The Psychology Behind Internet Trolls

There's something inherently triggering about Donald Trump to me.

He ran his campaign on the internet, sending out tweets that were intended to annoy and offend others, all while drawing attention to himself.

Like a walking YouTube comment, he trolled everyone from Rosie O'Donnell to his political opponents, to the CIA.

Triggering reactions from all sides, it seemed that the more upset people got, the more it fed him and his supporters. And it made his opposition wonder just what was wrong with him psychologically.

A few years ago, an issue of Personality and Individual Differences published a study about the psychology behind the internet troll, and it can give us some clues as to why all the negative attention Donald Trump got during the election seemed to make him feel so inexplicably good about himself.

Canadian researchers ran two online studies with over 1,200 people, giving personality tests to every participant as well as having them complete a survey about how they commented on internet posts.

In the personality tests, they were searching for a link between trolling and what is called the "Dark Tetrad" of personality traits, which includes Machiavellianism, narcissism, sadism and psychopathy.

Naturally, those who said their favorite online activity was trolling others scored off the charts on the Dark Tetrad personality traits, proving that trolls are the same people IRL as well as online.

One quote from the authors stated,

The associations between sadism and GAIT (Global Assessment of Internet Trolling) scores were so strong that it might be said that online trolls are prototypical everyday sadists.

Since sadists take pleasure in the pain of others, it proves that the best way to handle one (should they start commenting on one of your posts) is (again, pointing out what we already know) to ignore them.

We may know this already, but to add some incentive, use the knowledge of their personality traits to your advantage.

Since we know internet trolls are narcissists trying to feed their bottomless egos, you rest in the knowledge that ignoring them hurts them more than providing a response.

So, the next time Trump or your racist uncle posts something so maddening you can't help but respond, practice some restraint.

Then, head out and enjoy your life, while they desperately hit refresh on their browser, waiting for someone, anyone, to care about them.