Most of us remember trolls from a childhood story, The Three Billy Goats: they were big, they were terrible, they were quarrelsome, they were antisocial, and they always hid under bridges. The same is the case with internet trolls. These internet bullies hide behind their computers, phones, or tablets and do their utmost best to cause online misery.
Trolls are people who create and spread offensive messages over the internet to upset a particular person or a specific class of people. These people usually select easy targets like public figures or an oppressed class. Victims are often targeted because of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.
Online trolling ranges from profanity and name-calling to personal attacks, sexual harassment, or hate speech. Approximately four in every ten Americans have faced trolling, and this figure has increased drastically over the past year.
Reasons for trolling vary from person to person. Some people do it out of boredom, and some want to get a response from the celebrity they idealize. Some do it for seeking attention, while there may be others who have negative social potency.
According to research, people who are insecure and want to get a kick out of being hostile towards others are more likely to troll. People with a propensity to seek excessive stimulation have often been found trolling.
A psychoanalytic study suggests that people with antisocial, narcissistic behavior and sadistic personality disorder are more likely to perpetrate trolling behavior. These people derive pleasure and enjoyment from being intentionally cruel to others.
There are trollers who are just jealous people who wish to lash out at successful people like celebrities because they have all the fun and happiness in life which the troller lacks. Educated, strong and successful women give such people a colossal inferiority complex, which they show by lashing out at them.
Trollers tend to tease and exploit human errors and weaknesses. They wish to gain a reaction and then troll them some more to further upset their victims to have some fun. The best way to deal with such people is to ignore them. Being ignored kills their fun and they move onto their next target.
It has been observed that men are more likely to troll as compared to women because society tends to encourage traits of arrogance, dominance, and competitiveness in men.
Psychologists suggest that anonymity plays a vital role in trolling. People feel a lack of restraint when they are communicating online. They tend to easily say things over the internet that they would not say in face-to-face communication.
Factors such as mood also play a vital role in trolling. When people are in a negative mood, they tend to vent their negativity through their messages. Many people being tagged as trolls might just be people like us who are having a bad day though they could have chosen a better way to deal with it.
The context of a discussion is a likely reason for trolling. If a discussion opens with a trolling comment, it is more likely to be trolled by almost all the participants in the discussion. Thus a single troll comment can lead to worse reactions to a well-intended or harmless message.
More often than not, trolling is revenge-driven. In these cases, the troller personally knows the victim and feels that the target has committed a personal offense against him, and he seeks to tarnish the reputation of the target as just revenge. In some severe cases, this sort of trolling has even led to suicide as the victim feels highly threatened.
It has been observed that even ordinary people can also troll others if they are influenced in an online community. The desire to be seen as cool amongst online friends, and to feel a part of the pack of wolves drawing blood, is often a reason for trolling in teenagers. When members of a group are trolling a single target, trollers achieve a sense of belonging by conforming to the group’s behavior, no matter how inappropriate.
At times people are so rigid in their beliefs that they engage in trolling behavior when they feel that their belief is being threatened. This is often the case when a discussion is about religion and politics. They feel justified in trolling when they believe the victim has somehow committed an offense against them by stating a contradictory point of view.
Sometimes people just wish to express a different point of view than others which is taken as trolling. These people might just be facing miscommunication issues rather than actual trolling. Disagreement must not be taken as trolling in this case.
Corporate organizations, political parties, and even some countries resort to hiring trolls to further their causes. Fake identities and accounts on social media are being used to create bias, to harass, to manipulate and to deceive opponents.
Spreading misinformation is one of the primary purposes of trolling. This type of trolling is usually agenda-driven and conducted through fake accounts and pseudonyms. The basic purpose of this sort of trolling is to create counterfeit perceptions regarding a situation. They demonstrate a numerical strength and pose a threat by sheer numbers, if not merit.
There are some pervert trollers who make inappropriate comments and sexual innuendos. Some even go as far as threats of rape and derive perverse pleasure out of it. If ignored, they might turn into future molesters and rapists.
It is high time that appropriate steps are taken to manage trolls by increasing control over online spaces. Social platforms must redesign their harassment reporting procedures. The user who posts comments with profanities, threats, and hate-speech must be blocked forever from the forum.
There should be a way to put a stop to fake accounts and accounts with pseudonyms as trolling and online harassment can never be eradicated entirely without this vital step. Accounts of users must be linked with their identity like social media platforms should require a passport number or ID card number so that in case of a severe issue like sexual trolling, the member can easily be traced. The loss of anonymity might prove to be a check enough to discourage such abhorrent behaviour.
Lastly, the role of legislation must not be ignored. Laws must be made to include trolling and online harassment in punishable offenses and to hold trollers more accountable for their actions.