In the Mind of an Internet Troll

Understanding the internet troll phenomenon and why it happens

In the Mind of an Internet Troll
Source: dole777 / Unsplash.

Ever wondered what goes on in the mind of people you see on the Internet and social media comment sections, filled with such anger and negativity? The vitriol that you might witness on Twitch streams or other live videos cursing content creators in the worst way imaginable?

Certain people may often become the center of attention because of their spiteful behavior online. By attacking or harassing members of other communities, or even individuals who may be more established within their respective fields, they create a lot of buzz around themselves. But why is it that they feel the urge to make all that unnecessary and unpleasant noise in the first place? What hides inside the mind of an Internet troll?

Source: Mark König/Unsplash.

What is a ‘troll’ and where do they come from?

When talking about an internet troll, the main thing to understand is that these are people who need to vent. To release their anger. Yes, sometimes they may attempt to provoke people simply to get a reaction out of them, but most of the time, this sort of behavior comes from their own personal sense of inadequacy.

In most cases — of course, as with everything, there are exceptions — trolls are likely to be of very young age, between childhood and the late teenage years, most likely male. There’s a very good reason behind that demographic.

During those ages, male children/teens tend to be highly competitive with one another. There’s a lot of “I’m better at this than you!” going on within their social circles. Sometimes it can be very tough being a teen. I’m sure we’ve all been there and we can relate.

So, what happens to those that are at the bottom of the barrel? Those that are left out because they feel they are not good at anything? The ones that end up becoming targeted and laughed at by everyone else? Or even worse, the ones that get ignored by everyone?

They begin to feel a sense of frustration — of unworthiness. These feelings slowly build up and eat at them over time since it’s not really something that they can talk about with anyone, yet it’s also not something that they can really change either. So they simply take it all in.

Source: Alexander Shatov/Unsplash.

The ideal place to lash out

As these feelings of anger and frustration towards themselves and everyone around them continue to build up inside. Their behavior towards their social circle, however, remains unchanged to avoid any funny looks. I mean, you can’t go around yelling at people on the street to kill themselves, can you? Yet they still have these emotions, so they need something to do with them. They have to let it all go.

So the Internet has come along as the ideal location to unleash your true self without having to answer to anyone about your actions. Nowadays, all they need to do is create an alternate persona by using an untraceable e-mail account and they can have a go at anyone in the world.

Usually, their targets are people who would actively promote equality, diversity, and ideals such as those because they view them as easy to provoke. To the eyes of a troll, it’s as if they’re begging to be trolled. High-profile figures from within the industry they’re most interested in or most likely to get a reaction from are also high on their trolling list.

Source: FLY:D/Unsplash.

What nourishes and sustains a troll?

Of course, when such a person goes through all of this trouble to hurt people they do not even know, there’s only one thing that they’re seeking: attention.

An act of trolling is essentially a cry for help, a plea for anyone out there to validate their existence and recognize that they’re alive. Due to this becoming a behavior that has continued for some time, they know no other way of getting others to notice them.

So although on the surface you might read something like “u suck and I hope u drown in ur own pee lol lmfao” in reality, the true meaning behind those words might be something closer to this: “omg I wish I had sth better to do right now, I wish someone would call me, anyone, just get the phone to ring!”

Or maybe the whole concept of ‘equality’ may go against everything that a troll has experienced in their life. Being ostracized by their peers because of their inability to follow the acceptable physical or mental profiles that society has set for them, suffering through bullying which could lead to depression, or even thoughts of suicide… all of this is what’s hidden inside the mind of a troll.

How do we deal with the threat of ‘trolls’?

Personally, I don’t believe that “calling them out” or trying to “flush out this sort of behavior” will do much to improve the situation. If anything, it’ll only make trolls come back stronger than ever, until the whole thing escalates. Ideally, there are two ways to stop a troll, although it may take a bit of patience from the receiving end of the abuse.

I can guarantee you that you’ve made this troll very happy with this response. Source: Twitter.

One tactic would be to stop nourishing them. As mentioned above, internet trolls survive off the attention that is given to them. If you don’t acknowledge them, then they eventually stop. It may be aggravating but it’s key to remember who’s on the other side of that keyboard/phone/controller. Don’t engage them, don’t talk to them, just pretend they don’t exist.

The other may seem silly, but you could try to respond with kindness. In a world where everyone seems so distant and off-putting, perhaps a simple act such as lending someone an ear may be enough to save their life! I know, it might seem crazy to have a random person say something about your mother only for you to turn around and ask how their day has been, but it wouldn’t hurt to try it!

You might ask, “but how do you know all of this? What makes you such an expert on the subject?” Well, the answer is quite simple. I used to be an Internet troll. I got into many meaningless arguments online in my younger years and said many terrible things to people I didn’t even know. Thankfully, I understood how pointless it all was and how my words and actions could have disastrous effects on others.

I eventually realized that it wasn’t a very constructive way to spend my time, so I stayed away from all the comment sections for a while. However, to this very day, a lot of other people out there still haven’t learned those lessons.

So, who better to understand an Internet troll than another Internet troll, right?

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