Sealioning? I Think I Just Learned a New Word!


Bloggers learn quickly about trolls. But I’d never heard of the term ‘sealioning’ — which is related to online trolling — until recently.

When I was a kid, there was no such word as sealioning. Some might argue that there’s still no such word.

I stumbled upon a reference to the term in an article by John Beckett titled, “15 Tips For Starting Your Own Blog.” One of the tips involves listening to your audience by way of the comments they leave…within reason.

Beckett advises bloggers to respond to commenters who disagree with discretion. He adds that bloggers don’t owe anyone a debate.

He then says this:

I like debating, if it’s done in good faith. I won’t put up with sealioning, and even with a good debate sometimes I have to say “I’m out of time for this.”

There’s that mysterious little word.

The Urban Dictionary defines it as “a subtle form of trolling involving ‘bad-faith’ questions.” The “sealion” presents questions in bad faith, it says, because they have no intention of truly entertaining the blogger’s point of view.

Wikipedia goes a step further, explaining the word’s origin. That source claims the term originated with, of all things, a comic strip. A 2014 edition of the web comic Wondermark features a character expressing his dislike of sea lions. In that strip, a sea lion then engages him, asking him to explain the dislike.

At one point in the exchange, which you can see here, the sea lion asks, “Would you mind showing me evidence of any negative thing any sea lion has ever done to you?”

If you’ve ever witnessed trolls in action, the tone of the question immediately sounds familiar.

Wikipedia says the noun sea lion was quickly “verbed.” That’s also the first time I’ve seen the noun verb used as a verb!

The trolls are out there.

This type of troll seems to be far less common than the more common variety: those who are disrespectful and rude.

I had a recent one visit my blog and immediately begin spouting off obscenities and racial slurs. My comment policy here has long been very simply summarized: Be respectful.

He wasn’t.

His comment no longer appears.

As bloggers, we get to make that call on our own sites.

As for sealioning, I don’t mind a genuine debate, but too often, there’s no sincerity. This is particularly true on the subject of religion. That’s why I rarely debate that topic.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But bloggers aren’t required to have someone else’s displayed — particularly when they’re presented in a rude way — on their blog.

I prefer seeing sea lions at the zoo.

1 Comment

  1. Use of the noun “verb” as a verb was first ascribed to Alexander Haig, who had a penchant for frequently mangling the language in such a fashion when he was working in the White House. He is not missed, nor his passing lamented, by anyone who served in Europe when he was jumped up two stars and posted to command NATO forces there to get him out of the White House. He didn’t seem to believe the regulations he required the rank and file to follow applied to him as well.

Comments are closed.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.