A message board troll deliberately makes inflammatory posts in order to get a reaction from some one or to get other message board members to argue. I have certainly fit in this category in the past. At this point I am pretty much a recovered troll, however, as they say in AA once an addict always an addict. In other words although I no longer actively troll it would be very easy for me to fall back in the habit because trolling is very much an addiction (more later in this post). From my own experience there are four reasons someone would actively troll a message board.
First Reason – It Is The Other Members’ Fault
I have been a member of a few message board communities over the years. I can honestly say I never became a member with the intention to troll from the get go. Usually my behavior shifts in that direction based on the behavior of other members of the community. This happens because message boards have established communities (unless you join when the board first starts). Acceptance into the community requires new members to be humble at first. If a new member is not humble and talks back to the more established members when confronted, that new member will typically be accused of trolling. Often the established members suspect the new member of being a troll who had been previously harassed off the board and has returned under a new avatar. If they do not out right accuse the new member of operating a “sock puppet” they will say he is just like every other troll who has been run off the board in the past. The new member will quickly paint himself into a corner by continuing to defend himself and being a troll will become his identity. From that position he can either stick it out and hope that with good behavior over time the label will go away or he can leave. That is the goal of the established members. If he has allies (other members who stick up for him) then he can fight the good fight. If he is all by himself he may choose to relish in the troll identity. This is usually done without admitting to the fact that he is a troll and usually results in ostracization or outright banning if the moderators are strict.
This reason (trolling is the fault of the other members) is hard to justify mostly because the troll will never convince the other members. It is also hard to justify because all the evidence is stacked against him. I suspect most trolls feel that the other members are to blame in their hearts but that is probably because they don’t want to look at the real reasons they troll (Reasons 2, 3 and 4).
Second Reason – The Troll Seeks Attention And Recognition
I was accused once by a message board member that I was looking for attention and recognition. That stung and my immediate reaction was to deny it, but upon further self-reflection I realized the accuser was right. I see this in the way I behave and the way I react emotionally to the behavior of others. After I post a message I am compelled to keep looking to see if anyone responded. If my post was intended to bait another member the urge to look to see if a response was made is heightened. It feels good to see a lot of people respond to a thread I started. It feels good to have people agree with me. It does not feel good (shameful) to have people accuse me of trolling or looking for attention.
Third Reason – The Troll Likes To Fuck With People
Trolls like to fuck with people. They enjoy getting other people angry and seeing them react. This motivation comes from old bonding, probably because someone did it to them and it was probably one of the troll’s parents. Without getting too into the Gestalt psychology of it, children bond to the energy of their parents because they need their parents to survive. Even if the energy is negative, bonding to that is better than the alternative which is death. When they bond to that energy, as they mature they act out that energy on others including their children. See My Experience With Gestalt Therapy. They are also more apt to act out that energy in anonymous situations like message boards where their true identity will not be exposed.
Fourth Reason – The Troll Is Addicted
Trolling is an addiction. When I actively trolled I worked a boring job I hated sitting in a cubicle all day. At the same time I had access to the internet. When I posted an inflammatory post I would experience a rush. If the post produced the reaction I was looking for (pissing someone off or making them look foolish) I got an even bigger rush. I have been told this is the same sort of reward that addicts experience when they partake in their addiction of choice (be it drugs, alcohol, porn, food etc.).
I suppose the take home message is that there is more to a message board troll than meets the eye. Certainly it is not my intention to defend this type of behavior because the truth of the matter is that trolls enjoy making other people feel bad. They get off on it. On the other hand, the reason for this behavior exists is probably because the troll is experiencing a great deal of psychological pain that he is not yet ready to face , not that a troll would ever admit to that.
Read my ebook Shame and Internet Trolling. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks.
- Twitter Trolls: trained on the message boards (90secondfootball.wordpress.com)
- The Best Way to Troll Someone Who Just Got Lasik (gizmodo.com)
- Why People Troll and How to Stop Them (wikileaks-forum.com)
- How to deal with trolls (werenotsorry.wordpress.com)
- Internet Trolls, more of an Internet nuisance less of a cyber threat (luciusonsecurity.blogspot.com)
- Diary Of An Internet Troll (thoughtcatalog.com)