Troll Psychology: A discussion on ‘internet bullying’

An interesting suggestion was put forward to me on Yahoo answers the other day by ‘Patricia’ who said that I should write an article about internet bullying and more specifically why the internet bullies; or trolls are compelled to purposely to post inflammatory comments on websites in the first place. Please be warned that this article does contain some strong language, if you are easily offended please do not read any further.

What is a troll?

Before we begin we need to define exactly what a troll is. According to Wikipedia a troll is “In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

The definition in my opinion is spot on but it certainly doesn’t tell us what motivates an internet troll. Not being one myself I can not really tell you with any kind of first person experience. I can offer you the opinions of others though.

Why so aggressive?

In my own opinion I do not think there is any singular reason why people feel like they need to be trying to insult others on the internet but rather a combination of a number of factors. A very nice article about exactly this came from Michael Marshall of the prestigious New Scientist publication back in 2007. You can read the full post here but here are some points that I found interesting:

“Social psychologists have known for decades that, if we reduce our sense of our own identity; a process called deindividuation, we are less likely to stick to social norms. For example, in the 1960s Leon Mann studied a nasty phenomenon called “suicide baiting“, when someone threatening to jump from a high building is encouraged to do so by bystanders. Mann found that people were more likely to do this if they were part of a large crowd, if the jumper was above the 7th floor, and if it was dark. These are all factors that allowed the observers to lose their own individuality.”

“Another obvious factor is that, if you insult someone online, it’s unlikely you’ll face any physical retaliation for it. Epley compares the resulting psychological distance to being isolated inside a car, another situation that seems to make people more prone to abusiveness.”


John Gabriel of Penny Arcade sums up the apparent effects of anonymity on the internet nicely with his 2004 illustration titled “John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory”.

Be glad for anonymity, it’s why you still have teeth.

Anonymity on the internet is what makes the internet so great but dangerous at the same time. The internet brings freedom of speech to everyone without fear of any kind of physical consequence. We can say exactly what we are thinking on the internet without any inhibition at all. It is almost comparable to being drunk. After a few drinks most people tend feel a lot less socially inhibited and socialise freely, after a few more drinks some people may start saying things that they wouldn’t normally in a sober state. This quite often leads to violence or social rejection, something that doesn’t have to be considered when dealing with strangers on the internet.

With freedom of speech and anonymity we are able to escape all of societies rules. We are able to disregard what it is to behave in a socially acceptable manner. So absolutely anonymity is the enabling factor in such behaviour as that of an internet troll.

But the question “Why do it?” still remains. It seems that even the trolls themselves are unable to answer the question:

“I’ve been a professional troll and hater for like 10 years. My favorite is on halo microphone, victims can hear the tone of my hate too. I never knew why I was like this. – Posted by anonymous”

So I went troll hunting to see if I could get an answer to my question. So far I have been unsuccessful in finding one that is willing to talk, or atleast offer any kind of valuable insight.

“Looking for a reformed internet troll!?” read the headline on Yahoo! Answers. Here are the responses I received so far.

“Sense of pride and superiority that everyone is looking/reading your question. – Black British”

“Its funny and the @ssholes on here are only here because of the trolls. We make their pathetic lives more interesting. – Ben-A”

“Sorry don’t know any losers. – ILUV@MAK”

“Ask Sydney @ Level 3 – ?Freefr?…”

So far the responses I have had are pretty mediocre so if you are a self-confessed troll let me know your opinion in the comments below or send me and e-mail via the contact page. has provided a bit of a tongue-in-cheek  article titled “How to become an internet troll“. With such handy advice as:

Contribute nothing of value to the discussion forum. As a good troll, your goal is to abuse the members psychologically and provoke negative reactions out of them. Go big or don’t go in at all. Have fun with it, when someone counter-attacks, get playful with them–nothing pisses off someone in a rage than when you joke around with them.

53 thoughts on “Troll Psychology: A discussion on ‘internet bullying’”

  1. I have recently been called a “Troll” on a (real world) party by a feminist woman. I think it must have been related to her having signs of “borderline personality disorder” and me using techniques from “pickup&seduction” which invokes provoking emotional reactions. I you are interested in this troll issue i encourage you to read about these things because they both go deep into psychology…

  2. Old post but I found this on google and had to put in my 2 cents. Everyone gets annoyed by certain groups of people even if they are harmless. Like jehovas witnesses, have you never thought of the fun that could be derived by messing around with them abit? Or people cold calling your house, even though there just making a living don’t you occasionaly want to shout at them? Trolling is a way to get too a group of people or people in general without a way of them getting you back. Too perfect.

  3. I love psychology. Trolling doesn’t work on me, but it’s an interesting issue because it can bring about a desired response from other people. It can be used in a non-provocative way to make someone do something you want or say something that they’re holding back.

    It’s very complicated to get someone to tell you withheld information. You have to go about it in the complete opposite way that you might think you need to go about it.

  4. Thanks for the comment Brian. What you said makes sense, I never really thought about it that way. You have posted what is possibly the most intelligent comment on this site thus far. LOL.

    Thanks for reading mate.
    – Ben

  5. I came here via google because I encountered a quite angry abusive and relentless troll on a facebook group just today and decided after being a youtube member for 5 years (where all the trolls go to play!) to finally try and figure out what exactly motivates them to be like this. I don’t get offended by trolls and I don’t get co-erced into lashing out at them in retaliation these days I just find it tiresome and irritating – like a mosquito flying about your head.

    I will admit though 7 years ago I used to get into complete fits of anger fighting with trolls but I realised all it did was ruin my internet experience. These days if getting frustrated with an interference to forum discussion from a troll I keep myself calm with the realisation that they can’t possibly be happy people (yes they get kicks off rubbing people up the wrong way on the net) but deep down are they happy. No – they’re spiteful miserable people with either low self esteem/self hate/suffering lack of love or attention etc and that suspicion actually makes me happy. Actually the more they troll the happier I get imagining how sucky their life must be. Makes me sound a bit sick and twisted but it’s an awesome coping mechanism. So these days I’m the one who wins, not the trolls.

  6. Psychology of trolling –
    – need for attention – why – lack of parental or early life attention or love
    – possibly a result of ostracism – here are some notes I made recently from a talk I heard about OSTRACISM

    painful to be ostracised
    Stage 1
    the sufferer initially is overeager to please
    they socially become more sensitive to others
    and have more accurate senses
    If ostracism continues they can turn nasty – possible Stage 2
    – they develop the need to exert influence – even violent – turn angry and aggressive
    – if you lack control over your situation you can become more nasty/aggressive
    So they initially try to be likeable then later become violent

    The cure – Form a few good friendships and build from there

  7. Trolls do what they want to do and say what they say for as many reasons as there are trolls; each and every individual has their own reasons to troll some place, but when you boil it all down, in general it is all for one of four reasons.

    What I believe to be the most common reasons is essentially ‘For the Lulz’; trolls troll simply because its fun for them to troll others. Simple as that.

    Sometimes a troll might be trying to impress someone else with their ‘prowess’ at manipulating people that they do not know. Others do it because they think it would be fun, ‘playing’ the people they troll like a game. Childish curiosity and experimentation become a factor here too – ‘what happens when I do this?’ or ‘what happens hen I say this?’.

    Even if the results of such an action have been established, they crave the confirmation (empirical proof) that such an action would lead to that result – crude scientific methods are used in lieu of actual experimentation.

    The feeling that you’re ignored fuels the need for attention, leading to another possible cause for trolling – they do not want to provoke a emotional response, that’s just a ‘bonus’ – ultimately being a vehicle to get the trolls more attention, the knowledge that they are being watched is in itself a reward for them.

    In short: Entertainment, self gratification, curiosity and attention are the essences of what I believe to be the motivations of a troll to troll.

  8. Amusing but useless. Everyone can identify anti-social behavior when they see it and understand anonymity encourages it. But WHY DO THEY DO IT? Any clue? Any at all?

  9. I’m a very happy person irl but I get on the internet and troll because it’s hilarious. Making a pointless inflammatory comment and witnessing how people take it so seriously is very amusing. It’s just the internet really and half of the people on it are full of garbage, I really don’t know why people get so mad sometimes. It baffles me as to how some people on the internet manage to even walk down the street without bursting into a fit of rage.

    Anyway, the best thing to do when you’re being trolled is to ignore it and not take it too seriously. It’s really not worth your time and the person is obviously doing it because they’re bored.

  10. I believe two things about internet trolling. 1) almost everyone with a computer has done it to a greater or lesser degree 2) Trolling gives people a sense of empowerment. How many people truly have power over their own lives in our extremely hierarchal real world? For example, how many of us have any power to control the use of, or price of, basic commodities such as fuel, food, rent/mortgage? Additionally we are forced to pay exorbitant insurance rates on every thing we own (in the United States). Combine this lack of power over our economic lives with the lack of respect most of receive at work and I am am not surprised at all that trolls abound on the internet.
    Trolling is excellent revenge on any group that has irritated the troll. In fact the group the troll is trolling may have caused no irritation what so ever. I suspect most trolls could care less what a chat group is about, the group is just a convenient victim the troll can vent his spleen on. A successful trolling brings a sense of empowerment and revenge. I suspect most trolls are not aware of (nor would admit if they knew) their real anger is at a society (or a segment of a society) that has otherwise abused, enfeebled or alienated them.
    Trolling is not all bad, it’s a social release valve for the temporary (to a lesser or greater degree) malcontented (albeit some trolls seem to be permanent malcontents) The elites of our world should be thanking God on their knees for the internet. It gives people a pressure valve to vent their frustrations, otherwise, with the economic dislocations since 2008, we’d all be at war with each other.

  11. Hello, my name is Anne Hiro,
    and I am an expert on psychology. I have been studying psychology for roughly 3 months (which is more experience than most people on this site have), but I have taken a short break in recent days, as my best friend died from a Marijuana overdose.
    It is common knowledge that trolls originated from the website known as Ebaumsworld, where the original ancestors of today’s internet trolls were incredibly rich and accomplished white males in their late fourties.
    Malicious they were, but unhappy? They were anything but unhappy. For they had wealth, power, and beautiful wives (we can only assume that they had wild sex every night with their big-breasted wives).
    Once or twice a week, these distinguished gentlemen would gather around the hearth, with their expensive laptops and wireless internet connections, and troll until the wee hours of the morning. It was a noble tradition, one that provided thousands of hours of entertainment for the gentlemen and their sons. The noble art of trolling was passed down through the generations, spreading happiness and “lulz” wherever it ended up. And that, dear reader, is the true history of trolling.

  12. Let’s pull a Phoenix Wright and turn the question on its head.

    Why do people on the internet react the way that they do to trolling?

  13. Every time I read a comments board I’m blown away by the vitriol that’s thrown out there, even on the most sedate website. It seems that internet comments boards have become a forum for the angry, the ignorant and the extreme. While many of us would like to see the internet as a global dialogue, in fact it seens more like a billion little soapboxes that let people scream out at the world without having to hear anyone else. In fact, I wonder if it’s having a bigger effect on the world. Perhaps this culture of trolling and flaming can be linked to the direction politics seems to be taking; both in the US and here in Australia. It seems that in the past few years politics have become more polarized, but various positions have less base in fact and the public seem more happy than ever to just get behind the rhetoric without thinking about what they’re screaming about.
    Or maybe that’s always been the case 🙂

  14. I think trolling is like any other crime that hurt people intentionally and should be punished as such, website providers where such person plant himself, should prohibit or otherwise track these people and report to authorities and their internet providers, to pay for example a big fine to the we site where they did that, to be refused by the internet company to provide internet services to such people and in cases when they effect someone badly, should be taken to court and even get a jail time, it’s time everyone take this seriously, internet been around long enough and it’s time for authoroties and everyone to let these people know what will happen to them if they choose to hurt others for fun or because they are bored, there are kids that take that kind of mental abuse seriously and end their lives, it’s time to stop all and everyone who do such things for fun, just like you would stop anyone who hurt others in real life.IMHO, peace.

  15. People who think its funny to screw with others are sad and pathetic. The “lulz” excuse is just lame. If you are such a jerk that you enjoy making other people angry and feel bad then I just feel pity for you. How sad a life must it be to need to do that. To get your only power while hidden behind a keyboard since you have no power or respect in real life. Sad…

  16. I troll every now and then and will explain why. In real life I am a loser. I have no social life so I attempted to socialize on the internet by joining different groups/forums online. If you move around a lot and are not in school and your job sucks, it’s hard to socialize and actually make friends. The internet seems to be the place to do that. You search your interests and find people you have things in common with. But for some reason I still become the outcast. My threads get 0 replies but 20+ views. I ask a question get one or 2 replies while everyone else posts a thread gets 20+ replies. I feel enough rejection in real life for whatever reason so it hurts 20x as much when it happens on the internet. One example is that I had joined a Coonhound(dog) forum after I got one. People were nice and would “Welcome” me but whenever I asked a legit question or posted pics like others were doing, people skipped right over me. I tend to be an awesome pic taker so there was nothing wrong with the pics itself. But of course when a “regular” posted a pic everyone flocked to respond. It was the same thing over and over again. The best was when I posted a pic of my puppy that outgrew herbed but still tried to stuff herself in it. Not one reply although I do reply nicely to other people’s threads. About 2 months later a “regular” posted a similar pic of her pup being too big for her pillow. Everyone responded!
    I couldn’t take it anymore. I guess I could’ve humiliated myself by making a post and asking why I had so many views and nobody cares enough to respond but I couldn’t do it. I waited a few weeks. Then posted a fake sob story claiming my dog died and how I am a failure as an owner. My dog isn’t dead but they don’t need to know that. Wow, finally did I actually get some replies to my thread. It was amazing. I never replied to any of them and never went back. I felt great. I guess it’s that troll “empowerment” feeling I felt.

    It’s too bad people can’t be nicer online and just welcome and accept eachother as it is. I guess I’m one of the few that do. But the internet is like one big highschool where cliques form even when nobody knows what each other looks like. Now there are other forums I fit in perfectly fine on. It was just some where I had issues and I went into troll mode.

  17. “Why so aggressive?” Lolwut a troll doesn’t give out aggression. Aggression = anger = butthurt, aggression is the state of the victim the one that is trolled. And an angry individual flaming is just a butthurt or an asshole, not a troll.
    A real troll is a vile psychologist. He knows and examines the target to know its weakness in order to make it mad or under any emotional state the troll wants it to be just for the lulz. A real troll will never show emotion, unless he is acting for the sake of deceiving the target.

  18. It’s all about psychological mind control. If you’re a master you would be pleased of how you managed to make the target do uncomfortable things and maybe commit suicide.

  19. TROLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLO “Arabs were 700% smarter than the avrage american and no where not all Muslim”

  20. I know for a fact trolls feel bad about themselves. One lot of trolls are on a site and managed to get hold of my private number and read my texts etc. They set up fake profiles pretending to be from my home town insulting me. At first I was horrified because i believed it. But i have gained insight into these individuals and they have very low self esteem. They pretend to be other people because they don’t like being themselves. They are jealous of the successs and attractiveness of other people. They gave that away through comments they made. I still don’t like trolls but I feel a bit sorry for them too. They don’t have much of a life beyod their computer. Infact the ones I know don’t seem to leave their house! I sometimes argue with them at there really no point they are cowards who are hiding. Just ignore they pathetic and notworth it.

  21. I understand where you guys are coming from, but you don’t have anymore information about a troll than they have about you. It might be easy to write them off as some lonely, self-hating loser in his mom’s basement, but chances are they just piss you off to get their kicks. You’re just talking shit about trolls so you can feel better about yourself. Which is eerily similar to what you accuse them of doing.

  22. @Shogun1x
    Yes but the act of trolling makes them a loser. A human being that gets their kicks of annoying other people isn’t exactly normal, something is wrong upstairs. Not to mention they do it because they know they’re anonymous and would never have the balls to “troll” in real life.

  23. @xvm “Not to mention they do it because they know they’re anonymous and would never have the balls to “troll” in real life.”

    Not true. I do the same thing at work in an office building. I can’t stand the people I work with. All they do is whine and commplain about their kids, husband, health problems, their weight, their lives. It’s sickening.Sure I can ignore them but sometimes I’m just bored out of my mind and start saying all kinds of shit that I know will put them into a fit of rage and put their defenses up just because it’s true. I’m also a Scorpio and speaking my mind is also in my astrological sign. Sometimes I will also get involved in some kind of political debate and defend the less popular answer just to ruffle some feathers.

  24. Just read through every single reply and im astounding nobody has picked up on the political aspect. Hear me out, I’m refering specifically to youtube flamers/trolls. Im big into the truth movement, and watch alot of conspiracy videos. You can gaurantee without fail no matter which video you are watching. You will get some low life ingrate with no IQ, leaving a nonsensicle comment, either completely off topic abuse, or targeting someone else’s comment, or even more worringly, abuse directed at the video content itself. And it begs the question. If you have absolutely no interest in the subject matter, then why the hell did you? :-

    a: Search for such a video in the first place? And,
    b: Bother wasting your time watching it?

    I have a theory. I believe that outside interest, (probably key memebers of the establishment, who are opposed to such political matters), pay such individuals to incite hatred in the comments area of said videos. I’ll go even further to say that this outside interest, probably possess software, or some sort of database. Which searchs for key words in the title of recently uploaded videos, and then inform and brief these trolls as to which videos to target. There can’t be any other reason, and I witness so much flaming on so many different videos, covering a large range of subjects, that I am convinced my theory is correct. It would be interesting to hear other peoples view on my theory.

  25. Why do people troll? why do people do anything? they just do it, it is what makes humans unique, obviously there are many reasons why people troll but its down to the individual person what that reason is, it could be because it makes them happy, there just joking/messing with friends, or they just like to spread hate etc.

    What do you do if your getting trolled? well if a friends just messing with you, just mess with him back, your just having fun after all. If its a random anonymous person hating you and talking garbage, simple solution: block that person and don’t take his nonsense to his heart because his opinion means nothing. Problems solved, no problem ^^.

    Kind regards,


  26. I find your question baffling. Why do we troll? I will get to why it is baffling in a moment.

    I am a troll. To be more specific I am the text type of troll, making fake YouTube and Forum profiles in order to pretend to bloviate under the guise of something I wasn’t. Militant atheist, black liberation theologist, white supremacist, neo-nazi, conservative, liberal, progressive, communist, fundamentalist – you name it and I have probably argued on its behalf just to start a flame war. I replied, felt the thrill of adrenaline run up my spine when I got responses of Caps Locked rage spewed back at me, and played it straight.

    I troll because I can only get angry here on the Internet. I troll because it is the only place I can be heard. I am boring, quiet, gentle in my everyday life. A teddy bear, or so it has been said. I get taken advantage of constantly by everyone and it makes me angry but I am too fearful of repercussions to act. I have bills and family; what if I lost my job? What if I get attacked? The risks in the real world are manifold. I am the same as you and everyone else, in other words. Lost in a sea of six billion people and reminded every day that I am unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

    I live in a world where getting angry, being vengeful, and lashing out at the people who hurt you is frowned upon and punished but on the Internet I am free to act with impunity. I am immune to repercussion, hidden behind proxies and a thousand different screen names and profiles, untouchable by those I insult and harass. Here I am not just some other easy to overlook, fat, homely bystander. On here I am anything I want to be – a cute girl, a successful husband, a police officer, a soldier, a hero, a villain. A god whose actions are burned forever into the digital strata of the various videos and forums whose presence I graced for even a brief time, scorch marks of the many fires I have started forever blackening the countless zeroes and ones that stretch through the digital valleys I have walked through.

    So now you understand why I find the question so baffling, don’t you? You offer an ordinary joe the platform to act over an enormous scale, the tools to do it, the anonymity to say and do what he likes, and then wonder why he lashes out at all the people he had come to hate. You hand a bullied kid a gun and then have discussions and studies that explore why he took it to school and shot all of his bullies and the kids who stood by and let the bullies act over the years. Victims become victimizers, revolutionaries become tyrants, this is a well documented cycle of human behavior.

    A better question is why wouldn’t I troll?

    Truthseeker: I trolled for years and still sometimes do and never got paid or briefed to do that. Don’t get so caught up in seeking the truth that your view of the world distorts in order to do away with all opposing view points to what you lean most towards. It is myopic if you are anti-Nuclear energy, for example, to disregard all pro-Nuclear energy arguments as being put up by the oil companies and corporations rather than recognize that these are other individuals. Human beings are naturally prone to find the simplest solutions to any problem because human beings hate variables. Variables are chaos and chaos is terrifying. Accept that you live in a world of chaos, don’t make a life raft out of fantasy, because it will only be to your detriment when the stormy ocean we are all wading and thrashing about in finally sinks it.

  27. I troll because I live in my mums basement, i fuck her each day to earn my rent, and eat pizzas and chocolate 100x a day, and laugh as i troll everybody on the internet.

  28. Well, I troll because it honestly makes me pretty damn happy. I find it so hilarious to piss people off over the stupidest things. And one thing, if they didn’t react there would be no point in doing it. That’s why most of the time you just ignore the trolls, they get bored, and move on somewhere else.

    It’s just so entertaining to see people react in this way you’d never see in the real world. You have to realize that not only trolls act socially unacceptable at times, but also do the people that get trolled too. At least, that’s why I do it. I get bored and I find it as a good form of entertainment.

  29. I can’t tell if TruthSeeker is trolling or just strange. Seriously.

    On the subject of trolling, I do it occasionally as my name suggests. Most of the time I take an opposing viewpoint and make it sound so ridiculously stupid that no one could possibly believe it. I call it the “Colbert” version of trolling. That’s my favorite. Or sometimes I just call people out as being idiots and start the fire. (That’s not exactly trolling, but reacting to potential trolls).

    Unfortunately, because so many people troll, I have no way to tell if they actually are ridiculous or stupid or just trolling. It’s rather frustrating. So usually, if someone bothers me enough, I use the escapist route and assume they are a troll. I mean, could anyone really be that stupid/ignorant? Hopefully not. Escapism makes living in this world a little easier.

  30. Today i became a troll and here’s why. I troll from a psychological perspective, because i’m fascinated by how easily people can lose their shit over trivial comments. For years i tried to reason with them, and soon realised you can’t reason with people when they’re being irrational.

    Now i’m trying a different approach, i will inflame topics getting a rise out of imbeciles who are too stupid to realise they’re being played.

    ***When you’re easily offended, you can be easily manipulated***

    I’m hoping by doing this often enough, people will learn to harden the fuck up and be better for it in the long run.

    Some of you fucktards might even thank me for it one day, and when you do –

    1AqQ1P661o7gfcqoKCvVyz3rPyasgFEL3b for research 😉

  31. Who are you to think it’s your responsibility to condition other people to “harden the fuck up”? There are reasons that people react the way they do and become irrational to certain comments. As a psychologist, I work with people on many different levels, from many different walks of life. Usually all conflict is a result of a childhood experience that a person has not yet delt with.

    Your method does nothing but continue to hurt others who are already in pain. The way I see it if you didn’t also have some inferiority complex yourself which is why by the way you thought to take this so called approach, you wouldn’t take it upon yourself to manipulate others. Think about it next time you decide to take it upon yourself to help people “harden the fuck up”.

  32. “Well, I troll because it honestly makes me pretty damn happy. I find it so hilarious to piss people off over the stupidest things. And one thing, if they didn’t react there would be no point in doing it. That’s why most of the time you just ignore the trolls, they get bored, and move on somewhere else.

    It’s just so entertaining to see people react in this way you’d never see in the real world. You have to realize that not only trolls act socially unacceptable at times, but also do the people that get trolled too. At least, that’s why I do it. I get bored and I find it as a good form of entertainment.”

    You ought to find some other way to contain your boredom. Feeding off of other people’s pain is straight up bullying. There are many other ways to entertain yourself. Couseling would be one.

    This is not boredom by the way, this is a way for you to feel more superior to a world that you believe makes you feel inferior. Trolling makes you feel like you have the upper hand and are bigger and better than others. Try taking a look in the mirror and you will see that it’s not the world outside of you that makes you feel that way but the world within you. Then you’ll actually be doing something good for the human race and more importantly for yourself.

  33. I finnd it absurd that everyone seems to have emotional investments in an anonymous discussion forum. Or even worse they pretend to have real relationships with these people. These are the ones that cause all problems that I have seen. They have mental issues. They deserved to be trolled and ridiculed. It’s cyberspace, it’s not reality. You go to a discussion forum to have sterile, clinical discussion. Not to make some sort of digital identity to connect with other unkown, totally false, digital identities. Those who are moved by a troll, or accused troll are the ones who need to get a grip the most. And likely actually need serious therpay.

    garrett, you are obviously not a psychologist. Andrew, you are brilliant.

  34. Seems to me trolls are just angry 14 year olds who are trying to get revenge on their school bullies by promoting hate and racism on the internet. Whatever the cause, I’m more concerned with the outcome. The problem I have is that it’s one more chisel picking apart societal advancement and negates the benefits of openly spreading ideas and knowledge.

    There are people who thanks to internet stupidity believe ridiculous conspiracy theories and by extension become more susceptible to manipulation and propaganda. There are people who believe everything is a conspiracy theory since there are so many people supporting them which makes people become closed minded since everyone else is a fool and you know better than everyone. Religious are more willing to believe atheists or other religions are vile because they say vile things. Atheists are more likely to believe the religious are valueless morons because they give arguments designed to be backwards. I’ve even witnessed kids giving blatantly suicidal advice on not just how to produce explosives. No this was advise on how to create a composition with an extra uncalled for ingredient that will make it spontaneously self detonate during production or at any random time and possibly get somebody killed. Any amateur chemist could see this a mile away and it wouldn’t have been found in any “mix A with B to get Anarchy” book, this was pure malice. Kids intentionally trying to kill other kids using freedom of speech as the weapon.

    Fooling the black on white text into getting angry may be fun but at the end of the day, some black on white text ends up being the opinion of a real person who has real voting rights and may have real psychological disorders that can do real physical or ideological harm in the real world. Maybe they really would have helped people but really don’t care about people any more because they see how petty and worthless “people”(who are actually trolls) really are.

    “Web 1.0” wasn’t perfect but having information coming from companies and individuals willing to invest time and money into registering a domain and writing HTML vs “web 2.0″s anonymous sources, just seemed to work better albeit more boring and the dialup connection always failed 98% into every 6 hour download of some postage stamp resolution realplayer clip of a music video. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Freedom of speech on the internet really serves little purpose with the exception of Wikipedia and other well regulated user submitted information. As anti-[whatever you’ve been conditioned to support] this may sound, in some places and times freedoms should be regulated and outright stifled for the good of society as a whole and because people just can’t handle that much freedom. Sometimes you have so much freedom that you don’t have any freedom, drowning in an ocean of life giving water.

    In America we the criminals have so much freedom that we the people aren’t free to let our children play outside. We’re so free that we have bars on the windows of our homes to remind us how free we really are. You can’t say you don’t see how free freedom really is. Now think about Somalia. That’s the real world when you have as much freedom as you do here. You can just pick up a rifle and be the boss, nobody can say or do anything until your short life is ended by the next guy who picks up a rifle. There’s no government to pay taxes to and no law to follow, therefore there is nobody protecting their economic interests and no reason to actually work. North Korea is the opposite extreme where there are so few rights that everybody is guilty of a crime and living in fear anyway. Humans just aren’t made to be completely free or completely oppressed, there has to be an impure middle ground.

    To some, this very post will be a trolling because trolls often say things [your name here] disagrees with and it will be disregarded because we the trolls discredit we the concerned.

    Well that got me thinking and thinking is always fun, maybe it’ll get somebody thinking about society instead of American Idle or some kick the ball game.

    P.S. The zealous advocates of anonymity and freedom, create the ones who if given the chance would swiftly remove said freedoms in exchange for progress. The zealous advocates of said controlled progress, could always become the enablers of some form of veiled tyranny yet again.

  35. I’m wondering if there is such a thing as an “organization troll”; sort of a PR-tool, someone hired to monitor boards and to prevent discussions from getting anywhere, or to control the forum, shutting it off if necessary by essentially spamming, or by running off sincere posters. I’ve seen some pretty creepy stuff. Is this a kind of behavior of a “shill”?

  36. I am somewhat disheartened that many conflate satire and socratic questioning with trolling.

    Sometimes I adopt an exaggerated persona representing the mindset of those I’m attempting to satirise, but unfortunately it is almost always lost on those reading it.

    Once I saw a guy persistently question someone on why they believed paedophilia to be wrong. As a spectator, I realised that my own view that it was wrong was simply formed by societal consensus, rather than ethical reasoning. Now I know why it’s wrong, having gone through the steps of examining the issues at play and processing them into a cogent argument.

    Trolling, although exasperating, can provide significant value, in my opinion. What of Jonathon Swift? If he were not so eloquent, were an internet comment his medium, he would be derided as merely a troll.

  37. I remember myself enjoying trolling in chat rooms. One of the commenters has said that trolls”pretend to be other people because they don’t like being themselves”. I think this is a very wise observation, even though I don’t know if it applies to all kinds of trolls. When I had fun trolling in chat rooms I would pretend to be one of those already in the chat room (by assuming a similarly looking user name) and then communicate with other people in the chatroom as if I was that person. It was fun and even though I knew it was a wrong thing to do, the temptation to manipulate other people’s feelings and to get away with it was too great. I feel sorry for this and I’m sure most trolls do, as long as they are not absolute misanthrops. I also think this definitely has to do with lack of attention, including lack of parental attention in eraly childhood. This is a kind of revenge you take on people in general for not feeling happy and accepted as a normal person. So yes, many trolls feel they are social outcasts or at least not feel they are not fully accepted, that they are in a certain way different. I also think trolls somehow alienate themselves from other people’s feelings and that encourages them to troll. Otherwise they would be more sensitive to the consequences of their trolling behaviour and would not do this in the first place. This devaluation of other people’s feelings is the real reason why trolls can abuse other people for the “lulz”. It’s sadistic in a way. And the only cure for them is to break the wall between them and “the rest” of the people and to develop (or uncover) a true feeling of sympathy.

  38. dee
    “I finnd it absurd that everyone seems to have emotional investments in an anonymous discussion forum. Or even worse they pretend to have real relationships with these people.”

    That’s what I’m talking about. Devaluating other people’s feelings makes a troll feel it’s ok to “inflame topics” as Andrew put it.

    “This is not boredom by the way, this is a way for you to feel more superior to a world that you believe makes you feel inferior. Trolling makes you feel like you have the upper hand and are bigger and better than others. Try taking a look in the mirror and you will see that it’s not the world outside of you that makes you feel that way but the world within you. Then you’ll actually be doing something good for the human race and more importantly for yourself.”

    A very good point! I would assume that trolling is a way of solving this issue (of the world making you feel inferior) in which one chooses to devaluate other people’s dignity and worth and lash out at them instead of bridging the gap and “reconciling” with the world by building vital relationships (such as friendships) in the real world. Every instance of troolling is a drug injection which makes you more addicted. But it’s “easy”, entertaining and makes you feel better for a while. Building friendships in the real world is difficult and can be painful at times. And more importantly it requires you to challenge yourself and take on responsibility.

  39. Garrett you are an idiot who just got trolled… This forum is an excellent example of how to troll. I think some do it unintentionally. “Former troll” you were not a troll, what you were doing was beyond that into some wack mental head case. Trolling is generally what I’m doing now…. Telling people the truth( as I see it) to ppl who need to hear it. Trolling is a blanket term that really needs more subdivisions… I have little Internet tact and know it but don’t care…it’s the Internet after all. Ppl do it to the extent they feel unhappy with themselves or situations …I’d they have the sort of personality type I think.

  40. The way I see it, it’s pretty simple. Those that are unable to gain attention with intelligent, helpful, or even witty banter turn to the lowest common denominator to gain that attention. In reading some of the responses here, that becomes very apparent. Pretty simple. However I do sympathize with Part Time Trolls post and think it was the most insightful look into the exception to the rule.

  41. In rereading my post I realized I left out the word ability. Thus “Those that lack the ability to gain attention with…” states my intent more clearly.

  42. Why do people do it? Depends on the person. For a segment of folks though, it’s a mixture of boredom, disbelief at the kind of persona people will create for themselves online, and an interest in a kinda evil amateur applied psychology.

    We live in an age where tons of people don’t think about the information they’re presenting to the entire world via the web. What happens are that aspects of their true personality comes out in the kind of things/way they express online, even while they attempt to create an alternate persona. There are a LOT of presumptuous personas out there that like to pretend that the internet is their own private party, when in reality you’re just showing a large segment of the population who could care less about you that you’re projecting something–and a select few are just curious or bored enough to strip away some of the artifice to figure out exactly why you’re doing that. It’s twofold: first, it’s a reminder to watch yourself online. The information you put out can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and can reveal things about yourself that people can use to take advantage of you, either for lulz or for more serious things like identity theft or stalking. Next, it’s a reminder not to take yourself so damn seriously, particularly when you’re not being true to yourself in the first place. My story follows:

    I was a bored young man of 19 years who had just moved to Halifax; no friends, a crap job, just filling the time trying to figure out what to do with myself. One night, I’m cruising around the Facebook groups based in Halifax and I come across a hookup (strictly sex-based) group. Wondering who would be desperate enough to use a hookup service that links your name, life, and other revealing details to the world at large, I started clicking around. I discovered that most people were “doing it right”: they had updated privacy settings so that people couldn’t link to their profile without a friend request, they used alternate accounts specifically for that use, didn’t allow their pictures to be shown or used replacements, etc. etc. All very good stuff. Except for one.

    This one girl had not updated her privacy settings; her account details were in full view of anyone who cared to check, picture, work/school details, and a very revealing attempt at self-projection which tried to cast her as “misunderstood intellectual with a dark past, and interests well beyond the mainstream which make me special, including stuff I don’t wanna talk about.” I saw this, and shook my head: what bullshit. Obviously, this was a self-aggrandizing construction, one that basically screamed: “LOOK AT ME, I’M SPECIAL AND INTERESTING.” I wondered: based off of the personality traits that I read in this text, can I write something that will get this person to reveal more stuff about herself that she may not want to reveal? Will she respond in a way that illustrates how her defense mechanisms work at a deeper level? Will the only one in this group who projects themself as intelligent do the intelligent thing and block me and change her settings so that this never happens again? So I wrote. It was a message specifically designed to arise a mixture of ire and confusion: deliberately presumptuous, haughty statements regarding the oddness of an ok-looking young polyamorous girl turning to a group of rather dim-seeming folk to try and get laid. I sent, and I waited. Sure enough, I got a reply: she revealed that she had a self-esteem problem, that she was in her final years at university taking psychology, all coached in language that illustrated her defense mechanisms (stereotyping, use of diminutives (when you are feeling small, you try make others feel small), appeals to authority (“Targeting someone older than you with a degree in psychology won’t garner much” – oh, how wrong you are). This is all information that, had I been truly malicious, I could’ve used to destroy her life: I knew where she went to school, what department she was in, what she likes to project, how she responds to perceived threats–all freely given with a few words designed to poke the right spots. With this knowledge, if I had wanted to, I could have approached her after a shave and had a clue upon first meeting how to manipulate her to revealing even more information. What I found the most interesting was that when I went to end the conversation, she had to have the last word, revealing even MORE information about herself. Luckily for her, I did it for the lulz and to illustrate a point: if you don’t want people to mess with you, don’t freely give them the ammunition. I was blocked a week or two after the exchange; hopefully, this was as much a function of her recognizing “Hey, maybe my private information shouldn’t be available to any dickwad with a keyboard” as it was dismissing one particular dickwad.

    So basically, I did it because I was bored and saw self-deception projected to the whole world without being punished. I wanted to know just how much that information could be used to get even more, just by manipulating characters on the page. Now I know, and the implications are terrifying. To everyone out there hating on trolls, just remember: if you’re lying to the world about yourself, people will come by to knock you down a peg, whether it’s in real life or over the web; people can see through it. It becomes even more dangerous on the web, because phrases can be manipulated to hide intention and invoke certain responses that put your personal information in danger, without your being able to rely on other communicative factors to detect intention. To sum it up: Don’t feed trolls, protect your information, and don’t project false personas online. Failure to do this will lead emotional distress and revealing your triggers and defense mechanisms to a stranger (hey, you react the way you do because anonymity is a two-way street, but where a troll manipulates, an incensed target often becomes more candid – to an aggressive stranger, this can potentially put you into serious peril).

    Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

  43. In regard to One Time Troll’s treatise on trolling:

    Pity he didn’t consider what his own post might reveal. I think it’s a prime example of how many (most even?) trolls have sociopathic tendencies. His is a long look at the topic from someone who, in arrogance and a sort of social disconnect/detachment, sees the world as his laboratory and “misguided” (or intellectually or commonsensically inferior) people as his playthings upon whom to conduct social-psychological experiments. After all, One Time Troll might have just contacted the young woman and warned her about revealing too much information or making herself too vulnerable. Used his intelligence for altruistic purposes. Instead, he chose to toy with someone he already guessed was vulnerable from her presentation– whatever rationalizing excuses he gives for doing so. It was creepy, on the one hand, to read this account in all its grandiosity, cold judgement, and absence of conscience, but on the other it does offer good insights on the thought processes and anti-social impulses behind trolling (and sociopaths, for that matter). So cheers for that, I suppose. Maybe not the effect he intended, but useful nonetheless.

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