My friend Jack Eason alerted me to a link between trolls and sadism, discovered by Personality and Individual Differences. The journal published a study that confirms what we all suspected: internet trolls are really messed up.
Specifically, Canadian researchers conducted two internet studies with over 1,200 people. They gave personality tests to each subject, along with a survey about their internet commenting behavior. They were looking for evidence that linked trolling with the Dark Tetrad of personality: narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadistic personality.
These are technical terms; google them for the formal definitions: it’s worth your time, for the aha! Moment of recognizing an ex-boss, boyfriend or girlfriend.
Anyway, the researchers found that Dark Tetrad scores were highest among people who said trolling was their favorite internet activity (which begs the question – how much of a sociopath does one have to be to describe trolling as their favorite activity??). To get an idea of how much more prevalent these traits were among internet trolls, check out this figure from the paper:
Indeed, the relationship between this Dark Tetrad and trolling is so significant, that the authors write the following in their paper:
… the associations between sadism and GAIT (Global Assessment of Internet Trolling) scores were so strong that it might be said that online trolls are prototypical everyday sadists.
In other words, trolls truly enjoy making you feel bad. Or, as the authors explain,
Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!
So next time you encounter a troll online, remember that (1) These trolls are some truly messed up people and (2) it is your suffering that brings them pleasure, so the best thing you can do is ignore them.
Don’t forget that, for a few more days, The Power of Six will be on sale. Read seven short sci-fi stories for only 99c!