“What do you think an Internet Troll is?”

Teenagers of the 21st century would probably answer along the lines of:

“To me… I guess they are the people whose sole purpose in life is to seek out people to argue with on the Internet.”

Internet trolls are the people who post controversial, irrelevant or emotionally-evoking messages in an online discussion forum or chat room and a host of others. It’s not uncommon to see trolls plan coordinated attacks on individual pages and profiles. But it’s about time that someone asked: “What is their point? What do they want to gain out of this?”

It seems obvious. All the pointers direct us to one thing: ‘attention’.

factors of Machiavellianism

The comments they post are designed to essentially destroy or disrupt the conversation – they will go as far as lie, exaggerate and offend to get a response from the other end. Surely if one were to go this far, that they want something more than attention, since they usually challenge others on more than one form – post or medium. Researchers prospect that this somewhat sadistic trait is specific to the generation of teenagers in the 21st century. Perhaps ‘Internet trolling’ is a by-product of the introduction of the Internet to a child at a young age.

Scientists have anticipated this behaviour to potentially become a personality disorder of it’s own. It has been measured that trolls possess the characteristics of a classification of an already existing personality trait: Machiavellianism. People who fall under this category employ cunning and deceit in general conduct. They usually hold no sense of morality nor see the good in the world. The Global Assessment of Internet Trolling (GAIT) was conducted early 2014 and have shown strong correlations with those who admit their status as an online troll to their psychological level of Machiavellianism.

Those that are placed on the extremes of the Machiavellian spectrum exhibit 3 distinct behaviours:

  1. Narcissism: Narcissists centralise most things around themselves and speak/act selfishly. They despise criticism and would break the rules to stubbornly achieve what they were set out to do.
  2. Psychopathy: Psychopaths are defined by their enduring antisocial behaviour with a lack of remorse when exhibiting bold behaviours that they know are not appropriate. They have a distrusting relationship to the people around them.
  3. Sadism: Sadists fundamentally experience the pleasure state when they witness pain in others. They genuinely feel ecstatic at the scene of struggle and distress. Perhaps they may even purposely cause the pain on others so that they can receive that ecstasy.

Machiavellianism factors

It can be deducted that people that have high levels of Machiavellianism reflect the likelihood of being an Internet troll – see if you are an internet troll here. These three behavioural components combined have a mutual standing on one thing. That is the lack of impulse control. Regardless of their purpose in trolling, they lack the ability to contain it. This is what tears them apart from the rest of the population.

“Where people cry, they succeed. Where people fall, they rise. Where people fail, they win.”

Trolls aspire to become violent to a level that is beyond manageable. Some online users defend trolls by commending this ‘Internet trolling’ action as some form of art. They even suggest trolling as a post of “harmless off-topic comments to distract others online”. Have they considered when they cross they line? Racism, violence, misogynistic, offensive, the list goes on. What about attacking someone’s deceased loved one?

Real Case Scenario:
March 19, 2010
Saxon Bird
A ski champion competing in the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships was described as “one of the club’s most OUTSTANDING competitors” died in the tragic advent of a ski collision. Hateful ‘troll’ comments were left on his memorial page, attacking him for his ‘stupidity’ for entering the competition under hazardous surf conditions. Family and friend were torn by the public humility they experienced thereafter.

Is it right to ruin a family? When does common sense play out?

Unfortunately the power of anonymity is a strong determinant to the amount of trolling one commits. An Impermium report suggests that an average troll posts 100 to 300 comments per day. How many havoc will they have wrecked in a month? What about a year?

Not only are they are nuisance, but a detriment to society’s ability to protect themselves both emotionally and physically. As legal repercussions are being discussed, it is best to ignore these trolls for the time being. Any attention given to them is another drop of fuel for the fire. Let them eventually fade.

Internet Troll