Where do “trolls” come from?

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Science portal Nautilus has published an article about an Internet phenomenon called “trolling”. What is it, where do “trolls” come from and why are there more and more of them? All these questions are answered by scientists. The phrase “troll” has recently become common in our vocabulary, thanks in part to the rise in popularity of online forums like 4chan or Reddit, and the rise of the multiplayer online gaming industry. However, the history of internet trolling dates back to the eighties. Then the trolls were called on-line instigators, i.e. those who start senseless arguments in order to assert themselves at someone else’s expense. Today, trolling has become a pervasive phenomenon, from angry and derogatory comments on YouTube and Twitter to the internet and physical harassment, which is already a criminal offense.

Now the phenomenon of “cruel trolling” is on the rise. In 2014, more than 1,200 people in England were found guilty and received suspended and real sentences for online harassment and public dissemination of libel and obscene material. One of the possible explanations for the growth of this phenomenon is the so-called “effect of freedom”, which appeared due to the massive distribution of anonymizers, proxies and other products that almost completely eliminate the detection of the real location of the “troll”. In this regard, many “dubious individuals” began to feel unpunished. Also, the spread of the phenomenon depends on the fact that we are starting to spend more and more time on the Internet. Virtual reality has become our second home and we can no longer imagine life without it. Imagine that in 2005 alone, over a billion people gained access to the Internet, i.e. were online. Over 15 years, this figure has grown several times. Now even young children have Internet skills and technical devices such as tablets that allow them to do this.

But what explains the desire to “troll” in the first place? A team of University of Manitoba researchers led by Erin Bakels published a research paper titled “Trolls Just Want to Have Fun.” In their work, they hypothesized that there is a strong link between personality disorder and the urge to be aggressive online. To prove this idea, the Bakels team ran two anonymous Internet tests that included questions such as “Do I have a desire to offend someone online?” “Do I always respond with aggression to aggression?” with the ability to answer on a five-point scale, where “1 – unlikely” and “5 – very likely”.

The authors of the study also found a strong relationship between “trolling” and Machiavellianism, ie. a predisposition to deceit, prudence and misleading other people in order to achieve their own goals. They also found a tendency of these individuals to psychopathy, manipulation and lack of remorse for their own actions. Sadism, the desire to take pleasure in the physical or mental suffering of the victim, has been one of the enduring personality traits that belong to Internet trolls.

In another study, called “The Dark Side of Facebook,” Evita March, a psychologist at the Federal University of Australia, and colleagues published an online questionnaire and asked a random sample of people to participate in answering questions. A total of 396 adults aged 17 to 70 took part in the survey, 76% of whom were women. In a survey, they found that the “trolls” that live on Facebook are ruthless, emotionally violent people who take pleasure in inflicting moral suffering on others. For such people it is like a drug and addictive.

“When people do this, they release a lot of hormones of pleasure, joy and rage, such as dopamine and norepinephrine,” says Martha.

It is like addiction and, like any addicted person, it takes more and more to get the same pleasure. Borders are blurring and such people are ready for a lot.

Over time, there will be more and more “trolls”. Various services that hide the identity and its location only contribute to this. A person begins to feel unpunished, which awakens in him the lowest feelings and motives. The Internet does not create “trolls”, it is just a catalyst that provokes aggression and sadism of mentally unbalanced people.

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