Personality Disorders & Trolling

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Personality Disorders & Trolling

Up until the last few years, we had no idea what trolling was, who they were or that there in fact was a science to trolling on the internet. In the past year, I have seen the true meaning of trolls and for me they have gone from being a character in a children’s story, to reality. Somehow this trolling behavior has brought like minded people together and they have started to concentrate on trolling under the guise of politics or claiming to be political organizations. There are many media stories which are proving that trolls do in fact exist and they are certainly trying their very best to make others act their very worst. Instead of looking into why they are angry, they simply choose to just be angry. There really is no rhyme or reason to why trolls choose their behavior and path.

I had an opportunity to read an interesting story about this very topic and the paper the information came from spoke volumes about what makes trolls tick and helps to better explain their thought process and personality issues. The paper[1] was written by Erin Buckels, University of Manitoba, and two other colleagues who investigate why people troll and what characteristics they have in common. What the research found was alarming to say the least. It appears that trolls possess the personality traits which can be deemed part of the Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianim which means a willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in suffering in others). In my own experiences with trolls online, I can agree with all their findings. I have always believed that trolls had some personality disorders causing them to think irrationally.

Trolls might argue the findings are incorrect but they have been proven to be true. Scientists have repeatedly found that these dangerous personality traits are found in trolls. The findings became more significant depending upon the amount of time per day that a person is online acting in a trolling behavior. It is hard for trolls to admit that maybe they may be spending too much online and especially if it involves targeting one person or one group of people, for instance due to their race, yet they cannot debate scientific findings no matter how much their inner troll tells them they are right and everyone else is wrong.

According to the study, trolls were identified online in a number of ways. One was simply asking, in a survey, what people enjoyed “doing the most” when they were online and offered five choices:

*Debating issues that are important to you
*Chatting with others
*Making new friends
*Trolling others
*Other

A graph showing results is shown below:

E.E. Buckels et al, "Trolls just want to have fun," Personality

E.E. Buckels et al, “Trolls just want to have fun,” Personality and Individual Differences, 2014.

5.6% of those interviewed chose “trolling” as their choice online. 43.3% people chose “non-commenters” which clearly shows there are more people who do not engage in trolling online than the small minority who enjoy that activity. Judging by the low number of those who admit to trolling, it’s fair to say a large number of trolls choose this behavior online due to some personality issue.

The researchers of the paper, used multiple studies, used sample’s from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and also college students, to help them understand why this trolling behavior attracts this type of personality. Researchers even made their own survey instruments, which they named the “Global Assessment of Internet Trolling” or “GAIT”, including 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.

If you believe those are not actual statements, troll agree to, you need to wake up. Those who admitted to doing the above were found to have a direct correlation to sadism in a number of forms, with psychopathy, and with Machiavellianism. The researchers found that the relationship between sadism and trolling was strong and that sadists like to troll because it makes them happy. “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!”

The report comes as public awareness is increasing in online troll behavior on many main stream sites, like social media and other major media outlets. In fact, if you are online today, have a stand on the tougher issues, like child abuse or RIP trolls, you risk becoming a victim to these trolls with nothing better to do with their time than torment others and spread their poisonous venom. Popular Science magazine removed their comment section last year due to the harsh effects of trolling. YouTube has joined suit in helping to remove troll video’s from their site as well.

Erin Buckels, the paper’s author, doesn’t actually think the fix which they are offering is a realistic one. “Because the behaviors are intrinsically motivating for sadists, comment moderators will likely have a difficult time curbing trolling with punishments (e.g., banning users),” she said by email. “Ultimately, the allure of trolling may be too strong for sadists, who presumably have limited opportunities to express their sadistic interests in a socially-desirable manner.”

So there you have it, trolling really is something which the scientists are studying to see what effect it can and does have on people and also looking for a way to stop it. Identifying the behaviors of trolls and showing the personality traits, does help the lay person to better understand the thinking patterns of a troll. In my opinion, trolls are lonely people with far too much time on their hands and enjoy inciting hatred while doing nothing about what they claim is their “cause”. In the case of so called not for profit political organizations who claim to be about changing something like a country’s constitution yet does nothing to actually do that with the exception of creating chaos against anyone who disagree’s with their stance, it seems like a real waste of time. It’s one thing to claim to have a cause but if you do nothing positive for that cause, then what good have you done? Perhaps asking why someone enjoys trolling more than changing what they set out to do, is the more appropriate question.

Whether people troll others on RIP pages or use not for profit political organizations to hide behind while doing nothing, one thing is for certain, they all need mental health help and guidance. It’s hard to dislike someone who you know has a health issue causing them to act inappropriately right? My hope is that those who enjoy trolling, realize that what they are doing is not healthy or beneficial to their cause. I suspect that the trolls who are buried deep in their troll activities will not be able to see what they do or care about the effect they have on others who may unwittingly cross their paths and become their next targets.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Source:
1. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886914000324

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