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Internet Trolls – Why do they do it?

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Bullies have always been around, but the global explosion of internet usage has seen a new breed of bully emerge – the internet troll. These abusive users prowl the web using shock-value comments and posts on social media and other websites to create arguments and disharmony among users.

What do they do?

At one end of the spectrum a troll may use gentle and apparently harmless goading to wind-up and taunt supposed friends and acquaintances. At its most extreme, trolling can be downright cruel and malicious. Wherever they sit on the spectrum trolls can cause intense emotional upset to those on the receiving end of their mind games, and it is this end result that they thrive on.

Typical troll behaviour is characterised by:

• Making controversial statements that stimulate angry debates and arguments. Favoured topics include racism, misogyny, and religious intolerance, where they take delight in expressing bigoted and elitist views

• “Flaming” another person – whereby they deliberately target hurtful or abusive comments at an individual

• Initiating threads on forums that are off-topic, in an effort to lead users away from the general focus of the community

• Dominating conversations in a narcissistic manner, seeking to make themselves the centre of attention and bragging excessively about their own accomplishments

online trolls

What drives this abhorrent behaviour?

Like all bullies, trolls have many personality traits that seem to make them immune to the normal etiquette and moral code of behaviours that keep society running smoothly. It is likely that many internet trolls are suffering from some kind of personality disorder that may never be diagnosed or identified. The online environment provides a vast outlet and audience for their commentary, and that can be a thrilling and ego-boosting experience for trolls.

All trolls seem to exhibit some common personality and behavioural traits that go some way to explaining their actions:

• The rules of common courtesy are a mystery to them

• Their insults give them an energetic buzz

• They seem to enjoy it when they incite anger in others

• It is almost impossible to reason with them, logic is not acknowledged by trolls

• Their ego allows them to feel above the general social order

• They have no sense of social responsibility

How to deal with a Troll

Since they generally operate outside of the normal codes of societal behaviour it can be difficult to make traditional approaches to bullying work. No amount of appealing to their “better” nature will work – in most cases they do not have one, and public retaliation will only serve to feed their need to attention. Instead, the way to deal with a troll is to step inside their head, and look at what motivates them. Once you understand this, you can act to counter it. There are three basic ways that you can affect the behaviour of most trolls:

1. For the casual troll who makes only occasional posts simply ignoring them may be enough. They post because they like to stimulate a response, if you do not provide one they are likely to go fishing elsewhere. This is not ideal, but it does show the troll that there are strong individuals out there who will not be drawn into responding to such childish behaviours

2. For more persistent offenders, the first job is to report them to the moderators of the forum or site where they a causing a problem. When moderators receive a sufficient number of complaints they will generally act to block to offender, removing the outlet for their poisonous remarks

3. If the abuse is becoming severe, then actively request that a troll be blocked from a site by locking them out of the system, or banning posts from their IP address. In clever systems a troll can be allowed to continue posting without realising that no post ever goes live, a tactic known as “muting” or “bonzo-ing” the offender

In all three instances the effect is that the troll receives minimal or no response to their comments. This removal of the fuel that gives them their buzz is the only truly effective way to stop them bothering.

 

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One Response to “Internet Trolls – Why do they do it?”

  1. Chris Jonesy Jones

    I have to admit I am nervous about this, my son asks if he can join facebook, but I am not sure what is a good age to allow a child to use socail media. I dont want him to be left out but I would have to monitor him so he is not being trolled or bullied.

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About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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