Who amongst us was surprised when the results of a recent survey found that Internet trolls are actually psychopaths and sadists? Canadian researchers applied personality inventories to Internet commenting styles and found that trolls are just as fucked-up as we thought, i.e. more likely than other people to show signs of sadism (deriving pleasure from hurting others), psychopathy, and Machiavellianism (disregard for how your immoral behavior affects others). I am surprised that narcissistic personality disorder didn’t crop up in there, too, but perhaps it can’t be diagnosed over an Internet survey.
xoJane explained as much in their recent essay, “I Was Friends With An Internet Troll,” about a woman who befriended troll and later came to regret it. “[A]ll I saw materialize was a really sad dude, a man who was drunk more often than not, and always in the middle of an argument,” wrote author Bree Davies. “This is the picture of an Internet troll in real life: an unhappy, substance-abusing, violent, unemployed liar with no friends. I know this isn’t the story of every Internet troll, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the story of many of them.” Indeed.
Trolls are well-known for glomming onto people/sites and desperately trying to provoke any sort of reaction that they can, positive or negative. (Not surprisingly, Davies’ real-life troll friend repeatedly acts like a complete stalkerish nutburger until he finally lashes out at her in public and police are called.) I’m not interested in meeting — and certainly not befriending — them in real life. But still, having had an extensive history with trolls for about 10 years now (first through publications that I write for, then eventually on Twitter and Tumblr), I am admittedly curious about them. I don’t want them to have access to my life, but I have questions about theirs. Like, I want to understand how they got to be that way. Don’t you? Just a little bit?
If I could, here’s 18 sincere questions I really would like to ask Internet trolls.
- How do you have so much time to troll on the Internet? Like, you literally spend more time writing comments online than I spend doing anything.
- Do you have a job?
- If you don’t have a job, how do you afford the Internet connection? Or do you just do your nonstop trolling all the time from the free computer access at the library?
- Can you give us a general idea of how much time each day you spend in the sunlight?
- Do you own a fedora? Not trying to profile, just asking.
- What was your childhood like? I don’t mean to be unkind but … is that why you do this?
- Are you really as upset, angry and worked up as you seem in comments?
- Or do you just think it’s funny to fake your rage?
- What kind of gratification does trolling on the Internet provide for you?
- What activities did you enjoy before you were an Internet troll?
- Have you ever made a nice comment on the Internet?
- Have you ever wanted to make a nice comment on the Internet but felt too embarrassed?
- Do other trolls troll you?
- Who is your favorite writer to troll and why?
- What renowned troll most inspires you?
- What makes your trolling style unique in a crowded field of trolls?
- What advice would you give to aspiring trolls?
- Do you feel unfairly stereotyped as an sexist and/or racist and/or homophobic and/or transphobic jerk with a hair-trigger rage problem who is so ugly and unhappy that he/she projects all his/her issues onto other people as a way to cope?
Do I think most trolls would possess the self-awareness to actually answer these questions (at least the serious ones)? Well, that’s another question…
[Image of an Internet troll via Shutterstock]