Say hello to the Keyboard Warrior, often referred to as a troll or hater. Your mind wonders why they would type such poison, especially when they don’t know you and have never met you. Your evening is ruined. You toss and turn in bed, then awaken to a new day, put the kettle on and suddenly your mind tracks back to yesterday’s post’s reaction. Your mood darkens and you have a miserable start to the day.
Such ‘trolling’ has become commonplace in recent years. Social media has become a safe haven for haters. Being anonymous, or hiding safely behind the screen in their bedrooms offers protection for people to say whatever they want, be it constructive or abusive.
So what constitutes a troll? Who are they, how are they wired, what is their psychology, what drives their behaviour?
They do not all fit into one particular box. However, they all demonstrate similar tactics. Often, they can be people who have been abused or are suffering abuse themselves. Feeling helpless, they project their inner misery onto others in the form of written abuse. They may suffer from an identity issue, an insecurity about their own identity.
Their way of coping with this crisis or inner turmoil is to belittle others, which gives them a self-satisfied feeling of justification, that their lives mean something more than their own poor image of themselves. They feel they have no control over their own lives and seek to control others via their belittling behaviour. These types feel no remorse and rarely stop. This may be a pattern for their entire lives.
In a study conducted by Canadian researchers (1) involving 1215 people, they came to the conclusion that trolling can be clearly linked with the ‘Dark Tetrad’ (2) of personality traits, which are narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy and sadism. In fact, the results were so significant, they stated: “… 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.”
With such traits, trolls will likely exhibit such tactics away from their safe chair behind the screen. They may bully their own families and friends, exhibit aggressive or passive aggressive behaviour and be unpleasant to people in general. They may be the type to drive aggressively. They are unlikely to feel they have personality flaws and will look to blame negative feedback from others on those who object to their behaviour. Research indicates that bullies actually have excellent self-esteem, which ties in with the Dark Tetrad. “Bullies usually have a sense of entitlement and superiority over others, and lack compassion, impulse control and social skills”. (3)