How to be an idiot when it comes to Internet comments

The Internet comment. It is the most meaningful contribution many will ever make to civilisation. Within the confines of a small text box, anyone can create an anonymous, unconsidered, even ill-considered statement, which could change the course of human destiny – if anyone would read them.

The only way to be truly heard? Be the biggest jerk you can be.

Sometimes they call us "trolls," we who are the best commenters. Yet they mean it derogatorily! Sure, like our mythical brethren of Norse and Scandinavian legend, modern trolls also live in isolation, perhaps in caves or under bridges or in our parents' basements. Trolls "are rarely helpful to human beings" (according to the Wikipedia definition).

What's wrong with that? There's no reason to change how the troll of modern day compares to the troll of myth. The only difference is that instead of eating goats, fur and all, we post on Internet forums, blogs, and social networks. Keyboards and cable modems are the tools of the modern troll; they are the bridges under which we hide from the light. And what are the gruff billy goats that a digital troll would eat? Those are fellow commenters.

Here's how to treat your prey while bearing in mind that you're one hell of a good looking piece of troll-meat.

Announce your first-ness

There is truly no greater calling than being the first person to comment on a site with several commenters. The best way to claim your territory is simply to post "FIRST!" (in all caps, and preferably in an increased font size). You will instantly earn the respect – nay, the fear – of your so-called peers.

Hit and run

It's a tried and tested tactic for upping your own profile and traffic: Stop on some blog that you wouldn't otherwise visit in a billion years, make a comment, and leave. Try only to do this on posts that you absolutely don't care about at all. There's no need to ever come back and form any kind of bond with the original poster or subsequent commenters. Those are people to be used and abused, and you already have friends. Probably.

Always pimp yourself

Leave links to your site (or better yet sites). Even if you're anonymous – and you should be, because standing behind your comments with your own name as if you believe in your convictions is just plain stupid – find a way to link some URLs in every post. You can lure away the readers so they can read something by someone truly brilliant – you. Or just Rick Roll them. That's still a thing, we swear.

Start a new topic

If someone writes a post about mustard, you should steer the conversation towards ketchup. If the video in question is about the daytime, you should be sure to point out how great the night is with its majestic and all-cloaking darkness. You don't have to stay on topic and other readers will thoroughly enjoy your hijacking of the conversation.

Make sweeping generalisations

Commenting is, essentially, arguing. The best arguments are those that are reduced to slap fights and that's a scientific fact. Since you can't slap people over the web (yet), settle for doling out general, sweeping "facts." Our favourite here is: "You're all Microsoft/Intel/Apple shills." (Pick one). And of course, nothing wins an argument faster than calling someone a Nazi or comparing him or her to Hitler. Better yet, try suggesting they're all shills for the Third Reich.

Throw in some graphics

If the comment system in question allows it, illustrate your point with, well, illustrations. Grab some art off Google, slap on a caption that you find hilarious (and thus everyone else will, too), and embed it in your comment. Extra points if you can get an image that's so high resolution that it breaks the web page's entire layout.

Brevity is the soul of not really getting your point across, so write a long diatribe

When you know that what you have to say is worth being heard, there's no need to be concise. Getting right to the point is for... well, I don't know. You're an Internet commenter, dammit, and it's your right to take your time, no matter how much meandering and repetition ensues! If you can take a circuitous route to the gist of the matter, all the better to draw in the noobs, because, really, what are they going to do, go read that copy of The Corrections that's been sitting on their shelf for ten years? No, because they want to read what you have to say. And besides, that Franzen guy hates eBooks, so he's a jerk, too.

Where was I? Oh, and should you lose your train of thought on the way, just keep typing.

If you must be brief, be so concise as to say next to nothing at all. Try "Whatever."

ALL CAPS MEANS PASSION

WE'VE SAID IT BEFORE, WE'LL SAY IT AGAIN: WRITING IN ALL CAPS JUST SHOWS HOW MUCH YOU CARE.

Never respond

No one who would try to talk to you deserves a reply. Ever. This is doubly true if you're the author. Why would you ever want to engage the idiots who'd dare to weigh in on what you write? Don't encourage them.

Comment policies aren't laws

Many blogs and sites have a comment policy, such as "no personal attacks on other commenters" and "keep to the topic at hand." These are, of course, simply guidelines, not real rules. In fact, they are put in place by people who want to challenge you. Well, challenge accepted. Go forth and break that policy. Break it hard. Snap it in half, like a dried twig. It's what the site proprietor really wants, especially if they actively moderate comments. You want to challenge them right to their stupid faces.

Don't be ignored

On some sites, the proprietor must approve your posts before allowing them to go live. Don't let them get away with it. If you don't see your pithy prose within seconds of hitting the enter button, start inundating the proprietor with questions. Where is your post? Why didn't it go up? How DARE YOU NOT POST IT! Patience is, after all, for suckers.

Nice is for sissies

There's no room on the Internet to bend over backwards to please people. You must imagine that every person who is commenting around you is the most obnoxious loser you have ever met and needs a smack down, which only you can provide. Also, picture them as weak and unable to hit back. That will help you with the next step...

Flame on!

Flaming on comments gets a bad wrap. Wikipedia defines it as "hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users." Uh... duh. Next to pornography, that's the whole point of the Internet! Whether we're talking trivial matters, like politics, or real-world issues, like how much the new iPad will suck, the point of Internet comments is to be right, and the best way to prove that is to scorch the earth in a flame war.

Spelling doesn’t count

If u think whals shuld live in acuariims by the see – and more so, if you believe that the first part of this sentence looks okay, you're already an expert commenter. You probably also text while driving, and we won't tell you to stop.

Conspiracies aren't just for nuts

Look, we all know it was an Illuminati cabal that killed JFK/Princess Di/Whitney Houston, caused Hurricane Katrina, and orchestrated 9/11. Or maybe it was Freemasons at the Rotary Club. Either way, Internet users NEED TO KNOW THE TRUTH. It's up to you to put on your tin foil hat, block those mind controlling radio signals the government transmits, and get the word out. The comments section is an excellent place to warn others that Opus Dei is keeping Area 51 hidden, even if it's at the bottom of a YouTube video about crocheting baby-boots.

Reverse sandwich

There's a comment technique called the "sandwich," which goes like this: Write a compliment (bread), toss in some constructive criticism or insights (the delicious fatty meat), and write a short follow-up compliment (more stale bread). Sounds almost nutritious. Gross. What if you put all that sliced deli meat on the outside, double down-style? Start with a biting criticism, toss in a tiny and begrudgingly backhanded compliment (for example: "I guess you aren’t a complete moron..."), then end it with one last meat-slathered personal insult for good measure. Now that's filling.

Cursing

Swear. A lot. Kudos if you can combine two bad words into one new one.

By the way, all of this also applies to social networks. If you can aim such comments at people you actually call your "friends," then we bow to you, King of Trolldom.

For more articles on the virtues of idiocy, see our guide to being an idiot with your smartphone, and with Google+, and also our guide to being a twit on Twitter.

If idiocy is not your thing, then see our guide on how to select the best social media for your projects. This guide contains a comprehensive link list on our ITProportal guides that help you avoid social media traps and help you to be effective using social media. In addition, if you are particularly interested in Twitter we also have a comprehensive link list of guides in how to be effective using Twitter.