A look at the psychology behind internet trolling.

Jason Brien.

In the age of the internet, the phenomenon of online trolling has become all too familiar. These individuals, often referred to as trolls, engage in abusive, harmful, and disruptive behaviors across various online platforms, from social media to discussion forums. What drives someone to become an online troll, spewing hatred and cruelty in virtual spaces? Let's delve into the psychology behind online trolls and explore why they engage in such abusive behavior.

1. Anonymity and Reduced Accountability:

     One of the primary factors that contribute to the abusive behavior of online trolls is the anonymity provided by the internet. When individuals can hide behind pseudonyms or avatars, they often feel less accountable for their actions. This perceived anonymity can embolden people to express their darkest impulses and engage in abusive behavior they might not exhibit in face-to-face interactions.

2. Deindividuation:

     The concept of deindividuation occurs when individuals lose their sense of identity and personal responsibility in a group setting. Online communities can foster a sense of anonymity and belonging, which, in turn, can lead to a lack of personal accountability. People might feel less like themselves and more like a member of a group, making them more likely to engage in abusive behavior.

3. Reinforcement of Negative Behavior:

     Trolls often find that their abusive actions are reinforced through attention and reactions from others. They may receive likes, comments, or even notoriety for their offensive comments, further encouraging them to continue their harmful behavior. This positive reinforcement can fuel their abusive tendencies.

4. Escapism and Projection:

     Online trolls may use the virtual world as a form of escapism. They might project their insecurities, frustrations, and anger onto others, seeking a temporary release from their real-life challenges. The online environment allows them to vent their emotions without facing real-world consequences.

5. Social Comparison and Competition:

     In the quest for attention and validation, some trolls engage in a form of competition with others to be the most provocative or offensive. They compare their actions to those of other trolls, attempting to outdo them in terms of shock value. This constant one-upmanship can escalate abusive behavior.

6. Lack of Empathy:

     Abusive online behavior is often rooted in a lack of empathy. Behind screens, individuals may find it easier to dehumanize others and disregard the emotional impact of their words and actions. This absence of empathy can lead to the utter disregard for the feelings and well-being of their victims.

7. Attention-Seeking Behavior:

     Online trolls often seek attention and recognition, even if it's for negative reasons. They thrive on the reactions they provoke and the chaos they create. The more sensational their comments, the more they capture the attention of others.

8. Boredom and Thrill-Seeking:

     For some, trolling provides a form of entertainment. These individuals may engage in abusive behavior simply out of boredom, craving the excitement and thrill of evoking strong reactions from others.

     Understanding why online trolls are abusive is a complex matter, and various psychological factors contribute to their behavior. While many trolls may never fully reveal their motivations, addressing the issue requires a combination of community moderation, social norms promoting respect and empathy, and online platforms taking steps to combat abusive behavior. By shining a light on the psychology behind online trolling, we can work toward fostering more civil and respectful online environments and promoting a culture of empathy, understanding, and tolerance.