The virtual world is an integral part of our everyday life. It is a place where we can interact and connect with others through social media, blogs, websites, teleconferencing, emailing, etc. This unique environment forms a distinct online community that operates independently, yet in conjunction with the real world. The virtual world is a fascinating culture of faceless humans. However this mysterious world is inundated with those who don’t play by conventional social rules. Rather, they deceptively manipulate situations and create havoc in a peaceful community with their rude and ruthless behaviour. Who are these people? Trolls of course!

Unlike the trolls represented in literature, there is nothing magical about internet trolls, and if you spend time online, you are bound to run into one. They love to hang out in crowded online communities, eagerly waiting for a post to appear on a site and comment on anything that could create complete chaos. Their goal is simple—to disrupt the flow of communication while having a laugh at another’s expense. Here are some of the tactics they use to entice their victim to respond to their virtual jabs:

  • Name-calling
  • Insults
  • Deliberately saying and doing dumb things
  • Put-downs
  • Rants
  • Harassment
  • Off-topic posts

Once they get the community riled up, they sit back and watch their plan unfold. Trolls love to engage in combative and non-productive inflammatory jests which often leave their victim[s] feeling defeated, humiliated, insecure and sometimes even threatened. These individuals often play with people’s emotions and don’t know when to stop.

Why would someone be cruel online?

Since trolling is a relatively new phenomenon, research is lacking on what the motive and personality characteristics of people who participate in trolling is. But, if we agree that all practising socially acceptable behaviour serves a purpose, then clearly internet trolls are getting some type of kick out of their actions. But what are they getting? Furthermore, what are some of the personality quirks associated with this type of behaviour?

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This was first published in the May 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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