They come in all shapes, forms, manners of caps lock, and misspelled profanity, but one thing’s certain: no one likes an internet troll.

Internet trolls are the thorn in the side of most people who dare to express an opinion on the internet. Trolls are the people completely disinterested in honest debate, but love to hit and run. They comment on blog posts, news articles, Facebook posts and anywhere else the internet provides a forum for their psychosis to be displayed in all its demented glory.

Here are a few types of common blog trolls:

  • Regular Troll — This guy is openly 180-degrees opposed to the purpose and/or ideological orientation of the blog. Whatever you’re for, he’s against, and vice-versa….
  • False-Flag Troll — This guy pretends to be on your side, but he’s really not. Claiming to be a conservative, he inevitably advances messages that are anti-conservative. His purpose is to sow confusion, discord and demoralization.
  • Concern Troll — A subspecies of false-flag troll. The Obama campaign deployed a swarm of concern trolls in fall 2008. They were recognizable by the 3-point argument that went something like this: (1) I’m a committed conservative/lifelong Republican, but (2) I’m concernedabout [something the Republicans had said or done], and therefore (3) I’m thinking I might vote for Obama on Election Day….
  • Agent Provocateur Troll — Another false-flag subspecies, who aims to elicit unsavory or disreputable comments from other commenters, which can then be quoted to discredit the blog.

Then there are other internet trolls, like those who spend all their waking hours tweeting and emailing people.

Or, sending you an all caps lock laded tweet telling you to “WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!!”, showing up unsolicited to tell you just how wrong you are, in brutal terms but offering no reasons other than “because your dumb [sic]”, and in many cases, all out harassing you just because they have nothing better to do from their mother’s basement, internet trolls are an unfortunate byproduct of technological progress.  But I guess we can thank Al Gore’s invention of the internet for that.

Researchers in Canada decided to explore what types of people make up the majority of the internets trolls.

According to Psychology Today:

Canadian researchers decided to find out. They conducted two internet studies with over 1,200 people. They gave personality tests to each subject along with a survey about their internet commenting behavior. They were looking for evidence that linked trolling with the Dark Tetrad of personality: narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadistic personality. 

“… 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.” [emphasis added]

Trolls truly enjoy making you feel bad. To quote the authors once more (because this is a truly quotable article): “Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!”

Here’s the abstract from the study itself (emphasis added):

Overall, strong positive associations emerged among online commenting frequency, trolling enjoyment, and troll identity, pointing to a common construct underlying the measures. Both studies revealed similar patterns of relations between trolling and the Dark Tetrad of personality: trolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, using both enjoyment ratings and identity scores. Of all personality measures, sadism showed the most robust associations with trolling and, importantly, the relationship was specific to trolling behavior. Enjoyment of other online activities, such as chatting and debating, was unrelated to sadism. Thus cyber-trolling appears to be an Internet manifestation of everyday sadism.

Most likely to troll? Vicarious sadists. Followed by, direct sadists, psychopaths, machiavellians, and narcissists, respectively.

Psychology today has some sage advice when it comes to dealing with internet trolls, “(1) These trolls are some truly messed up people and (2) it is your suffering that brings them pleasure, so the best thing you can do is ignore them.”

Ignore, I shall.

[Featured Image: Kevin Dooley under Creative Commons License)

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