Internet Troll – What They Do, Why, and What YOU Should Do

Lets face it. The internet troll problem is worse than ever. Everywhere. Have you ever wondered why an internet troll does what they do? And do you know the best way to handle the situation when you’re being trolled on the internet? Well, I’m here to help you…

Forewarned is forearmed.

I will touch upon three things:

  1. Identifying their behaviors
  2. Why they troll
  3. What you should do

Behaviors of an Internet Troll

How to identify a real internet troll. It doesn’t take long to figure out that you’ve got a troll in your midst…

An internet troll is someone who posts inflammatory, or off-topic messages with the primary intent of provoking readers, or otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, typically with the sole intent of bashing the subject matter.

Internet trolling is a deliberate attempt to create conflict and distress by communicating inflammatory, proactive, and menacing comments to victims.

Every post that a troll submits is about challenging, tearing down, and ridiculing.

They cannot be reasoned with.

They don’t care about substantive debate except as an excuse for pretending everything that challenges them is wrong.

A troll is a basic Blinky light, seeking to draw attention away from anything relevant.

Why Do Internet Trolls Do It?

Being a blog owner for more than a decade, and having to deal with trolls throughout the time span, this question interested me.

It’s one thing to easily identify a real troll. And then deciding how to handle it (the next section). But why? Why oh why do they do it? It seems like such a waste of time! Trust me… there’s a reason.

The number one reason why internet trolls do their trolling

An internet troll enjoys their behavior. They do it for enjoyment. It just does not serve any other practical purpose.

“How can trolling be enjoyable to them?!” you might ask…

Psychologists have studied this. I spent some time researching this out of my own curiosity. The predominant conclusions are as follows.

An internet troll typically have the following three psychological conditions:

  • Primary Psychopathy
  • Direct (and Vicarious) Sadism
  • Grandiose Narcissism

Primary Psychopathy >> Calloused, Manipulative, Lacking in remorse and effective empathy, and guilt.

Direct Sadism is when someone enjoys directly hurting or humiliating other people.

Vicarious sadism is when the enjoyment is derived from watching other people being hurt or humiliated.

Both types of sadism are positive predictors for internet trolling behaviors.

Grandiose narcissism is characterized in part by overt expressions of feelings of superiority and entitlement. Owing to their grandiosity, they believe that they are somehow above the rest of us, and that they, therefore, are entitled to special treatment.

What You Should Do With An Internet Troll

Don’t get distracted by the clown honking the horn.

This is easier said than done. But the best thing you can do is to ignore – do not respond to – the troll.

Their enjoyment, being associated with their grandiose narcissism, is not fulfilled unless YOU let it be. No interaction, No fun.

Remember, they CANNOT be reasoned with.

They CANNOT be reasoned with.

This is usually very difficult for most people to handle. Why? Because the internet troll is very, very good at getting others to engage in their destructive behavior. They are good at “pushing your buttons”. Because their goal and motivation is to receive pleasure and enjoyment from their behavior. Thus, they’ve learned how…

I myself am guilty of engaging with internet trolls. Way more than I should have over the years. However once you realize that they WANT you to engage into their toxicity in order to get pleasure from it… well, that should help you to stop engaging. Right?

When you see that lure dangling in the water, don’t bite. The troll gets very upset when no one takes the bait.

Best way to deal with them is to destroy their enjoyment by laughing it off or just completely ignoring them. This will really disappoint them cause they didn’t get the reaction they wanted.

TIP:

The term “troll” is sometimes overused or mischaracterized on the internet. Labeling someone a troll just because there’s some disagreement isn’t always accurate. The term is often used loosely.

HOWEVER, on any given internet site or platform with comments enabled, a behavioral pattern quickly develops for a real troll. Their comments are always disruptive. Always. Or almost always. Re-read what I wrote above. Once you “get it”, then you’ll readily see it when they pop in.

Remember, they get pleasure from their internet trolling interactions. It’s creepy to you and I, but it’s absolutely true.

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40 Comments

  1. Interesting article Ken. Trolls want to provoke ,agitate and disrupt. They are looking for attention.
    Dealing with a troll is like trying to pick up the clean part of a cow pie !
    We will be at the mercy of any fool that we let irritate us.

    1. Yes, a real troll gets pleasure from that attention and from that of creating the disruption itself. A real troll is part Psychopath, part Sadist, and part Narcissist’s.

  2. Thanks, Ken.
    I’ve also been guilty of trying to reason with some of the troll/disruptor types. Especially when they ask questions as though they are genuinely seeking information.

    I finally lost my patience with one of them when they never once added something to the conversation, never contributed a bit of relevant or helpful info on a thread. I’m guilty of trying to reason with someone who refuses to see reason and just wants attention through disruption and division.

    So, I am working hard to hold my tongue and just downvote those who want to derail useful conversations. Which is not always easy when I’m tempted to fight back instead of ignore. I have to stop taking the bait.

    1. So Cal Gal said “I finally lost my patience with one of them when they never once added something to the conversation, never contributed a bit of relevant or helpful info on a thread. “

      That’s how you know… Over time they never add constructively to the conversation, and never contribute. This is entirely different from having a disagreement with someone on an issue. However when that “someone” is notorious for always, well, “trolling”… if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, well, it’s a duck…

      And yes, it’s hard to ignore an internet troll skilled at making you “fight back”. They LOVE that fight. It brings pleasure to their being. Sadistic.

      Ruin their fun. Do Not Engage.

      Instead, downvote an “obvious” troll. Use your “bouncer authority”.

  3. When you look at the term “troll” and where it came from it is much more obvious what your response should be. At our lake cabin when I was a kid a farmer trolled the lake for hours waiting for a big one to strike. The fish that went after the bait was called a “sucker” regardless of it’s species. When you are tempted to go after the bait, picture that sucker getting that hook buried in it’s mouth and getting reeled in.

      1. A Patriot: The thing about that analogy (which isn’t mine) is that it is about the trolled and not the troll. You’ve done a lot of analysis of the psychology of the troll, how about of the trolled? Why do we bite?

        1. The bait looks innocuous at first. Looks yummy, in fact. Although there are usually warning signs even in the first post, they’re overlooked because most people are essentially nice.

          Bait looks yummy. Take the bait and find ourselves hooked.

          Now at this point the hook isn’t set. We’ve identified that the instigator isn’t behaving normally even if we haven’t yet figured out the extent of the problem. But humanlike, we respond by doubling down and chomping into that bait as if to prove to ourselves that we can’t be fooled.

          Con artists do the same. They get away with what they do because normal humans don’t like being proven wrong and will double down rather than retreating. Once we take the bait, the troll responds, and we can either release the bait or wait for h/im to set the hook.

          1. Well said, and there is value in identifying a post as troll bait so that others will take heed.

          2. My concern is, how to identify it? If you scream “Troll!” you get a number of sets of boots rammed down your throat as people argue over whether the individual is a troll or not, and the troll plays the victim card. How could you call me a troll? I’m a conservative, I’ve been watching this site for years, I voted for Trump, blah blah blah. Somehow the rhetoric is always the same.

            If I post with just a T, will people know what I’m talking about? What if I say “bridge guardian”? So I normally just let it go and ignore the idiot, who then gets other people riled up…

          3. Lauren —

            That’s the challenge, isn’t it? After watching them reveal true colors, one begins to see a pattern to the initial posts. If you call them out too early, you look like an intolerant meanie, which is also part of the troll game. Anything to create dissension among commenters.

            —I think it’s just going to have to be up to each person to hone their discernment regarding trolls. If you want to say something, you could use an acronym like DFTT – don’t feed the trolls. ‘Course the trolls read, too, so even doing that may get the victim scenario going again. (Edited out my sarcastic comment, as it was not helpful.)

            —As Ken said, we all have to learn not to take the bait.

        2. Bummin’
          . . . .
          We bite because we are reasonable, compassionate people who are ready to give others a chance and because we want the best for them. Problem is – trolls are here on a mission and are not about to change. Best not to waste our time and good advice on folks trying to burn us down. Just show them the door and continue to enjoy each other’s company.

  4. One of my all-around favorite authors says that trolls are not to be reasoned with–they are to be mocked. And he does a GOOD job of it.

    I don’t have that skill, unfortunately. I also don’t have thousands of fans who enjoy playing in the dogpile.

    Even though I know what I’m looking at, and can usually identify one within a few posts, it’s hard not to engage. I keep hoping I might be wrong…

  5. Ken,
    one thought i had, is these trolls on your sites, besides being opposed to the views of almost all of the regular MSB/Attack O Liberty folks is that they cant stand the virtual sense of community and comradery created here. Whatever the reason, be it social ineptitude or perhaps other mental issues, these people cant stand it that most are courteous, caring, mostly Christian or have a strong faith base, and an overall independent but connected demeanor. I know, obvious and mentioned, but really its because of a defect of character of theirs that they feel the need to just be asses. Most of us wouldnt go to a liberal leaning website just to stir the schitt, but they seem to have more mal adjusted individuals who have no self restraint and carry a lot of animosity to just normal old run o the mill folks. Sad really, but predictable.
    😎🤙🏻

    1. I had always been astounded at the relentless obsession of a given troll. What a huge waste of time on their part (I would think to myself). What would posses them to keep coming back to a place where they only wreak havoc, demean others, the author, the subject material, etc… Why would they waste their own (seemingly) valuable time doing that?

      The answer, according to psychologists who have studied this, is these internet trolls are Psychopaths, Sadists, and Narcissists. It is purely out of pleasure that they demean others and play this game. They are sick individuals in that sense.

      They are not wired the same way as you and I (assuming you are not a psychopath, sadist, or narcissist)!

      1. I would put those undesired qualities in our marxist/socialist leaders… some in congress, and in the new administration.

  6. I recently had an incounter with a troll. It was a family member on fb. I made a comment about personal responsibility and paying your own bills. That was enough for her to attack me. I tried to reason with her, but to no avail. I finally let her have the last word because i got tired of a battle of wits with an unarmed person.

  7. Something worth remembering:

    ”You can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.”

    Ken, you do an outstanding job handling your blogs. Thanks for the resource.

    1. @9766,
      Thank you. I’ve spent an enormous amount of time on all this over the past decade. We’ve had a lot of good people in and out, many stick around, and there are a ton of lurkers. I try to provide useful content and try to keep the comments on-track, on-topic, and contributory for the benefit of whomever may run across it down the road via a search.

  8. We haven’t had many trolls on the site I’m a staff member of because it is a “by request membership”. Our members are well behaved and cover a of of ground.

    Have you ever seen one of those signs out front of a business that display customers who write bad checks, or didn’t pay their tab, or shop lifted?

    Perhaps posting BANNED user names and IP Addresses on a small panel at the very bottom of each page might discourage this trolling participation. Just a thought!

    1. The thing is, a real troll typically has no real empathy. Many of them understand how to use empathy of others, but they have none (or very little) themselves. So they just don’t care. Literally. So they really cannot be shamed to the extent that the rest of us would feel shamed. But I do appreciate your thought! And “by request membership” is always an open option to consider. I’ve managed so far without it though…

    2. In one community in which I lived, a company put NSF checks under glass by the register. They were sued by one of the culprits and the deadbeat won. Be careful and understand the risks. This was 30 years ago. Who knows what would occur today.

  9. One thing I have noticed about troll behavior is it sometimes starts with a very reasonable, benign looking post, asking reasonable questions. This is the bait in the water. It isn’t always easy to know, early on that it’s troll bait.

    For periods of time, I’ve not engaged. When obvious that a troll is hijacking a productive conversation, it is difficult not to call them out, if only for the several thousand who read Ken’s site but don’t comment. It’s even more difficult when others engage in a conversation of reason with a troll, forgetting that just doesn’t work.

    I think differing opinions and perspectives are important and I value them. Unfortunately, a primary argument I see known trolls make is the echo chamber argument. ‘You all just want people who agree with you’. I’m sure that’s true of some, some times, but that’s not been my experience on Ken’s blogs. And it’s a red herring, as anyone who’s been on the blog a long time probably knows. The real strategy is troll bait and switch – like a verbal game of ping pong.

    All that said, I’ll do my best to just ignore, and hope other legitimate posters do the same, so we can focus on genuine dialogue.

  10. And I’m just putting it out there… You really shouldn’t immediately assume that a challenging comment or disagreement is someone being a troll. Seriously. It may be legit. CONSTRUCTIVE dialog is great!

    However it doesn’t generally take long to realize that a given person/alias is a troll (DESTRUCTIVE) because they always, always disrupt with the intent of flaming up the place.

    Give someone new the benefit of the doubt. Look for the signs.

    As you regulars know, the “bouncer authority” (voting) has been implemented in an effort to avoid being like most other sites where comments are just horrible. And this bouncer authority keeps it all open with no need for registration (which would keep most all trolls out). The comments are policed by you the readers. It has been working out quite well on our sites. Thank you.

    1. Agree, Ken. I will adopt a wait and see approach, observe and calibrate accordingly. Thank you for all you do, with mounds of patience.

    2. I suppose there is a “club mentality” when certain frequent visitors appear to click and have a good chat going. I think that’s a good thing. There have been conversations that become very livid, active, that I don’t relate to at all and could feel like I don’t belong here. But then things change and it’s a different place. Sort of like a coffeehouse. And this is what is unique about Ken’s club, you belong here if you want to. Ultimately my self worth and esteem isn’t hinged on my sense of belonging to a forum of anonymous chats.

  11. Just Sayin,
    Harassment is not “new ideas”.
    A line of posts here have just been deleted here because of that.
    I personally welcome new ideas as long as they are civil and have reason. Not combative, not insulting, contrary and frustrating ideas that go against what is here.

    I suppose those who are socialists/marxists with their illogical, destructive, and dishonest ideas can find their own group like at Twitter and Facebook.

    1. Stardust and JustSayin’

      When the first post someone puts up in a thread questions the premise of one of Ken’s articles, I look for a sound basis for the questioning. I don’t see any problem with a well-reasoned contrary opinion, or even an uninformed question. Constructive dialogue can be had around those.

      —-When someone refuses to acknowledge substantive evidence that’s widely available (although becoming less so with true censorship), or asks other posters to prove an unprovable postulate, it looks suspect to me. For example, it’s impossible to prove something is impossible. Another example is ignoring established voting anomalies, such as occurred in Milwaukee county, WI when more votes were counted then there were registered voters.

      —There are other signs I watch for, and Lauren has mentioned some of those.

      —In the posters I questioned, I saw no ‘new ideas’. I saw personal conclusions presented as facts, which were then used to question information in Ken’s articles or another poster’s statements. And thence commences the distracting ‘wild goose chase’.

      1. Farmgirl
        I agree. I used to read a popular prepper blog years ago and comments were full of cuss words and so many degrading remarks towards each other so offensive I quit going there. I see some nicer ones have come here instead as I recognize their names. There was no monitoring although the owner said there were rules (not followed).. Now as I found them recently, hardly anyone comments there and are no longer listed on the prepper website. Perfect example of how to destroy readership.

  12. Yeah, trolls are a problem, BUT, so are the few regulars who alway seem to bite the wiggly worm the trolls put out there. Why? Seems real simple to me, DON’T FEED THE TROLLS..!! Yeah, there are plenty of people who read here and don’t post, but, they are adults, and regulars do not need to try and protect them. Most are able to think, and digest the horse s–t trolls post, and they just pass them by, just like I do.

    We can not stop the trolls, but we sure as hell can police ourselves, some on here are a large part of the problem, when the solution is simple. The trolls keep coming back, because they know, some will respond to their bait.

    I am disappionted in this site, not that it is not well worth the huge effort Ken has done to get it up and running, it’s just turn in to…. well, I don’t know what. I sure Ken is disapointed in our some of our poor use of this site. Why else would He spend the time, to try and tell us, in a whole lot of words, DON’T FEED THE TROLLS.!

  13. A good and timely article Ken. It is appreciated. That said, I would like to opine one item to the content: Not all trolls are created equal. Let me explain. I’m guessing 90% of the trolls that frequent this site are pretty mediocre when it comes to provoking an argument. They bash Trump or conservative ideology while professing to be a “conservative”. These trolls are easy to figure out and easier still to ignore. But there is one, maybe two trolls currently on the site who are far more sophisticated in their approach. Here’s a couple of sentences from one, “Trust me you can still lose a lot of money getting sued even if your 100% in the right.” and “There are high entry barriers in big tech by design, so bottom line it’s going to take a lot of time/money for a competing enterprise to gain traction.” This being from the article about “New Platforms”. The poster is subtly discouraging thought on the matter and is also trying to monopolize opinion. This troll is shrewd, educated and a consummate salesman of Marxist Ideology. He could sell air conditioners to the Eskimo. Part 1

    1. Part 2. Fortunately we are not the Eskimo so most of us can read between the lines. Trolls like this have disrupted some pretty big and popular sites by monopolizing content on page after page. They start slow but ramp up as their “popularity” increases. Their “opinions” look harmless and well thought out with “believable” statistics. They play the numbers game well.
      Observation from a distance is my tactic for people like this. Never fight this enemy unless the odds are on your side. Meaning numbers and “equipment”.

  14. I always thought the internet term “Troll” was for trolling which to me meant a form of fishing whereby dragging a baited hook to catch something”.

    Kinda funny that I never pictured an Internet Troll to be like the Scandinavian folklore looking Troll Under a Bridge, that A Patriot depicts in the article above, but rather a mischevious fisherman dragging a baited hook around behind his boat!
    🙂

  15. Ken –

    Thanks for this article. I’ve dealt with these personality defects before IRL and failed to recognize them in one dimensional online space.

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