Sunday, June 22, 2014
The Internet troll is defined as a person who has serious problems socially interfacing with others and often uses the Internet as an outlet for their childish behavior.
Generally they make normal people feel uncomfortable by their presence. They are typically cowards who use the anonymous nature of the Internet to attack society.
Why do some people find so much pleasure in harassing others online? A new study attempts to shed light on the behaviour of internet trolls. A new study provides insight into why some people write nasty comments online.
A “troll”, in internet slang, is someone who deliberately upsets others by starting arguments or posting unnecessarily inflammatory messages on blogs, chatrooms, or forums. In recent years, it’s gotten so bad that YouTube needed to develop a way for users to moderate their video’s comments section, and Popular Science shut down its comments section entirely. Indeed, for trolls, the anonymity of the internet is the perfect playground.
But a new study by Erin Buckels and colleagues at University of Manitoba in Canada wanted to figure out who, exactly, these trolls are. Using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk website, internet users (mostly male, with an average age of 29 years) answered survey questions designed to assess what’s called the “Dark Tetrad of personality”. This tetrad includes narcissism (egocentrism and preoccupation with prestige), Machiavellianism (tendency to deceive and manipulate), psychopathy (lack of empathy and inhibition), and sadism (pleasure of inflicting pain or humiliation on others).
Buckels and colleagues asked about the participants’ internet behavior, including how frequently they comment on blogs and forums. They also gauged how the subjects commented, asking whether they preferred debating, chatting, making friends, or trolling. Of the 418 participants, 59% said that they actively comment on websites. Among those, nearly a tenth admitted that their favorite activity was trolling other users.
Scores on the Dark Tetrad personality test revealed that trolls are, by far, more likely to have narcissistic, Machiavellian, psychopathic, and sadistic personality traits. Okay, so that’s not so surprising. But Buckels and colleagues wanted to take it a step further: how much enjoyment are these trolls getting from their online shenanigans? The researchers constructed their own Global Assessment of Internet Trolling (GAIT), which asked such questions as “I have sent people to shock websites for the lulz” and “The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt.” (Sadly, some people indeed answered these questions with a “yes”).
Trolling enjoyment was very strongly associated with a sadistic personality, and was also correlated with Machiavellianism and psychopathy. In fact, further statistical analysis revealed that most of the Dark Tetrad correlations with internet trolling were because of overlap with sadism.
So basically, the study shows that people write nasty comments because they enjoy harming others. The study may have some interesting implications. Since a sadistic person is characterized by being vicious and degrading toward others (sometimes physically), it’s possible that the internet allows them to redirect their energy. On the extreme end, and unsurprisingly, sadism is commonly seen in sexual offenders and serial killers.
So the next time you find yourself reeling over a particularly hateful comment on your favorite website, take some comfort in knowing that you’re just another anonymous pawn in the internet troll’s game. They’ve got some serious personal issues going on that they might not even realise. Or it’s just another 12-year-old trying to ruin your online experience.
Trolls can be costly in several ways. A troll can disrupt the discussion on a newsgroup, disseminate bad advice, and damage the feeling of trust in the newsgroup community. Furthermore, in a group that has become sensitized to trolling – where the rate of deception is high – many honestly naïve questions may be quickly rejected as trollings. This can be quite off-putting to the new user who upon venturing a first posting is immediately bombarded with angry accusations. Even if the accusation is unfounded, being branded a troll is quite damaging to one's online reputation.
The 2013 study suggested that there are a number of similarities between anti-social and flame trolling activities and the 2014 study suggested that the noxious personality characteristics known as the dark triad of personality should be investigated in the analysis of trolling, and concluded that trolling appears "to be an Internet manifestation of everyday sadism. Their relevance is suggested by research linking these traits to bullying in both adolescents and adults. The 2014 study found that trolls operate as agents of chaos on the Internet, exploiting hot-button issues to make users appear overly emotional or foolish in some manner. If an unfortunate person falls into their trap, trolling intensiﬁes for further, merciless amusement. This is why novice Internet users are routinely admonished, "Do not feed the trolls!" The 2013 study found that trolls often have a high expectation of what it means to be successful, which is higher than they are able to attain, and this results in them resenting others who think they are successful but who fall below their standards. "Haters gonna hate" sums up this line of thinking.
Narcissists, psychopaths, sadists or Machiavellian? When it comes to online trolls, you can take your pick: Researchers say habitual electronic provocateurs have several of these serious personality issues.
One of the biggest studies yet into such behavior has found that Internet “trolls” — those who post deliberately provocative messages to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument — may need some intense therapy.
So there you have it—trolls have serious mental problems.