Friday, November 7, 2008

Please Do Not Feed The Troll!

I cannot find the name of the original author of this post. I first read it several years ago. Whoever the author is, they are spot on.

"What is a Troll? An Internet "troll" is a person who delights in sowing discord on the Internet. He (and it is usually he) tries to start arguments and upset people.

Trolls see Internet communications services as convenient venues for their bizarre game. For some reason, they don't "get" that they are hurting real people. To them, other Internet users are not quite human but are a kind of digital abstraction. As a result, they feel no sorrow whatsoever for the pain they inflict. Indeed, the greater the suffering they cause, the greater their 'achievement' (as they see it). At the moment, the relative anonymity of the net allows trolls to flourish.

Trolls are utterly impervious to criticism (constructive or otherwise). You cannot negotiate with them; you cannot cause them to feel shame or compbuttion; you cannot reason with them. They cannot be made to feel remorse. For some reason, trolls do not feel they are bound by the rules of courtesy or social responsibility.

Perhaps this sounds inconceivable. You may think, "Surely there is something I can write that will change them." But a true troll can not be changed by mere words."

And most importantly: "The only way to deal with trolls is to limit your reaction to reminding others not to respond to trolls."

Thank you for your attention. Please do not feed the troll.

The Cluster B personality disorders of the DSM-IV include the antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic personality disorders. While none of these are a perfect description of the typical troll's behavior, they do share features with the troll.

First of all is the antisocial personality disorder, also known as psychopathy or sociopathy. Antisocial behavior includes some of the following elements:

  • Failure to conform to social norms
  • Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure
  • Consistent irresponsibility
  • Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another

Narcissism is the ego unbound. The DSM-IV describes the narcissistic personality disorder as, "A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts...." Some indicative behavior are these:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Some elements of the histrionic personality disorder, a disordered personality exhibiting an excessive need for attention, also manifest themselves in trolls:

  • Is uncomfortable in situations in which he or she is not the center of attention
  • Interaction with others is often characterized by provocative behavior
  • Has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail

What the Cluster B personality disorders have in common is manipulative behavior, a lack of empathy, and self-centeredness. What separates trolls from typical people with Cluster B personality disorders is a form of social aversion or fear of identification that prevents them from acting out their self-centered behavior in less anonymous places. The result is that these needs are satisfied on the Internet. Here are my criteria for the Internet Troll Personality Disorder:

The Internet Troll Personality Disorder is characterized by attention-seeking and disruptive behavior in anonymous, delocalized places of socializing. It is indicated by the following traits:

  1. A tendency to make provocative comments to invoke emotional responses in others
  2. A lack of connection to the community being trolled; i.e., will leave if desired response is not invoked ("Do not feed the trolls!")
  3. A dissatisfaction with one's life and a cynical attitude towards things in general
  4. A tendency to challenge the rules and authorities of a community
  5. A preference to exhibit these behaviors only in places where one's true identity is unknown

Disclaimer: It takes a qualified professional to diagnose anyone with a personality disorder.

1 comment:

Emily said...

Or considers themselves to be the equivalent of Joan of Arc?