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Article: Understanding the Mind of an Internet Troll Can Help Protect Oneself

Understanding the Mind of an Internet Troll Can Help Protect Oneself

Understanding the Mind of an Internet Troll Can Help Protect Oneself

The internet, with its vast avenues for connection, information, and expression, also has its dark alleys. One such alley is inhabited by internet trolls. But who are these trolls, and what drives them? By delving into their psychology and referencing prominent research, we can better navigate the online world and protect ourselves from their disruptive tactics.


Internet trolls are individuals who engage in disruptive behaviors online, often seeking to upset, provoke, or harm others. They might post inflammatory comments, share offensive content, or deliberately spread misinformation1.


Several studies have delved into the psychological makeup of trolls:

  1. Dark Triad Traits: A 2014 study by Buckels, Trapnell, and Paulhus revealed a significant correlation between internet trolling and the Dark Triad of personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy2. Trolls, it seems, exhibit higher levels of these traits compared to average internet users.
  2. Sadism: The same study found that trolls often have sadistic tendencies, meaning they derive pleasure from causing pain or discomfort to others.2.
  3. Attention Seeking: Some trolls seek attention and the thrill of creating chaos3. For them, the reaction, whether negative or positive, serves as validation.
  4. Anonymity: The veil of anonymity that the internet provides can embolden individuals to engage in behaviors they wouldn't typically exhibit in real life4. This disinhibition effect can amplify trolling tendencies.

Protecting Ourselves from Trolls

Understanding the motives behind trolling can empower us to deal with them more effectively:

  1. Don't Feed the Trolls: Recognizing that many trolls seek reactions can help in adopting a strategy of ignoring or not engaging with them.
  2. Set Boundaries: Use privacy settings, filters, and moderation tools to control who can interact with your content.
  3. Report and Block: Most platforms have mechanisms to report abusive behavior. Utilize these tools to keep your digital space safe.
  4. Emotional Distance: Realize that trolls often target individuals indiscriminately, seeking reactions rather than making personal attacks.
  5. Build a Support System: Engage with positive online communities and friends who can offer support if you're targeted.

While trolls are an unfortunate reality of the digital age, understanding their psychology and motivations can equip us to navigate the internet with resilience and caution. Understanding, after all, is power, and in this case, it's our best defense.


  1.  Hardaker, C. (2010). Trolling in asynchronous computer-mediated communication: From user discussions to academic definitions. Journal of Politeness Research. Language, Behaviour, Culture, 6(2), 215-242.
  2. Buckels, E. E., Trapnell, P. D., & Paulhus, D. L. (2014). Trolls just want to have fun. Personality and Individual Differences, 67, 97-102.
  3. Bishop, J. (2013). The effect of deindividuation of the Internet Troller on Criminal Procedure implementation: An interview with a Hater. International Journal of Cyber Criminology, 7(1), 28.
  4. Suler, J. (2004). The online disinhibition effect. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7(3), 321-326.

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