Trolls have moved out from under the bridge and into your computer.
Not those kinds of trolls, exactly. Although, I suppose that, under the skin, they pretty much are the same.
Mythological trolls are horrible, vicious, psychotic narcissists which delight in harassing travelers who have the temerity to actually walk along on public paths leading over a bridge. Internet trolls are pretty much like that, except replace bridge with comment section and walk along public paths with exist.
An internet troll is someone who delights in the anonymity of the internet to tease, harass, humiliate, argue with, denigrate, abuse, make fun of anyone at all they happen to run across. An internet troll is someone who would go on a message board for survivors of sexual abuse and start talking about rape fantasies, or post pictures of bondage erotica where participants look unwilling.
They are, in short, asshats of the first order.
And, it turns out, my off-hand description of an internet troll actually has some basis in fact.
The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).
It is hard to underplay the results: The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior. What’s more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that an individual spent, per day, commenting on the Internet.
So, yes, it seems that internet trolls are willing to manipulate and deceive others, believe it is their right to harass anyone they choose, lack remorse and empathy and are sadists who take pleasure in the suffering of others.
Yeah. That sounds about right. Fortunately, we haven’t been witness to many of these types around here. I mean, I did get a piece of hate mail that cast aspersions on my ancestry and physical composition, but I saw that more, well, just a jerk.
The thing about trolls is they like to stick around and see the results of their vicious behavior. The sadder thing is that these trolls actually glory in calling themselves trolls, they proclaim it and, it was this very sense of self-satisfaction that led the researchers to many of those they polled to create the study.
The researchers even constructed their own survey instrument, which they dubbed the Global Assessment of Internet Trolling, or GAIT, containing the following items:
I have sent people to shock websites for the lulz.
I like to troll people in forums or the comments section of websites.
I enjoy griefing other players in multiplayer games.
The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt.
Yes, some people actually say they agree with such statements. And again, doing so was correlated with sadism in its various forms, with psychopathy, and with Machiavellianism. Overall, the authors found that the relationship between sadism and trolling was the strongest, and that indeed, sadists appear to troll because they find it pleasurable. “Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others,” they wrote. “Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!”
Horrifying, but true. The only sure remedy to this sort of behavior is to make sure you “Don’t feed the trolls.” That is, don’t react to their miserable behavior. If you don’t react, they don’t get the response they need to feel good about themselves.
It’s sad, really, that these people can’t find something constructive to do with all their energy.
This kind of behavior is why it’s so important that we parents work hard to establish and encourage empathy and compassion in our little dudes and dudettes. Greed and selfishness comes easy. We’ve got to work to understand and support the other.
What do you say? Let’s stomp out the trolls.
Share on Facebook