What will it take to bring down the trolls?
One new app called Kindli has the answer: Make them give out a credit card number.
It’s an innovative approach, but before we dive into what makes the app special, here’s a little background on troll behavior that might help.
In recent years, trolls have taken over. They comment on posts and find the one thing they disagree with. We’re living in an age when airing your grievances is the norm.
It’s not hard to imagine what a troll looks like.
He or she is likely sitting on an expensive performance chair wearing earmuff headphones. A few empty bags of Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos are scattered on the floor. “Timmy/Kimmy, pick up your trash” yells a middle-aged mom down the staircase as the troll furiously types up yet another insult on Twitter.
Many years ago, I conducted an interview with an online troll. His name was Derek. This was before the age of social media when all you could do was comment on articles. My story was about online abuse and I wanted to interview someone who regretted their negative comments and had decided to change.
I managed to find someone who agreed to an interview by online chat (this was also long before Zoom). What he said at the time surprised me.
Derek struggled with depression, negative thoughts, and a poor self-image. He’d been unemployed for several years. He lived with his parents. It stuck with me because, in some ways, I understood what was happening. Those negative emotions inside of him were spilling out onto the keyboard. That’s no excuse, but he did agree that his actions were wrong.
I learned two things from that interview. One is that a troll is a real person dealing with personal issues. The other is that it doesn’t have to be this way. The way a troll deals with those dark emotions is not healthy.
Social media has provided a forum for their rage and anger, but it might work to make the social media on-ramp a little less accessible to them.
Kindli is the new app I’m testing and the goal is to make it harder for people to spread negative thoughts on social media. It’s meant to promote kindness and address mental health concerns. Tim Tebow is involved, as is athlete Kerri Walsh Jennings and WWE star Titus O’Neil.
To use the app, you have to enter a credit card and donate $1 to charity. You can also purchase Kindli Cards (a 12-pack costs $3.99) which you hand out to people after doing something kind for them. The recipient adds a thank you to your profile.
The company says they hope to reach one billion acts of kindness worldwide, and I sure hope they do. I plan to order cards to hand out.
I tested the app by creating an account and following a few users. In a few days, I had only seven followers. The app launched recently, so no surprise there.
One feature I really like: Kindli blocks negative posts or comments because they violate the guidelines. (Most of them are related to swearing, criticism, and bashing someone for their political views.) I tried posting a few troll-like comments, including one about election fraud and another about hate. It’s odd to see the algorithm kick in, telling you the post won’t go live, but I was grateful. My hope is the double whammy of asking for a credit card and blocking hateful comments works.
The app is a little buggy right now. On my phone, I created a new post and the app crashed. In my browser, when I clicked on people to follow them, nothing happened. (After refreshing the screen, it worked. Also, a second attempt at posting from my phone worked.) I also noticed a few typos on their site, such as Kindli spelled wrong on the how it works page.
Kindli faces an uphill climb. Years ago, a few companies tried to make “the social network of sports” and “the social network of parenting” but it never worked out. One word: Facebook. The social network of kindness is a wonderful idea, so I’ll be curious if it catches on.
Until then, I think the app has some work to do. It’s a bit too basic, and I kept seeing the same posts over and over. To catch on and even have any chance against Instagram and others, the company will have to innovate much further beyond the basic features they offer. How about some sort of kindness meter? A measure of how many encouraging posts and comments you’ve made. I’d like to see more explainer videos that go into more detail. Promote the app on YouTube and other forums.
I’m also a little worried about the free speech aspects. Not allowing any discussion about politics seems a bit too much…although it’s also a welcome relief in some ways. (Using the apps means you agree to the policies.)
Trolls are quite ingenious. I hope they don’t figure out how to bypass the filters like they have on Twitter. Kindness doesn’t sell, unfortunately. It tends to draw the worst of us as an opportunity to cause more damage and chaos.
What will it take to gain momentum when you are in the dark shadow of the trolls? That’s a question I can’t answer. I hope Kindli does.