Lately, I've been doing some reading about internet trolls. Ever since I started blogging, dozens of trolls have left nasty comments on my blog posts - anonymously. But in recent years, I've experienced the unpleasantness of a confrontational troll on Facebook and Twitter. In most cases, they use their real names. In some cases, I actually know the offender in real life.
In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, either accidentally or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response.
Sadism - Trolling connection
In my reading, I came across a recent study that examined the psychological motivation of trolls. Turns out, there are some interesting correlations between sadism and trolling behavior. Apparently, trolls find pleasure in inflicting pain and discomfort on others.
The definition of sadism is the tendency to derive pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others. So...the most maddening thing you can do to a troll is ignore them.
I know it's very difficult to do. They make such hurtful remarks. They spew acusations and untruths. Sometimes, they start an intellectual discussion, and when people thoughtfully respond, they savage every comment that differs from their own.
But if you know that sadists enjoy inflicting pain, every time you respond, you're giving them what they want.
Narcissism and Machiavelliansim in Play
The study, by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and colleagues, also found that trolls have a healthy dose of narcissism and Machiavellianism - defined as the willingness to manipulate and deceive others. By interacting with them, people are unwittingly fueling their burning need to dominate the conversation.
Though it's very hard to just walk away from those conversations, I recommend doing just that. Responding to trolls only empowers them. I've had to unfriend a few trolls and I've chosen to permanently disengage with a few others. Unfortunately, they'll just move on to someone else on their friends list who haven't gotten the memo yet.