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The dark tetrad

The dark tetrad

Psychologists have found a link between a troll's behavior and a few personality traits:

  • Sadism: obtaining pleasure from another’s distress.
  • Psychopathy: being unable of empathy and regret.
  • Machiavellianism: manipulative behavior
  • Narcissism: the need for admiration.

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When we denounce trolls as intrinsically malicious people, we limit our understanding of what may trigger these behaviors.

This means a temporary loss of a person's identity leading to behavior that is conflicting with their character. Anonymity offers protection from real-world social repercussions, and this has profound effects on human behavior.

After spending years building relationships with trolls and trying to understand them, journalist Ginger Gorman shares her findings in the the book Troll Hunting:

The absence of nonverbal feedback leads to an “empathy deficit,” and this is what sociopaths suffer from.

  • Use anonymity only where it is necessary.
  • Foster empathy consciously, because it doesn’t come naturally to internet-based interactions.
  • Awareness of how we respond to distasteful comments can create space between us and our behavior.

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Online jerks and offline jerks are largely one and the same: bullies with personality disorders. And we can protect our happiness by dealing with them both in some tangible, practical ways.

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