Nobody likes internet trolls. They pop up in discussions they
weren’t invited to and upset as many people as possible.
Time and time again we are told the best thing to do is ignore
the inflammatory, abusive things they put on forums, comment
threads, and even social media posts.
However, this is easier said than done, and thankfully there is a
block function on most online communities.
Trolls lie, exaggerate, and will say pretty much anything to get
a response, but what makes them this way? And why do they insult
others from behind a computer screen?
According to a study from last year, published in the
journal Personality and Individual Differences, people with
the highest scores of Dark Tetrad personality traits were more
likely to say trolling was their favorite internet activity.
The researchers asked over 1,200 people to take part in
personality tests to determine their levels of Dark Tetrad
traits, which are narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and
sadism, then asked them to fill out a survey about their internet
“The associations between sadism and GAIT (Global Assessment of
Internet Trolling) scores were so strong that it might be said
that online trolls are prototypical everyday sadists,” the
authors of the paper wrote. “Both trolls and sadists feel
sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to
have fun … and the internet is their playground.”
According to therapist and psychologist
Perpetua Neo, this isn’t surprising. In their everyday lives,
a psychopath or narcissist is unlikely to get “caught out” by
their friends and family, and trolling people anonymously gives
them a release for their less favourable qualities.
“These people they are living double lives or triple lives. You
might just find this narcissist actually has three families —
it’s not uncommon to hear stories like that,” Neo told Business
Insider. “Trolling is a very simple, low-cost kind of way — by
cost I mean your time, energy and effort — to boost your sense of
In real life you can’t upset multiple people at once without a
great deal of effort. Online, trolls can be offending people
left, right and centre, in a very short space of time.
“It’s like a cat and mouse game,” Neo said. “Their brains are
probably firing off, because that’s what trolling is about — it’s
about power over someone else, and this dominance thing, to bring
someone to a lower level. Especially if you enjoy the suffering.”