A concern troll is a person who participates in a debate posing as an actual or potential ally who simply has some concerns they need answered before they will ally themselves with a cause. In reality they are a critic. Usually, they have ‘good intentions’, but they ultimately end up perpetuating oppressive ideas.
An example of concern trolling which is really common relates to fat-shaming. Sometimes, people will say “I’m not fat-shaming, but I’m concerned about your health…”. There are two key problems with this: firstly, fat people’s bodies are their own and their health shouldn’t be up for public discussion. Secondly, being fat doesn’t equate to being unhealthy, and the idea that it is results in fat people being denied compassionate and effective health care.
Another example of concern trolling relates to tone-policing. Let’s imagine a scenario in which a male ally to feminism enters a feminist space. When he is in the feminist space, he advises the women and non-binary people in the space to change their tone to be more welcoming in order to attract more support for feminism. His argument is that you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar – i.e., that people will be put off by their anger. The problem here is that he’s tone-policing those people by telling them how to respond to their own oppression. His actions might come from the best of intentions, but because he isn’t being introspective enough, he doesn’t realise that he’s ultimately being oppressive.
It’s important to note that not all expressions of concern are concern trolling. Concern trolling specifically refers to concerns being raised in a way that perpetuates oppression and is ultimately harmful.
If you find yourself concern trolling, do the following: apologise sincerely and unreservedly, take a step back, listen, and be more introspective about your actions. Read up on how to be more supportive, and commit to being a better ally/supporter in future.