Getting in arguments with people you barely know is rarely productive, especially if your conversation begins with an aggressive challenge. The 140 character limit of Twitter does not lend itself well to coherent, constructive argument. It does lend itself to quick, snappy fights, however.
My "conversation" this morning got me thinking as to the types of Internet trolling - namely, the practice of posting inflammatory or unhelpful messages. There are several levels of trolling, each necessitating different responses.
Level 0 – This is a conversation between two people with opposing views, who discuss issues calmly, rationally, and without rancor. This isn’t trolling – this is what debate should be.
Level 1 – This is the most minor form of trolling. At this level, an individual jumps in on a conversation by making an aggressive point. E.g. "Such and such politician/pope did this foolish thing, which invalidates your point!" I, admittedly, have been guilty of this level of trolling on occasion.
Level 2 – At this level, at least one party resorts to mockery to avoid argument. Conversations at this level and above rarely become productive, and should be avoided whenever possible. The tweet linked above is a perfect example of this level.
Level 3 – At this level, at least one party turns to personal insult. E.g.: “You’re fat,” “You’re ugly,” “You’re stupid,” “Your parents must have been drunk when they spawned you,” etc.
Level 4 – At this level, any hope of productive conversation is over; heated/discussion/mockery turns to threats of violence. E.g.: "I'm going to kill you."
Level 5 – Red alert! At this level, conversation turns to action – harassment, prank calls, stalking, etc. Sometimes, this even requires police intervention to resolve. This thankfully only happens in a rare number of cases.