So, Why Do People Troll?

I wanted to wait until this morning’s fun and games was over before posting this, but I am curious. Also, O Noble Moderators, please feel free to move or delete this thread if it’s inappropriate.

Why do people troll? Is it a desparate desire for attention or abuse? Is it some urge to prove how smart they are? I’ve taken enough abuse without asking for it, so I really don’t understand why someone would open themselves up for ridicule.

I’m especially interested in responses from people who’ve had personal contact with trolls, including our Moderators, but I suspect there might be some interesting WAGs out there.

Thanks for any insight you can provide,

My WAG is that it’s mainly for attention, and derives from insecurity.

The impression I get from trolls I have encountered is that they are predominantly young, male and anti-social. It’s a safe form of rebellion for them.

My analysis of today’s troll was that he just wanted a reaction, and got mad when no one seemed to particularly notice him (or recognise him as a former troll).

Same reason as vandalism, I think. They feel the need to assert themselves, and they’re at an age when they don’t have the skills (or the inclination, or just the patience) to do so constructively.

My guess is that some, if not all of them, have a feeling that they’re remarkably clever and funny and want to express that. Many simply don’t realize that the jokes thier teenage friends think are hilarious really aren’t.

It’s fun, and annoying for the people you’re trolling, which is fun too, and their reactions can be funny.

You guys have never poked an ant hill with a stick?

I think there are many beasties in this zoo.

Trollus Conventionalis – There are, as istara and Steve Wright describe, many who from the get-go just want to be destructive and attract attention and feel “bad”, and make no attempt to disguise what they’re doing.

Obsessivum Jackdeantyleria – Then there are those who have a content agenda, they are aware that the things they came to say are going to rile most people, and that suits them just fine (they want to rile everyone except those hypothetical few who would agree with them), but when the riled-up Dopers start picking apart their arguments and mocking them for their idiocy, they get defensive and abusive, i.e., they can dish it out but they can’t take it.

Infurium Amplsamplicus – Their close cousins are the ones who DON’T arrive with a content agenda, but who are prickly and defensive and when (as happens sooner or later) someone challenges something they’ve said, they get personally abusive and it becomes apparent that they, too, can dish it out but can’t take it.

Silos mastersonicus – Then there are the sneaky ones, often socks of perennial trolls, who rather than coming here to be blatantly irritating to everyone, alternative reasonable & even thoughtful posts with needling and provoking in such a way that when their needling generates some outrage, at least a few people will pipe up to their defense. They seem to like to set us at each other’s throats while they watch. Many of them are focused on trying to provoke a moderator and/or convince the rest of us that the mods are heavy-handed unfair biased nazi pigs.

Alexium Chewtoius – We get a few spammers clinging to the walls from time to time, occasionally insisting loudly that they aren’t selling/advertising anything and doing their best to incite some outrage on their behalf so they can continue with their shtick.

Hoaximus Lunaticus – And hanging from the ceiling we have the ersatz space aliens who post in prolific and incoherent styles and leave us scratching our puzzled heads wondering if they are genuinely serious nuts or if they’re having us on. I think they just want attention, too, but like the needlers they go at it in a sneakier way than the bombastic aggressive trolls.

I used to troll in chatrooms. I did it because I had no life and I liked to imagine the various reactions from the faceless audience I was annoying.

One thing I used to do was invade a room and start talking about olives. Whatever the subject was, I was talking about olives. Green ones, black ones, pitted or non, pimientos, troll troll troll. I was happy when I could successfully turn the prevailing conversation to olives, and even happier when I could cause someone to lose his/her temper because some crackhead busted into the room talking about olives.

Other times I’d just go off on people from Nova Scotia. I feel kinda bad about that.

One other thing I used to do a lot was this:

A lot of it was the novelty of this new medium of communication, where you could be as silly or outrageous as you wanted with complete anonymity. It was also an outlet for aggression. It was like railing against the world from behind a protective sheild.

<Wild Rebels>I did it for the kicks!!!</Wild Rebels>

Because sometimes, it can be fun. I would NEVER troll a place like the SDMB, or really scary sites where the people might be able to hunt me down (like Stormfront), but things like going into Star Trek channels on mIRC and saying, “star trek sux star warz rulz” is kind of fun sometimes.

From this thread:


Originally posted by Triskadecamus
The concept we are searching for here is called “extinction” in behavior modification. Behavior has consequences. There is an informational channel in both directions, and one can modify the behavior of any subject by intelligently modifying ones own responses.

In the case of a behavior you want to have repeated more often, then it is most important that the response be very quick, and at least moderately reliable. That is called positive reinforcement. Even punishments immediately following behavior are positive reinforcement, because it is positive in schedule. The behavior happens, the response follows. In most cases, unless the punishment is severe, unavoidable, and distinctly undesirable to the original subject, positive schedule reinforcement is most effective in increasing the frequency of behavior.

Negative schedule reinforcement works like this. The stimulus is present at all times, until the behavior occurs, and it then stops, immediately, and reliably. Aversion stimuli are possible in a negative schedule program, and can be startlingly effective. It isn’t possible in our system, though, because a troll can avoid negative stimulus at will, simply by not reading the aversive sources. The negative schedule reward stimulus, in our case, is the existence of a large community of very intelligent and well-spoken people. The possibility of negative schedule reward is implicit in the function of the board, and looking at post counts of members will show you that that one is working just fine, thank you. We continue to post, and read, because the board provides us with our reward as long as we do so. When we log off, the reward stops. So, we log on again.

Then there is extinction. One must eliminate any cause effect between the stimulus and the behavior. That doesn’t mean you ignore anyone you think is a troll. It doesn’t mean you refuse to answer any question because it might be a troll. It means you don’t change your behavior because of the behavior of the other poster. If you find the question, or point useful, or interesting, you reply to the point. If you find it trivial, or stupid, you move on to something else. If it is a troll, you don’t change that. You don’t get into a fight, unless what you want to do is encourage fights. You don’t tell them that they are trolls or anything at all, unless you want to encourage trolls. If you answer an inflammatory question with a factual and rational reply, that is not changing your behavior and still falls into the definition of extinction. (Well, this assumes that factual and rational replies are usual for you.)

No one really just posts to post, without any thought of the reply. And certainly no one posts repeatedly to a forum that they don’t find some response from. The absence of stimulus cannot cause an increase in behavior, unless the stimulus itself is present under natural situations. In that case, removal of the stimulus is a response. No response at all causes extinction of behavior. (Remember, in this analysis, a response is any change in behavior by the general membership of the board.) Now, the phenomenon of the drive by troll is not going to go away. But, repeat visits will go down if the trolls find that nothing they do changes us at all.

So, answer the post, even if the poster is a troll, if, and only if, the post itself is something you wish to see repeated. (And that doesn’t mean answer only posts you agree with, unless you want a message board of clones who all agree with you.) If the post is one you think the board would be better without, then don’t reply. If the thread has other posts you find worth your time and effort, simply answer those posts, and continue your discussion. When posters you admire are posting less, or more than usual, post your approval of their posts, and they will likely post more often, in either of the cases. If you don’t admire the poster, then don’t post about them at all. Use the board’s ignore function, if your own ignore function is not operating correctly.

It works. Now some trolls are pretty stupid. But this method works on lab rats, invertebrates, and even graduate students.


I like olives.

Here you go, Tris

Sorry about my last post it was supposed to go to a different thread :smack:

Because they can.

Seriously, some people are just plain jerks. There’s no point trying to understand them.

What too many of them don’t realize, however, is that a message board isn’t an underfunded grade school crewed by an underpaid, overworked facutly that stopped giving a damn about everything, and moderators actually have a pretty powerful stake in not letting the inmates run the asylum. So they get banned. And are left stunned for weeks by the fact that someone actually took action against them.

Man, I love this modern age. :smiley:

In the right thread, it was quite clever, BioHazard. Kudos.

I posted my opinion on this very subject just a couple hours ago in another thread.

I think trolls see a message board as a bathroom wall, and their keyboard as a Sharpie. Normal people people see it as a communication medium, and not something to deface.

Was? Was? Was? Was? Was? Was? Was?
Was? Was? Was? Was? Was?
Was? Was? Was? Was? Was? Was? Was?

“Garth, that was a haiku.”

I think Tris made a lot of excellent points in that post, but I can’t be sure, because I didn’t read it. However, did you guys ever notice that the rolleyes smiley guy kinda looks like an olive? Check it out: :rolleyes:

oh yeah, since someone already said it in this thread , what does WAG stand for?

WAG=Wild Ass Guess.
Many years ago when I first started chatting in Yahoo, the only thing more fun than cyber sex was riling up the friends of Jesus. And they were so easy. I did it because it was funny. No deeper purpose than that. Of course, I outgrew that phase by the time I was 16…