screenwriter Belén Sánchez-Arévalo. It is eligible to be considered for a 2022 Academy Award In the Live-Action Short Film category.

In the film TV hostess Lina visits her troll, Pedro, at his Madrid flat, which is for sale. After seeing Pedro’s social media post announcing that he is selling the flat, Lina uses a fake name to pretend
she is interested in purchasing the flat. She arranges a time to tour it. 

However, viewers quickly learn Lina’s intention. She wants to know who Pedro is and she wants him to read what he wrote about her online to her face, in his own home. “She wants to know how he lives and understand why he is a hater. She says, ‘you know everything about me, but I know nothing about you, so tell me are you married? Do you have any children?’” Marco says.

The film, with its emotion and intensity, digs into the broader question asking who exactly are the people behind all the nasty comments on social media? And what is the motivation behind such behavior?

Who Are Internet Trolls?

Marco and Sánchez-Arévalo conducted their own internet research to try to understand trolls. 

“[There] are many different types of haters, but we realized that many of them are lonely. They are looking for friends, but [online friends] are not real friends. They give likes to their comment, and this guy Pedro, the hater, realized that the more aggressive the comments are, the more likes he gets,” says Marco. 

Javier Marco, film director

[There] are many different types of haters, but we realized that many of them are lonely. They are looking for friends, but [online friends] are not real friends.

— Javier Marco, film director

In fact, in the film Pedro tells Lina, “If I don’t write things like that, tough things, no one reads me. It’s just for that or the comment gets lost among all the others. I just want them to read me.” 

Nancy Willard, MS, JD, director of Embrace Civility, and author of Be Positively Powerful: Resilient When Things Get Tough, explains that Pedro falls into one of the two types of people who bully.

Those Who Feel Bad about Themselves

Like Pedro, Willard says some people bully others in person or online because they feel bad about themselves and are trying to get attention. The distancing the technology provides impacts their behavior. 

“So, by going after others, this is a way of trying to get some power or control over their life, which is generally, out of kilter. They are an at-risk population,” says Willard. She says trolls fall into this category. 

“The trolls are people who don’t love themselves, don’t think anyone else loves them, and they are being hurtful just to feel some level of control over their life, which they feel is out of their control,” she says. 

Nancy Willard, MS, JD

The trolls are people who don’t love themselves, don’t think anyone else loves them, and they are being hurtful just to feel some level of control over their life, which they feel is out of their control

— Nancy Willard, MS, JD

To hurt their targets, they go after their vulnerabilities, which in Lina’s case is the loss of a loved one due to suicide. “Trolls have mental health issues. This troll I would lay odds has likely been suicidal [himself],”
says Willard. 

Those in a Position of Leadership

A larger group of people who bully in-person or online are trying to gain positions of leadership, says Willard. “In schools, these are well off, socially competent, popular, cool students, who school staff often perceive to be leaders,” she says. 

In the business world, she says they are often referred to as dominance leaders. “They have employees compete to go up the corporate ladder,” she says. 

Is it Effective to Confront a Bully?

Whether or not you confront a bully on your own depends on your level of personal power, says Willard.

“All of us have a certain level of personal power. The bully is trying to take power points away from you. Either that bully has a whole bunch of power points, that’s a dominance bully, or that bully is lacking in power points and that’s a troll. What they are both trying to do is take points away from you,” she says. 

The decision to confront a bully relates to how many power points you have or how many you can gather around you by having your friends help confront the bully. In Lina’s case, her fame gives her more power than Pedro, and therefore Willard says she can safely confront him. 

“But if you can’t match their power points by yourself or based on who you bring along, confronting them is likely not going to work,” Willard says. 

In many instances, confronting a cyberbully isn't worth it at all. "Cyberbullies are often looking for attention. So ignoring them may be one of the wisest strategies you can use," says Amy Morin, LCSW and Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. "If you don't give them the attention they're looking for, they might move on. You don't necessarily have to reply to stand up for yourself. Choosing to stay silent may be the best response of all. It's essentially showing them that you don't value their comments enough to waste time replying."

What Are Ways to Deal with a Cyberbully?

If you are being cyberbullied, Willard says consider the following. 

Never respond when you’re upset or immediately after being attacked

If someone is attacking you online, realize that your brain is functioning in fight or flight mode. “That means the thinking and emotional regulation part of your brain is disconnected from the amygdala [which regulates emotions],” says Willard. 

Amy Morin, LCSW

It's always better to wait. If you decide to reply, don't do it right away. Step away for a bit so you can calm down if you need to. Otherwise, you might be tempted to lash out, which will only fuel their desire to keep going.

— Amy Morin, LCSW

You should always take a pause before any confrontation. "It's always better to wait. If you decide to reply, don't do it right away. Step away for a bit so you can calm down if you need to. Otherwise, you might be tempted to lash out, which will only fuel their desire to keep going," says Morin.

Save a copy, and file an abuse report

By saving a copy of comments made to you online, you are ensuring you have evidence of them. Then file an abuse report, hoping that the site will do something, but recognizing that they may not. 

“The reason you save it is if down the road, it vanishes online, but more bullying occurs, then you’ll have evidence of the first instance,” says Willard. 

Connect with someone who cares about you

When someone is cyberbullying you, they are trying to take your power away. Willard says the best way to get your power back is to talk with someone who loves you. However, she says don’t let that person overreact and do something that will make things worse. 

“The last thing you want is your parent to cyberbully the parent of the kid who is cyberbullying you,” she says, noting that many times kids don’t tell adults because they think the adult will overreact and make things worse. 

“You have to tell someone you know will listen and talk and help you figure out solutions,” she says. 

Those solutions might include figuring out strategies, such as reporting it to a school or site; whether you should ignore it; if confronting the person personally makes sense; as well as looking at your own behavior. 

“Have you done something to get this person upset and attack you? Did you intentionally or inadvertently hurt this person so they retaliated? If so, then apologizing and making things right might be a good step,” says Willard. 

Do something positive and kind with five different people

Going to a grocery store and complimenting five strangers, or buying the driver behind you their lunch at your favorite fast food drive-thru, can make you feel better. 

Nancy Willard, MS, JD

When you do kind things to people, they respond in a kind manner and you might say to yourself, ‘The the world is okay after all.’ Being kind to others builds your power points back up

— Nancy Willard, MS, JD

“When you do kind things to people, they respond in a kind manner and you might say to yourself, ‘The the world is okay after all.’ Being kind to others builds your power points back up,” Willard says. 

When attacked on public platforms, demonstrate a high level of calmness and respect.

If you’re attacked on a social media’s public group intended for matters like school decisions or local politics, Willard says don’t engage in hurtful language. Instead, she suggests writing your response for other people reading it; not the person attacking you. 

“I try to make it a logical, factual response like, ‘I’m sorry you feel this way, but here is a fact.’ Often times, I end up taking power points away from the person because they lose points by getting upset and attacking me, and anybody reading [our comments sees] that that person is engaging in attacks yet I’m responding without attacking back,” says Willard. 

Could Teaching Empathy Stop Bullying?

Javier believes cyberbullying is a difficult problem to solve that may not have an end-all solution. However, he hopes online haters and trolls watch his film and are moved to change their
behavior. 

“I think education is the only solution--[teaching kids in school] to empathize with other human
beings. [Film] is also powerful for these kinds of messages,” he says.

What This Means For You

The short film A La Cara (Face To Face) shares a story of a woman confronting a social media troll. The insights to why Internet trolls attack people online can help you understand how to respond to them.


 

Was this page helpful?