Do not feed the troll

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Still from Academic Earth video, The Psychology of the Internet Troll

Ever wondered what the psychology of a troll is, you know, those annoying people who are deliberately out to promote arguments and upset others on the internet? Well, according to the video The Psychology of the Internet Troll, hosted over on Academic Earth, it is all linked to being alone. “We all behave differently when alone. Anonymity frees us from a perceived obligation to act in accordance with certain social norms,” they state, going on to say that, “while most of our anonymous behavior is relatively benign, what happens when it isn’t?…We’re 20 years into the experiment of the World Wide Web, and we can clearly see how Internet anonymity plays out across social media, chat rooms, and comment sections. Usually just a nuisance, anonymous troublemakers, known as trolls, can be dangerous when they go after the vulnerable. In an effort to better understand what makes them tick, psychologists are starting to take a closer look at the psychology of the Internet troll.”

My own experience with trolls has thankfully been limited to befriending someone on Facebook who I hadn’t seen for over 15 years. They then preceded to comment, uninvited, on conversations I was having with others online, and stating to get argumentative with people they didn’t know. They also started to negatively comment on anything I posted. I didn’t think of this activity as trolling at first, until a friend posted a comment after a protracted argument with said protagonist that they had forgotten the adage “do not feed the troll”, and signed off from the conversation. This realisation that my old acquaintance’s behaviour was deliberately vindictive, which I had only previously thought of as annoying, opened my eyes to his divisive actions and I unfriended him straight away.

The video is well worth a watch, and uses animation to break down some complex psychological research that explains the behaviour and mentality behind trolling. And if there is any one thing you have to keep reminding yourself when online or using any form of social media, it is: DO NOT FEED THE TROLL.

Watch the Psychology of the Internet Troll here.

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