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Old 03-31-2014, 10:16 AM  
Cochise Cochise is offline
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Research finds that Internet trolls are ‘everyday sadists’ who feed on suffering

New research finds that many Internet trolls are ‘everyday sadists’ who feed on suffering
March 30
BY ERIC ADLER
The Kansas City Star

Anyone who’s ever encountered Internet trolls, those vile, racist, sexist and often profane people who gorge themselves on others’ misery, might have concluded they are psychologically disturbed.

That would be correct, new research suggests.

Cyber-trolls gleefully spew their “e-bile” using smartphone apps, online comments, texts or social media sites for no other reason than cruelty.

“It happens every night,” said Darla Jaye, a radio talk show host in Kansas City whose conservative views often serve as a lightning rod for trolls. “I get stuff on the text line all the time where people swear at me and call me the foulest names. … It’s easy to throw something out there when you’re anonymous. That is the thing about the Internet, especially about trolls. Most of these people are cowards.”

Perhaps so. But, according to a new paper by a team of Canadian researchers that has looked into the psychological underpinnings of trolls, they may be something else as well:

Sadists.

Yes, sadists. But not the psychopathic sadists who turn to actual physical torture or serial killing.

“We use the term ‘everyday sadist’ to emphasize that we are referring to sub-clinical levels of sadism, and not the more extreme forms that are seen in serial killers and criminals,” said psychologist Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and the first of three authors of the paper on troll personality in the February issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

“The essential aspect of sadism,” Buckels said in an email, “is enjoyment of cruelty. Persons high in sadism gain some emotional benefit from causing or simply observing others’ suffering.”

In Kansas City, the issue of using the cybersphere for cruel intent rose again recently. The administrators at numerous schools — including Pembroke Hill, Blue Valley North and Bishop Miege, private, public and parochial — found themselves issuing notices or holding assemblies to urge students not to use a smartphone app called Yik Yak.

Likened to a portable bathroom wall, the free app (which kids say proliferated in recent weeks but has died down just as quickly) allows users to anonymously post anything they want about anybody and share that post with hundreds to thousands of other random users within a few-mile radius.

While many students tend to see Yik Yak as the latest goofy tool to razz friends (“If you’re a cheerleader, high school doesn’t count,” read one) or mock rival schools (“Entrance exam to Shawnee Mission East? Spell your naime”), administrators see it as a weapon for cyberbullying.

“As soon as I heard about it, I downloaded the app,” said Blue Valley North Principal David Stubblefield, who received complaints from students and parents. “... Yes, I was shocked. There were just really ugly things on it … anywhere from sexual humor to racial to religious.”

Although researchers delineate between cyberbullies and trolls — cyberbullies torment specific individuals and are often known by their victims; trolls like to cast their hurt about — they are linked by their penchant for cruelty.

In their troll research, Buckels, Manitoba colleague Paul Trapnell and Delroy Paulhus of the University of British Columbia gathered data from 1,215 individuals — split nearly evenly, half men and half women — based on questions answered on two online surveys.

Both surveys included questions about the subjects’ Internet habits, such as “How many hours per day do you spend posting comments?” or “What do you enjoy doing most on these comment sites? Debating issues, chatting, trolling, making new friends, something other?”

They also included statements from well-known diagnostic tests of personality traits meant to detect various levels of sadism: “Hurting people is exciting” or “In video games, I like realistic blood spurts.”

Beyond sadism, the questionnaire also looked for signs and varying levels of what are known as the three other legs of the “Dark Tetrad” of personality. Those are narcissism ( I have been compared to famous people); sub-clinical psychopathology ( payback needs to be quick and nasty) and Machiavellianism ( it’s not wise to tell your secrets).

Conclusion: Those who rated highest on the scales for narcissism, psychopathology, Machiavellianism and sadism — highest of all for the trait of sadism — were the same people who were trolls. Enjoyment of other online activities, such as chatting and debating, was unrelated to sadism, the researchers concluded.

“It seem like one of their great joys in life,” said Paulhus, “is to make fun of other people and to criticize their opinions.”

Paulhus said that trolls are often insatiably nasty. There is no reasoning with them. The more havoc they sow, getting more people to argue with them, the happier they are. It is that well-known trait that has given rise to the Internet advice: “Don’t feed the trolls.” Like ravenous strays, they just come back.

Over the last two years, Emma A. Jane, a lecturer in media and communications at Australia’s University of New South Wales, has been compiling and dissecting the vast range of electronic vitriol — whether by computer or cell phone — as it is directed at women.

In her paper, “Your a Ugly, Whorish, Slut,” published in 2012 in the journal Feminist Media Studies, Jane pointed out how e-bile directed at women frequently shared the same rhetorical elements: violence and misogyny.

“Gender stereotypes abound,” Jane wrote. “E-bile targeting women commonly includes charges of unintelligence, hysteria and ugliness; these are then combined with threats and/or fantasies of violent sex acts which are often framed as ‘correctives.’ Constructions along the lines of ‘what you need is a good (insert graphic sexual act) to put you right’ appear with astounding regularity…”

In her view, Jane wrote in an email from Australia, “gendered cyber-hate is not rare or occurring only in the fringes of the cybersphere, but has become part of the everyday online experience for many women.”

“I agree with the research … on sadism,” she wrote, “but I also think a lot of people are bored and simply running with the pack.”

One particularly pernicious form of e-bile known as “revenge porn” — in which one posts or sends sexually explicit photos or videos of another person to degrade or harass them — has become enough of a concern that two states, California and New Jersey, recently passed laws criminalizing the act. Twelve more states, including Missouri, have offered similar bills.

Compared with such acts, mere trolling seems tame.

Buckels said it’s still up for debate how much the veil of anonymity on the Internet actually fuels such behaviors ( Without the veil the Internet can provide, would they act this way?) or whether trolling helps vent it ( Thank goodness for the Internet, lest they cause physical harm).

“Some researchers claim that anonymity is primarily to blame,” Buckels said. “But, again, our research suggests that the picture is more complicated. Only certain types of people will act antisocially when they have the opportunity to do so. Most of the time, they can only fantasize about cruel behavior or watch from a distance without risking punishment. Direct action is far more risky, unless the situation is relatively anonymous.”

Buckels said that the anonymity of the Internet can do doubt provide a dark corner from which to strike. For some users, trolling may also offer the same outlet as do violent video games or movies, providing a dose of vicarious sadism as an alternative to the actual thing.

“Our research suggests that trolls also want to be mean to people in real life,” Buckels said. “Perhaps trolling online allows them to satisfy their appetites for cruelty without it creeping into real life.

“As someone recently suggested to me, maybe we should feed the trolls.”

To reach Eric Adler, call 816-234-4431 or send email to eadler@kcstar.com.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2014/03/30...#storylink=cpy
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:06 AM   #2
Katipan Katipan is offline
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I read it because you posted it but it was tough to keep going after "e-bile"...

Anyone really think trolls didn't exist before the internet? I remember slam books being passed around in grade school. I remember porn in the shape of Polaroids. Through it all I remember loud obnoxious people getting off on the misery of others.
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:11 AM   #3
Cephalic Trauma Cephalic Trauma is offline
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tl;dr

But I think all people from kansas and missouri are racist hillbillies with bad hygiene.

Also, go Raiders.
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:17 AM   #4
keg in kc keg in kc is offline
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So Eric Adler is Captain Obvious.
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:17 AM   #5
htismaqe htismaqe is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katipan View Post
I read it because you posted it but it was tough to keep going after "e-bile"...

Anyone really think trolls didn't exist before the internet? I remember slam books being passed around in grade school. I remember porn in the shape of Polaroids. Through it all I remember loud obnoxious people getting off on the misery of others.
It's easier to do behind the relative anonymity of the Interwebs.

I remember a troll we had in high school. He was REALLY busy on the weekends. People were always lining up to kick his ass.
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:18 AM   #6
keg in kc keg in kc is offline
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It's easier to do behind the relative anonymity of the Interwebs.
Yep, you can say anything here. No consequences. Nobody's going to dive through your monitor and kick your ass for being a douche.
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:21 AM   #7
Katipan Katipan is offline
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But by the same token it's far easier to ignore a troll on the internet.
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:22 AM
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:22 AM   #8
keg in kc keg in kc is offline
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Did someone just say something?
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:22 AM   #9
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Wait, doesn't everyone feed on suffering?
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I think the young people enjoy it when I "get down," verbally, don't you?
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:23 AM   #10
htismaqe htismaqe is offline
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Wait, doesn't everyone feed on suffering?
The Chiefs do.
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:27 AM   #11
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The Chiefs do.


The true sadists.
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:29 AM   #12
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I don't know how to respond to keg in a manner that gives me the clear win. Sure wish I could just punch him in the face.
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:30 AM   #13
keg in kc keg in kc is offline
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I don't know how to respond to keg in a manner that gives me the clear win. Sure wish I could just punch him in the face.
Punching me in the face would be a win for everyone. You'd feel better. I'd look better.
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:34 AM   #14
htismaqe htismaqe is offline
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Punching me in the face would be a win for everyone. You'd feel better. I'd look better.
Way to turn a good sadism thread into a masochism thread.
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:42 AM   #15
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I dunno, seems like anonymity just allows people to say what they're privately thinking. In real life, when someone at your office water cooler believes we should pick up Mark Sanchez, you nod your head while thinking "You fool." On a chat board, you just flatly say "You fool" aloud.
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