The word troll brings to mind a mythological creature that is hideous in appearance and has a really bad attitude. They dwell under bridges and isolated roads and they hate everything and everyone.
But what is an internet troll? Well, in the internet world, they are defined as a person who posts inflammatory/confrontational and off-topic online comments with the aim of disrupting the conversation and creating conflicts. To put it simply, internet trolls are not nice people.
Their inflammatory/confrontational comments don’t just make you irritated or angry but they have the power that can have an impact on your beliefs. A 2013 study found that trolls rarely change the minds of people they interact with. In short, trolling simply reaffirms people’s pre-existing negative beliefs. No matter what your disposition is before or after reading an article or watching a documentary, a troll’s aim is just to unnerve you with their negativity.
As a famous saying goes – Misery loves company
For an example let us take a look at a 2013 study by researchers from the George Mason University Centre USA. They conducted a short research for Climate Change Communication. In the study, participants were asked to read an article containing a balanced discussion of the risks and benefits of nanotechnology, a fairly non-controversial topic. The researchers found that trolling create a rift in the audiences. All participants read the same post, but the tone of the comments varied. Some were civil, while others were rude. Participants who read the article with offensive comments became more sure of their own views on nanotechnology when exposed to arguments and name-calling.
Researchers from University of Manitoba, Canada, surveyed 1,200 people to find the personality traits most likely to be associated with online trolls. Researchers conducted two studies to investigate whether people involved in trolling have traits that fall into the so-called Dark Tetrad of personality.
These traits include narcissism (self-obsession), psychopathy (lack of empathy), sadism (taking pleasure in others’ suffering) and Machiavellianism (manipulation and deception of others).
One way trolls were identified was by simply asking participants what they enjoyed doing most on commenting sites. Choices included: debating issues, chatting with others, making new friends and trolling. Researchers also found a relationship between the amount of time spent making online comments each day and all the Dark Tetrad traits, with the exception of narcissism.
Trolling has become such an issue that some websites are altering their commenting policies and in some cases, they’re getting rid of comment sections altogether. The purpose of removing the comments section is mainly due to trolls deviating from the actual content with their mess of negativity, racism, hate speech and general bad attitude.