Internet trolls are terrible people in real life, study calls them everyday sadists

By Daniel S Levine,

If you think Internet trolls must be horrible people in real life, a new study says you are correct. A study by Canadian researchers found that trolls - the anonymous people who seem to exist just to annoy everyone else - really are sadists, even when away from their keyboards.

The study was published last week in the Personality And Individual Differences journal, reports CNN. It was put together by researchers at the University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg and University of British Columbia.

They found that Internet trolls are likely to be sadists, psychopaths and even Machiavellian - a readiness to manipulate people - in life, but sadism was a top common trait. “In fact, the associations between sadism and ... scores were so strong that it might be said that online trolls are prototypical everyday sadists,” the researchers said.

According to Slate, the study found that these three traits, called a Dark Tetrad, did have a relation to how much time a person spends commenting online each day. The researchers identified trolls by asking participants simply what they liked to do when commenting ,with one of the options being “trolling others.” Those who showed the “Dark Tetrad” traits overwhelmingly enjoyed trolling.

“Trolls operate as agents of chaos on the Internet, exploiting 'hot-button issues' to make users appear overly emotional or foolish in some manner,” researchers said. “If an unfortunate person falls into their trap, trolling intensifies for further, merciless amusement. This is why novice Internet users are routinely admonished, 'Do not feed the trolls!’”

The questionnaire was given to 188 Canadian psychology students who got extra credit, notes CNN. It was also given to 609 U.S. residents who answered the questions on a site that paid 50 cents for filling it out.

Still, trolling is widely recognized by media sites as an issue to try and stop. YouTube and the Huffington Post both no longer allow anonymous comments and Popular Science famously got rid of its entire comments section in 2013.

image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 
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