Understanding trolls - Deepstash

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Understanding trolls

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

  • They are not uneducated persons, that lack social skills and live in their parents' basement.They have partners, children, and full-time jobs.
  • They show leadership skills as commanders of large trolling gatherings.
  • They are socially intelligent and capable of to identifying users’ weaknesses with precision.

Trolling isn’t black and white

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

Trolling is somewhere in the grey between prosocial human and antisocial primate. Ultimately, our disposition for antisocial behavior in the real world is likely to predict similar online behavior.

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.

Anonymity can trigger deindividuation

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.

If a lack of nonverbal cues is what makes us detached from the other person’s suffering, deindividuation is what makes us detached from the awareness of our misconduct.

Empathy deficit

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

If someone says something negative in person and makes you cry, he/she will possibly feel uncomfortable. Unless they're psychopaths, your misery will generate an empathic response and lead them to have mercy. If someone tweets something negative and makes you cry, no amount of emojis can transmit the image of a crying person. If there is no social cue to evoke an empathic response, they might continue their negative assault.

Managing our inner trolls

  • 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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