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Page type: Definition
Category: Fallacies
First appearance: July 2014

Relentless trolling

Sealioning is a form of trolling in which the troll pretends to be naive and asks a lot of honest sounding questions[1], usually incessant requests for evidence and sources on topics that are obvious and don't need to be sourced[2].

The troll's goal when sealioning is to overwhelm a conversation, and to shut down any constructive debate. If a person refuses to engage with a sealioning troll, or gets angry at the troll, it might seem like they are the one in the wrong in the eyes of the audience, as the troll always remains calm, civil, and polite[3].

While sealions sound honest, engaging with them using proper answers backed up with academic data will only make them ask more and more questions, which makes it a waste of time. The best way to deal with them is to publicly call them out as being sealions and stop engaging any further. With enough experience, they become easy to spot, as they only appear in conversations when specific themes are mentioned, and rarely to never take part in any other conversations[4].

Sea lion origin story

The term sealioning comes from the following comic strip, which was published in July 2014 on the webcomic Wondermark by David Malki[5]:


In this comic, the topic of sea lions is mentioned. It causes an actual sea lion to appear, drowning the other characters conversation with relentless questions and calls for civil debate. Anyone who ever engaged an online conversation about men's rights activists will be very familiar with who the sea lion is meant to be.

This comic became a viral hit, and the term sealioning eventually became commonly used slang.

Sources & Links

[1] Sealioning on Wikipedia.

[2] Sealioning on Merriam-Webster.

[3] 'Sealioning' Is A Common Trolling Tactic On Social Media--What Is It? on Forbes.

[4] It’s called sealioning, and we’re still looking it up on Mint.

[5] #1062 The Terrible Sea Lion on Wondermark, where the term sealioning comes from.

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