Trolls Will Probably Troll Whether Online or Offline

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Trolls Will Probably Troll Whether Online or Offline

A new study has found connections between trolling and Dark Tetrad personality traits, suggesting that online bullies are sadists in the real world as well.

Trolling and online bullying is a big problem for online communities, with no real consensus on how to fix it. Part of the issue is figuring out what exactly makes someone start trolling. The most common belief is that trolls are tied to online environments, where anonymity and a lack of social conventions frees people to behave in abhorrent ways. New studies, however, are suggesting a different theory: Trolls are sadists and psychopaths who just would keep on trolling if the internet was unexpectedly switched off tomorrow.

A new paper awaiting publication by Erin E. Buckels of the University of Manitoba conducted personality assessments of 418 visitors to Amazon's Mechanical Turk website. From the results, Buckels and her partners found a correlation between trolling behaviors and the Dark Tetrad of personality. For those unfamiliar, the Dark Tetrad isn't a secret society of supervillains; it's a measure for the sadistic, psychopathic, and Machiavellian tendencies found with socially adverse individuals.

Here's where things get interesting: Not only did trolls make up a fairly small percentage of the participants, enjoyment of online activities bore no relation to sadistic tendencies. In other words, the internet may not create trolls after all, because trolls would be sadists in online and physical worlds. If that's true, then cyber-bulling is just an online manifestation of everyday dickishness, and couldn't be cured by removing anonymity from the internet. It would just take a new form, or be redirected back into the real world, leaving the non-troll majority to find another way of handling it.

Source: Academic.edu, via The Guardian

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I have a question: Could we use similar means to finally get people off our backs about the violent video games? That is, could the proof of the pudding that is trollism in a person be used to point out that the violent people who ever played a game were violent themselve, thus ending such conundrums for all time? It would be nice.

FalloutJack:
I have a question: Could we use similar means to finally get people off our backs about the violent video games? That is, could the proof of the pudding that is trollism in a person be used to point out that the violent people who ever played a game were violent themselve, thus ending such conundrums for all time? It would be nice.

You'll never end those conundrums because the prople perpetuating them are so set in their ways that no evidence short of an ammendment to the Bible by God would change their mind.

OT: I enjoy a light troll occasionally and as far as I know I am not any kind of sadist or sociopath. But I can see how that may be the case with people who don't know when to stop.

Captcha: "hard cheese". We put our faith in Blast.

That's the only troll I've ever seen with two noses. It's also the only purple one.

People will likely band together in groups to get their kicks. This makes them easier to identify, though.

That is the troll from Ernest Scared Stupid. Great movie when I was tiny. Best in the series, in my opinion. It helps that Halloween is my all time favorite non-holiday, holiday.

OT: I don't think anyone thought the internet "made" trolls. It's a well known place where you can get away with "Trolling" and bullying with zero repercussions. Which is not the case in real life. Of course the people who do it are messed up in the head, not fine and then they are transformed by broadband into a monster.

Also, I hate that term... "trolling". It's way way way too general of a term. I have been accused of trolling myself, simply because I disagree with someone. But this article and apparently this study treats trolling and bullying as the same thing.

I'm failing to see how trolling would even work in real life. They would just be called "pranks" or amount to harassment/assault with no way to hide.

Trolling is when someone attempts to provoke an emotional reaction from someone using merely words/images online...that's why it took off, because it's an easy thing to do for a big "reward".
It would never work in real life because 1) it's not the internet and 2) It would be impossible to troll people outside someone you can physically reach.

It's like people didn't even think things through lol, but I guess that's usually the case with knee-jerk reactions to them pesky modern internet gaming kids.

Further evidence to that report being bullshit is that I've trolled people (lightly) in games and forums, and my friends tell me that I'm not usually a sadistic psycho.

To quote a wise man:

image

So what you're saying is, enjoying other people's frustration may be sadistic?

Wow, top-tier research right here.

Let's face it, deep inside we're all a little sadistic.

EDIT:

webkilla:
I did my master thesis on Internet Cultures - Anonymous, Furries and Bronies...

Credit where credit is due, this is a really interesting post and I'd be really interested in reading the full thesis if you get the chance..

MeChaNiZ3D:

FalloutJack:
I have a question: Could we use similar means to finally get people off our backs about the violent video games? That is, could the proof of the pudding that is trollism in a person be used to point out that the violent people who ever played a game were violent themselve, thus ending such conundrums for all time? It would be nice.

You'll never end those conundrums because the prople perpetuating them are so set in their ways that no evidence short of an ammendment to the Bible by God would change their mind.

OT: I enjoy a light troll occasionally and as far as I know I am not any kind of sadist or sociopath. But I can see how that may be the case with people who don't know when to stop.

Captcha: "hard cheese". We put our faith in Blast.

All the captchas should be like that.

OT: Ah, so in short (Hah hah hah), they're the damn trolls, which is why it keeps up. Should've figured it. Trolls are, buy and large, not very bright...and neither are the people who link gaming with violence in those studies.

Yuuki:
To quote a wise man:

More like "To quote a sadist under the delusion that he's a normal person", lol. Don't get me wrong, I love Penny Arcade, but I think I love it precisely because it's a bit... Offensive, sometimes.

While I agree with the paper's suggestion that trolls are manifesting the dark tetrad of personality traits, there is something singular about the internet that brings out such personality traits. "Virtual sociopathy" is a real phenomenon caused by the lack of empathic clues we normally get in face-to-face interaction.

Yuuki:
To quote a wise man:

It probably would have been nicer to post an image without the name photoshopped out and the copyright marks removed, even if the topic at hand is not infact Unreal Tournament.

I'm curious as to how (and to some degree why) this is being reported on if the paper hasn't been published and peer reviewed yet. This is the first I've heard of academia.edu so maybe they do peer review stuff, in which case proceed! It's certainly interesting if it is true although I get the feeling that the anonymity and scope of the internet is more of a magnifier for sadistic tendencies, so some people who troll on the internet probably aren't psychopaths AFK they just play it up a bit online. But I'm no headologist.

Also Dark Tetrad sounds like the villain from a Tetris RPG.

Speaking as a sadistic troll, I can confirm that the so-called 'GIFT' has some truth to it. A seemingly-normal person might have deep sadistic tendencies, but might also find it difficult to express them in real life because that's frowned upon in society, and having someone yell at you for realsies is stressful. Being on the Internet removes the societal constraint, since there isn't another person physically there. Of course that's also why you get perfectly normal people acting like asshats, since nobody is around to actually ostracize them for their unchecked behavior.

It also might not be worth my time to be cruel to someone in real life. I got things to do. I spend my free time on the Internet, though, and so I can recreationally annoy people from the comfort of home.

I did my master thesis on Internet Cultures - Anonymous, Furries and Bronies.

Especially with Anonymous, I found studies that showed that when in an online community where identity is never established via convential means (profiles, usernames) you establish identity through behavior.

Thus, when on 4chan they write that newbs can't triforce - this is almost meant a rite of passage: "You won't fit in here, until you've figured this riddle out... and we're not telling"

Similarly, 4chan - using /b/ as its bulwark, because that is the most well known 4chan board outside of 4chan - shields itself from outsiders by having a wall of profanity and gross adult content up at all times. Gore, porn, worse - its another trial to keep the weak and the uninitiated out.

Sure, to normal people such behavior looks horribly trollish

And indeed, another thing I found was that again - since the norm of how to identify yourself was not through visual or other adorned paraphernalia (usernames, arm-bands, uniforms, whatnot) then you had to do the deeds to prove that you were part of the collective. Thus online raids became a way to mark turf and demonstrate community hiarchy. Don't mess with us, or we'll flood your forum with epilepsy inducing GIFs, or gore, or worse... plus, being insular and having common foes is a great way to unite a community as well.

...and again, to normal people IRL that kind of behavior appears quite abhorent.

But the thing is: I found research - which correlated with my own hypothesis - that anonymous online communities, since they didn't function like RL off-line communities, function via different social paradigms. Thus, what is right IRL doesn't necesarily translate to the on-line world.

Curiously enough this helps explain a lot of things beside Anonymous. It explains why furries, bronies and quite a lot of other fandoms establish their own online customs, idioms and what have you. Especially with furries, where unlike bronies there is no true core definition of the concept due to the lack of being inspired by any one specific RL artifact, then this helps explain why furries can appear to endulge is such weird fantasies...

Because the answer is: Online, they can. Online they can pretend to 200 foot wolf-men who stomp through cities, godzilla style, then lick their paws clean afterwards... or all the other weird things they can indulge in.

However, another key thing I noted in my research: I found no examples of people who couldn't tell the difference between online and RL social paradigms. People, by and large, seem to know when to switch from "this is ok online" to "This is not OK IRL".

The only people I can imagine who might fail to do so - as OP's article seems to point at - would be those with various issues. This could be mental issues that generally interfere with their perfection of reality, it could be... well... sadists - but then I question the article, in the sense that it seems to indicate that ALL online trolls are sadists.

The thing to keep in mind is how the underlying issue on online trolls is approached. Do you approach it thinking "Normal people do not behave like this - what's wrong with these people", which presumes some kind of defect or deviance on a section of the normal people group which can be diagnosed and then maybe treated. Compare to "Some online communities exhibit behavior different than people IRL - what are the differences in these communities that cause such behavior", because that approached the issue more as an anthropological study.

I mean, its not like everyone on 4chan is a hacker on steroids either?

Just sayan

webkilla:
I did my master thesis on Internet Cultures - Anonymous, Furries and Bronies.

Especially with Anonymous, I found studies that showed that when in an online community where identity is never established via convential means (profiles, usernames) you establish identity through behavior.

Thus, when on 4chan they write that newbs can't triforce - this is almost meant a rite of passage: "You won't fit in here, until you've figured this riddle out... and we're not telling"

Similarly, 4chan - using /b/ as its bulwark, because that is the most well known 4chan board outside of 4chan - shields itself from outsiders by having a wall of profanity and gross adult content up at all times. Gore, porn, worse - its another trial to keep the weak and the uninitiated out.

Sure, to normal people such behavior looks horribly trollish

And indeed, another thing I found was that again - since the norm of how to identify yourself was not through visual or other adorned paraphernalia (usernames, arm-bands, uniforms, whatnot) then you had to do the deeds to prove that you were part of the collective. Thus online raids became a way to mark turf and demonstrate community hiarchy. Don't mess with us, or we'll flood your forum with epilepsy inducing GIFs, or gore, or worse... plus, being insular and having common foes is a great way to unite a community as well.

...and again, to normal people IRL that kind of behavior appears quite abhorent.

But the thing is: I found research - which correlated with my own hypothesis - that anonymous online communities, since they didn't function like RL off-line communities, function via different social paradigms. Thus, what is right IRL doesn't necesarily translate to the on-line world.

Curiously enough this helps explain a lot of things beside Anonymous. It explains why furries, bronies and quite a lot of other fandoms establish their own online customs, idioms and what have you. Especially with furries, where unlike bronies there is no true core definition of the concept due to the lack of being inspired by any one specific RL artifact, then this helps explain why furries can appear to endulge is such weird fantasies...

Because the answer is: Online, they can. Online they can pretend to 200 foot wolf-men who stomp through cities, godzilla style, then lick their paws clean afterwards... or all the other weird things they can indulge in.

However, another key thing I noted in my research: I found no examples of people who couldn't tell the difference between online and RL social paradigms. People, by and large, seem to know when to switch from "this is ok online" to "This is not OK IRL".

The only people I can imagine who might fail to do so - as OP's article seems to point at - would be those with various issues. This could be mental issues that generally interfere with their perfection of reality, it could be... well... sadists - but then I question the article, in the sense that it seems to indicate that ALL online trolls are sadists.

The thing to keep in mind is how the underlying issue on online trolls is approached. Do you approach it thinking "Normal people do not behave like this - what's wrong with these people", which presumes some kind of defect or deviance on a section of the normal people group which can be diagnosed and then maybe treated. Compare to "Some online communities exhibit behavior different than people IRL - what are the differences in these communities that cause such behavior", because that approached the issue more as an anthropological study.

I mean, its not like everyone on 4chan is a hacker on steroids either?

Just sayan

You know, I wish we had more people like you. Like, every thread gets a magic button where we can call in an expert who has studied the relevant field to give their informed opinion.

That explanation actually makes alot of sense. Is there somewhere where we could read said thesis?

Fsyco:

webkilla:
Webkilla's huge wall of wisdom and text

You know, I wish we had more people like you. Like, every thread gets a magic button where we can call in an expert who has studied the relevant field to give their informed opinion.

That explanation actually makes alot of sense. Is there somewhere where we could read said thesis?

I should upload it somewhere...

My thesis was mainly about explaining how things like Anonymous, Furries and bronies organize - or rather, how they don't - and yet maintain online coherence as a kind of community, or at least something that from the outside looks like one.

This is also why "Anonymous" as a single monolithic persona of 4chan works so well - because... they're all anonymous, and can address everyone else there with just that name.

But what I wrote sums up most of the relevant bits that pertain to this discussion. The rest is mainly explaining what Anonymous, furries and bronies are - and explaining how the research I've cited is relevant to the points I'm making

...I'll probably upload it tomorrow if yall still want. Its almost 2:30 in the morning here right now.

I think of trolls this way: there are no trolls. Most people who label themselves or are labeled as trolls by others are in fact just idiots who didn't think before typing. Such as how this comic illustrates:

http://whynne.deviantart.com/art/Comic-Trolls-98357844

Now, the people the study illustrates are essentially sociopaths. They have no conscience and thus are baffled as to why people get pissed at them for riling them up. The difference is if they tried that crap in the real world they'd get reprimanded for it. Big time. It's why the net is a perfect place for sadists to convene

Aiddon:
I think of trolls this way: there are no trolls. Most people who label themselves or are labeled as trolls by others are in fact just idiots who didn't think before typing. Such as how this comic illustrates:

http://whynne.deviantart.com/art/Comic-Trolls-98357844

Now, the people the study illustrates are essentially sociopaths. They have no conscience and thus are baffled as to why people get pissed at them for riling them up. The difference is if they tried that crap in the real world they'd get reprimanded for it. Big time. It's why the net is a perfect place for sadists to convene

That comic is about a specific type of troll on forums. Also I should probably point out that being a sadist doesn't necessarily make you a psychopath. Getting your jollies off on power over others doesn't exclusively involve hurting people. It also goes the other way; I know exactly why someone is upset when I rile them up, but I do it anyway because I don't like them.

Actually it's not just annonymity, it's annonymity + not being within range of face punching or nut kicking. People are totallydifferent when they think they won't be caught and be won't be punished. When technology invents a way to deliver swift kicks to the nutz via the internet, or punches to the boobs... then trolls will shut up. Get to work scientists.!

BigTuk:
Actually it's not just annonymity, it's annonymity + not being within range of face punching or nut kicking. People are totallydifferent when they think they won't be caught and be won't be punished. When technology invents a way to deliver swift kicks to the nutz via the internet, or punches to the boobs... then trolls will shut up. Get to work scientists.!

Just because something is 'common sense/knowledge' doesn't necessarily mean its true, or that it doesn't warrant further study. I want to say that its called Hindsight bias, but I don't think that's the right word. They might have found something everyone already thought, but they could have found that most people actually have sadistic tendencies. Or that all trolls are really space aliens or something.

Anyone else disappointed that the Dark Tetrad test isnt takeble online or at least there isnt a link in the OP?

Darks63:
Anyone else disappointed that the Dark Tetrad test isnt takeble online or at least there isnt a link in the OP?

I know the 'Dark Triad' is Narcissism, Psychopathy, and Machiavellian-ism. The fourth one is probably sadism, on an educated guess. So you'd probably need to go to a therapist to see whether or not you actually have these personality traits, since they're almost impossible to self-diagnose.

Can't see much to argue with in this article. The common excuse for things like trolling (or, more generally, being a dick online) is that it's somehow just part of the internet and should be accepted. I've always maintained that's not the case and that being a dick is being a dick, online or off. All the internet provides is a way for people who have that tendency to do so without repercussions (and with, sadly, a cheering section). In other words, if you're a dick online then you would likely be a dick offline too except you know you wouldn't be able to get away with it as easily.

Fsyco:

Darks63:
Anyone else disappointed that the Dark Tetrad test isnt takeble online or at least there isnt a link in the OP?

I know the 'Dark Triad' is Narcissism, Psychopathy, and Machiavellian-ism. The fourth one is probably sadism, on an educated guess. So you'd probably need to go to a therapist to see whether or not you actually have these personality traits, since they're almost impossible to self-diagnose.

There is a test at YourMorals.org that can test you for the Dark Triad. They don't label the test as such because they don't want to give away what they are testing but after you've taken it you find out. If you take enough of the personality tests on that site you'll find it.

Then you'll wish you hadn't.

So, for the sake of this "study" did they actually DEFINE what "trolling" is or what "trolls" are?

Because I feel that's the crux of the equation here.

Now would you look at that...

Doesnt this disproof a certain Feministic activist who claims that video games make bad people? I mean

Those trolls who attacked her where douchebags before they came to the internet and gaming according to this.

Anyways its hardly surprising really. With more social awareness and harder punishment for mobbing bullies in real live have a harder time getting away with it. So they flock to the internet where they can get away with it thanks to a perceived anonimity.

The ball is now in the park of the social companies like facebook and twitter and the lawmakers to finaly realize that "cyber-bullying" is nothing more then bullying and mobbing in real live and should be handled and punished just the same.

For some odd reason online mobbing is still seen as a minor infracture even thought there allready have been alot of cases where the victim was driven to suicide.

Also i think we have to differianciate between trolls who basicly prank people and real sadists who like a pitbull will not let go of a person till they have completly destroyed said persons live.

As much as trolls in online gaming annoy me for pissing people off in online games for the most part they are pretty harmless. Not so the guy who will spen entire weekends finding out your personal info and making your live living hell.

Archon:

Fsyco:

Darks63:
Anyone else disappointed that the Dark Tetrad test isnt takeble online or at least there isnt a link in the OP?

I know the 'Dark Triad' is Narcissism, Psychopathy, and Machiavellian-ism. The fourth one is probably sadism, on an educated guess. So you'd probably need to go to a therapist to see whether or not you actually have these personality traits, since they're almost impossible to self-diagnose.

There is a test at YourMorals.org that can test you for the Dark Triad. They don't label the test as such because they don't want to give away what they are testing but after you've taken it you find out. If you take enough of the personality tests on that site you'll find it.

Then you'll wish you hadn't.

Still not sure how well that would work, since the major part of Narcissism is being self-deluded. They probably think that they're a fine, normal person, will answer as if they are a fine, normal person, and the test would probably say that they're a fine, normal person. And if the test says otherwise, it is clearly wrong and it was probably coded by stupid people who don't know anything who are also probably pedophiles.

CriticalMiss:

Yuuki:
To quote a wise man:

It probably would have been nicer to post an image without the name photoshopped out and the copyright marks removed, even if the topic at hand is not infact Unreal Tournament.

? I only found it on the web like that, no photoshop from me.

Fsyco:
Still not sure how well that would work, since the major part of Narcissism is being self-deluded. They probably think that they're a fine, normal person, will answer as if they are a fine, normal person, and the test would probably say that they're a fine, normal person. And if the test says otherwise, it is clearly wrong and it was probably coded by stupid people who don't know anything who are also probably pedophiles.

I don't think that's correct. Yes, narcissists are deluded. But their self-delusion is that they think they're *awesome, amazing people who don't have to worry about their lessers*, not that they think they are fine and normal people. Narcissists have very low empathy and very high self-esteem. They treat others as objects from which to acquire narcissistic supply. So they can, in fact, be outed with testing.

Archon:

Fsyco:
Still not sure how well that would work, since the major part of Narcissism is being self-deluded. They probably think that they're a fine, normal person, will answer as if they are a fine, normal person, and the test would probably say that they're a fine, normal person. And if the test says otherwise, it is clearly wrong and it was probably coded by stupid people who don't know anything who are also probably pedophiles.

I don't think that's correct. Yes, narcissists are deluded. But their self-delusion is that they think they're *awesome, amazing people who don't have to worry about their lessers*, not that they think they are fine and normal people. Narcissists have very low empathy and very high self-esteem. They treat others as objects from which to acquire narcissistic supply. So they can, in fact, be outed with testing.

That's true. Well, it's a combination of both really. They think that they're better and that nothing is wrong with them. You'd probably have to have the test administered by someone, though, since a narcissist will instantly discredit anything that doesn't support their view of themselves or how the world works. And then treatment would be even worse, since they get VERY upset when their world-view is constantly undermined.

Spot on about how little they care for others, though. My mother has the condition and she's an absolute monster. Although it's kind of a weird, surreal feeling knowing your mother is crazy and never actually loved you o.O

Fsyco:

Archon:

Fsyco:
Still not sure how well that would work, since the major part of Narcissism is being self-deluded. They probably think that they're a fine, normal person, will answer as if they are a fine, normal person, and the test would probably say that they're a fine, normal person. And if the test says otherwise, it is clearly wrong and it was probably coded by stupid people who don't know anything who are also probably pedophiles.

I don't think that's correct. Yes, narcissists are deluded. But their self-delusion is that they think they're *awesome, amazing people who don't have to worry about their lessers*, not that they think they are fine and normal people. Narcissists have very low empathy and very high self-esteem. They treat others as objects from which to acquire narcissistic supply. So they can, in fact, be outed with testing.

That's true. Well, it's a combination of both really. They think that they're better and that nothing is wrong with them. You'd probably have to have the test administered by someone, though, since a narcissist will instantly discredit anything that doesn't support their view of themselves or how the world works. And then treatment would be even worse, since they get VERY upset when their world-view is constantly undermined.

Spot on about how little they care for others, though. My mother has the condition and she's an absolute monster. Although it's kind of a weird, surreal feeling knowing your mother is crazy and never actually loved you o.O

You are definitely right about the denial of it. Whereas a Machiavellian will say "ahhhh, I knew I was cunning!" and a sociopath will say "so I'm NOT one of the sheep!" a narcissist will say "this text is broken cuz I'm awesome!"

As far as your mother - from the time I have spent around Ns, and seeing their interaction with their children, I know that is a very hard thing to deal with. You have my genuine sympathy.

Archon:

Fsyco:

Archon:

I don't think that's correct. Yes, narcissists are deluded. But their self-delusion is that they think they're *awesome, amazing people who don't have to worry about their lessers*, not that they think they are fine and normal people. Narcissists have very low empathy and very high self-esteem. They treat others as objects from which to acquire narcissistic supply. So they can, in fact, be outed with testing.

That's true. Well, it's a combination of both really. They think that they're better and that nothing is wrong with them. You'd probably have to have the test administered by someone, though, since a narcissist will instantly discredit anything that doesn't support their view of themselves or how the world works. And then treatment would be even worse, since they get VERY upset when their world-view is constantly undermined.

Spot on about how little they care for others, though. My mother has the condition and she's an absolute monster. Although it's kind of a weird, surreal feeling knowing your mother is crazy and never actually loved you o.O

You are definitely right about the denial of it. Whereas a Machiavellian will say "ahhhh, I knew I was cunning!" and a sociopath will say "so I'm NOT one of the sheep!" a narcissist will say "this text is broken cuz I'm awesome!"

As far as your mother - from the time I have spent around Ns, and seeing their interaction with their children, I know that is a very hard thing to deal with. You have my genuine sympathy.

It's okay now. I'm an adult in college and she's unemployed, married to a deadbeat with an insecure job, and has two young children she has to put through high school at least. And she basically pretends I'm dead. So it all worked out in the end :3

Back to the topic, isn't the Dark Triad the set of conditions that every major evil dictator had? They scheme their way to the top (Machiavellian), don't care who they hurt or what lies they have to tell (Psychopathic), and start a cult of personality around themselves (Narcissistic). Paranoia and sadism probably don't hurt, either. Or maybe they just come with the territory.

Yuuki:
To quote a wise man:

The funny thing is, going by this study, it's this comic of theirs that's more accurate.

You're telling me that online bullying might be somehow related to offline bullying, another behavior linked to the Dark Tetrad?

Oh look, a conclusion that nobody is surprised at. Nobody except perhaps those with perennial persecution complexes (saaaay, feminist ideologues e.g. "da menz keepin us down & makin sexist comments cause da patriachy & rampant misogyny, oh teh noes we needz our safe spacez pls think of da wimminz").

Turns out trolling and anonymous harassment is associated with the Dark Triad/Tetrad, which means is inherent to both genders and confined to a select group of people who specifically enjoy making other people suffer, just like offline bullying is! And not, in fact, evidence of rampant misogyny in society and the perennial persecution of women by the patriarchy!

Whoda thunk it?

I almost lost it on reading this, since honestly if this was true we'd probably have seen society being ripped apart at it's seams before there was an Internet to get these people to vent through.

Let me be honest about Trolling, for the most part it tends to be entertaining, not just for the troll, but for people in general. In your average MMO for example you wind up with a lot of people doing repetitive tasks and getting bored. A good troll generally makes people laugh and is part of the community, helping pass the time and make a lot of the more annoying aspects of some of these tasks seem not quite as bad. Your typical troll, is basically just clowning around, and continues because he knows huge numbers of people are laughing with him.

The thing about racism, sexism, and all of these other things online is that many cases it's done largely to knock people off their high horse. For the most part it's because you wind up with a bunch of people, usually left wing, who decide to come in and start yelling at people for telling off color jokes, and making preachy social justice pronouncements that they simply assume everyone agrees with. A lot of times your "troll" is someone who simply comes out to knock these people down a few pegs, and ultimately get them to shut the hell up (or at least create an entertaining argument for spectators). This is a big part of why so few trolls are "brought to justice" as people put it, because anyone who reads chat logs will oftentimes find if they follow the back far enough that the troll has people laughing with them, or if they seem to be targeting someone that the target is typically someone who came rolling into a chat room and pretty much dumped an ice bucket on the entire thing. Indeed if you hang out in certain MMOs you'll find that specific trolls have fan bases and even occasionally wonder when a favorite will be back on to be entertaining (usually when they are about to sit down for some heavy crafting, resource grinding, or going to be spending a lot of time waiting in queues). In short, this might not be the most popular point out there, but so called "trolls" actually contribute to their communities more than most people do.

On another front, let's take perhaps one of the biggest trolling groups ever... "Something Awful" and their infamous "Goons" (I'm not currently a member of the SA forums, one of these days I'll have to find the time and put away a spare $10, I barely have time for The Escapist nowadays). If you've been paying attention you'd notice this is a very famous internet site, that sees incredible amounts of front page traffic. A lot of their trolling antics, especially in their "golden age" on Second Life and such, was done specifically so they could create articles and videos about it and entertain people who visited the front page... and taken in context a lot of it was pretty hilarious, especially when it was taken in context. A lot of the targets also tended to be those who kind of deserved it, or games with an intentionally disturbing presence, that ripped people off, or were known for some truly unjust egomaniacal moderation.

I guess there is some truth to Gabe's "Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory" that a normal person + anonymity + an audience = complete retard. However I don't think that it's the ENTIRE truth, I think for the most part it requires the right combination of positive audience reaction, and a correct game environment for it to work, to get trolls really "into" it. Sadism doesn't enter into it I don't think, especially seeing as nothing forces you to endure a troll, as you can always log out, change characters, or whatever else. In many cases if it seems personal, simply shutting up will usually do the trick because that's the point... that your ruining everyone else's fun by being a preachy twit and taking things too seriously, or whatever.

I will also say that trolling and cyber-bullying are NOT the same thing. For the most part Cyber Bullying involves latching onto a very specific target, and usually involves activities outside of what can be seen in the public. Usually by someone who knows the victim IRL, or has become obsessed to the point of tracking them (often illegally). It's a much bigger deal, but also much rarer. Say for example if someone decides to get online and pretend to be nice to someone and become their girlfriend/boyfriend online simply so the messages back and forth and confidences can be shared among people IRL to mock the person, that's akin to Cyber Bullying. If someone is just making off color jokes and being a bit digusting, or is mocking you because you logged into zone chat and started trying to administer your own brand of "social justice", that's entirely different, and honestly if you log off or just shut up for an hour or so that's likely to be the end of it. The troll doesn't want to hurt you, he's not going to say try and embarrass you with classmates or people you know in your RL workplace.

That's my thoughts at any rate. Saying that trolls are probably sadistic psychopaths IRL is a real stretch (which is what this seems to be implying).

At the end of the day, I think the big reason why trolling persists is because it's not that big a deal, and really I think those that get all uptight about it are the ones who are a real problem for the most part, their strong anti-troll positions largely being because they can't manage to co-exist online without making sure everyone conform to their idea of decorum and morality, and thus wind up becoming troll victims, or at least Sh@t magnets where people start acting unusualy racist/rude/disgusting around them just because they tend to be so preachy.

I can appreciate some other responders thoughts on this about how this could apply to the whole "video game violence" thing, but honestly, I think what's being suggested here represents a greater evil than even that argument. If you think about this, you'd pretty much have to say that almost everyone involved in SA's "Goon" movement is a genuine sadistic sociopath IRL, as opposed to simply accepting that the site is pretty much what it says it is... an internet comedy site.... and I'm just not buying that. I mean I doubt you'll walk into Lowtax's house and see a bunch of severed heads in the freezer next to the ice cream, and if you take this seriously as the sites creator/sponsor/ultimate authority (to the best of my knowledge) he'd have to be at least that far gone for this to make sense... he'd be kind of like Kevin Bacon and the Goons would have to be his "Following" IRL.

webkilla:

The only people I can imagine who might fail to do so - as OP's article seems to point at - would be those with various issues. This could be mental issues that generally interfere with their perfection of reality, it could be... well... sadists - but then I question the article, in the sense that it seems to indicate that ALL online trolls are sadists.

Not really. Having sadistic or anti-social ("psychopathic") tendencies does not mean you have mental issues. These are personality traits that exist in all of us to some degree but might be more prominent in some individuals. That online trolls would exhibit higher degrees of sadistic and anti-social personality traits isn't really a surprise when you consider what these traits really are all about, to establish dominance, gain personal power and force others to submit by making them suffer. This is not to say that all trolls are "sadists" or "psychopaths", but rather that they have personality traits commonly associated with those kinds of personality types.

Mental issues, such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or what have you is something entirely different. At worst many of these trolls might be suffering from a personality disorder (Anti-social being a good bet) but that's not generally considered a true mental health issue, even if they often are treated with psychiatric care. Personality disorders are personalities that deviate from the social norm and they can't be cured my medication, but rather are treated by cognitive therapy to let the person with the personality disorder mitigate those parts of their personality that makes them unable to function normally within society.

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