When dealing with jerks and trolls both online and off, you have a choice: you can engage and try to get them to see the error of their ways, or you can avoid them, ignore them and move on with your life. Most of us already know that ignoring jerks is the best way to deal with them, but a new study from Baruch College (CUNY) brings the point home, and explains why it's better for your health, too.
The study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (available at the link below) may fall into the "science proves what we already knew was true" category, but there's an interesting spin on the results: not only is ignoring obnoxious people more effective at silencing them than actually speaking to them or engaging them in a discussion, it's healthier and less mentally draining on you as well.
The research is the result of two studies that examined 120 people who were asked to either chat with or ignore people who were asked to be either likable and congenial, or rude and offensive to the survey participant. The participants didn't know which type of person they would meet when the interaction started. After four minutes with each type of person, the participants were given a private room and given a thought exercise which required their concentration. The participants who ignored the offensive people fared better in the exercises than the people who engaged or tried to talk to them. The inverse was true with the likable people: participants who talked up the nice people instead of ignored them performed better on the tests.
Ultimately, the research concluded that you're not doing yourself any favours by responding to rude people or people who make you angry. You also get the side benefit that the best weapon against those types of people is ostracism. The researchers note that it can be difficult to overcome our natural impulse to engage when someone converses with us or says something that triggers us, but shunning is a more powerful weapon against jerks than argument. To read the abstract (or view the full study if you have access to Sage Journals), hit the link below.
When silence is golden: Ostracism as resource conservation during aversive interactions [The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships via The Vancouver Sun]