Inside the Mind of an Internet Troll
Because haven’t you had enough already?
I enjoy Medium. I enjoy writing. I enjoy the internet. There’s not much that ruins that, really.
But then, there is this sub-species of humans. They’re basically like cockroaches: They come out of the dark corners of the world wide web, they infest your clean, safe home of the internet, and are usually excessively difficult or impossible to get rid of. For the sake of terminology most people have heard before, I’m calling them trolls.
People sometimes can be confused on WHAT exactly a troll is. For educational purposes, here are some resources, to which I refer to for a large majority of this piece.
While I believe that I have encountered and witnessed Predatory trolls on Medium, lately it has just been the regular ol’ “Classic Internet Troll”
Classic Trolls: Classic Trolls have been around since the birth of the internet and social media. They are online users who randomly choose other online users to anger, provoke and defame…Like all trolls, Classic Trolls are driven by needs for power, recognition, peer acceptance, and control. Their primary goal is to incite their target to anger. Once they have achieved this aim, they typically move on to another target.*
*In my opinion, this is 50/50. I’ve seen bullying and trolling go on for long periods of time until someone is blocked.
Now that we’ve put that word out there as a legitimate way to describe what I would normally just call “assholes,” I thought it would be important to state that there is way more than just 1 type of troll. The list of 100+ may be a little extensive in some people’s opinion, and you may be thinking,
“Well, jeez, it sounds like I will be considered a troll with any behavior I do! What is NOT being a troll then?”
To that I say: Consider the source and motivation of the behavior. For example, I never come on here solely with the intention of making myself look superior and/or hurting another person’s feelings.
Internet Troll (defined): The motivations for an Internet Troll’s provocative, and often times, bizarre behaviors are many. Despite the variations in modus operandi, the majority of Trolls are seeking attention, recognition, stimulation pseudo-notoriety and retribution for some unknown perceived injustice. Although there is no evidence or clinical research validating the psychology of the Internet Troll, it is commonly believed that the “Veil of Anonymity” afforded to every online user inspires some to engage in egregious behaviors.
This site even puts together a personality profile for the internet troll. Please note this is not a hard and fast situation. I’ve met people that slightly deviate from this profile (AKA women). But more often than not, this pretty much sums it up. Also note that you may be a male, suffer from a mental illness, and can be addicted to the internet and NOT be a troll. This is a generalization.
iPredator’s Internet Troll Profile
- Most often gender male.
- Spends long periods of time online and likely internet addicted or at risk for becoming internet dependent.
- Meets all three criteria for being categorized as an iPredator.
- A self-awareness of causing harm to others, directly or indirectly, using ICT. (Technology)
- The usage of ICT to obtain, tamper with, exchange and deliver harmful information.
- A general understanding of Cyberstealth used to engage in criminal or deviant activities or to profile, identify, locate, stalk and engage a target.
- Tends to have few offline friends and online friends often engage in the same type of online harassment.
- They are psycho-pathological in experiencing power and control online fueled by their offline reality of being insignificant, angry, and alone.
- The severity and magnitude of psychological abuse they inflict upon their online targets is directly correlated to their probability of suffering from an Axis I, Axis II or Dual Diagnose mental illness.
- When online, show a lack of empathy, have minimal capacity to experience shame or guilt and behaves with callousness and a grandiose sense of self.
- They are developmentally immature, tend to be chronically isolated and have had minimal to no intimate relationships.
So! Onto my favorite types of trolls from the list that I personally have encountered on Medium, Facebook, and other non-discussion forums where I’ve done nothing to the person but post my personal work (Huffington Post, USA Today, etc.) I couldn’t possibly list ALL of them, but these are definitely notable. Though it’s long, I believe it is worth it. Bookmark it if you have to.
“I didn’t read what you said but here’s what I think” Troll: He doesn’t read your piece. He doesn’t need to: he knows what he thinks already and what he knows is that he hates everything you stand for and you’re wrong and he’s going to say so… James Delingpole (2011)
Baiter: This troll has a serious case of superiority, and always an ulterior motive. Whether posting one-off comments or engaging in back-and-forth, the Baiter always wants to bring the discussion back to their wheelhouse. A Political Baiter will always turn the discussion back to politics, even if the original post is about pandas or the trials of wearing socks with sandals. It could be anything benign, and The Political Baiter will make comments about the “liberal media” or “liberal elite” or “anti-intellectual conservatism” that take the original content to a different (often inappropriate) contextual level. (Criminal Justice Degree Guide)
Bitter Troll: Bitter Trolls are a curious cross-species. They can be trolls of any breed in their beginning stages, but become Bitters after their earlier activities are seen for what they were. What sets these trolls apart from other classifications is their behavior after they have been spotted and labeled as trolls. Angry, frustrated, and resentful about being “outed,” the Bitter Troll will wage a campaign of indignant complaints intended to focus attention away from the troll and on whomever is responsible for identifying the creature. (2006 Ubuntu Forums , Trolls)
Mutt: Alternatively known as Dogs or Yapping Dogs. Mutts are pack animals characterized by their loud barking — vociferous, repetitive, usually ignorant and irrational criticism of anything and anyone they do not like. Mutts often become obsessed with a few or even a single poster with whom they disagree, often for purely personal reasons. Like a dog gnawing at a bone, the Mutt will attack the object of its ire over and over, making a fool of itself in the eyes of those who understand such childish behavior for what it is. (2006 Ubuntu Forums , Trolls)
Boomerang: Different name but posts sound familiar? This troll sets up new accounts to keep posting when blocked. Emily Turner, (2013)
Bored Hater: This guy loves to make problems, usually out of sheer boredom. His posts are vile and hideous for no other reason than riling up total strangers. His arsenal includes racism, sexism, homophobia and religious intolerance. Tamar Love Grande (2010)
Comment Trolls: The delightful little creature who somehow always shows up in the comments section of blogs, websites, and social media services to show off his superior intellect and set the world straight. The Internet Comment Troll is an expert in all matters and always takes pains to spread his wisdom. He particularly loves to dwell in tech-related realms, where he enlightens reviewers and enhances their work with his insights. Were it not for the Internet Comment Troll, online comment sections might actually be a place for meaningful. JR Raphael, (2014)
Concern Troll: A person who posts on a blog thread, in the guise of “concern,” to disrupt dialogue or undermine morale by pointing out that posters and/or the site may be getting themselves in trouble, usually with an authority or power. They point out problems that don’t really exist. The intent is to derail, stifle, control, the dialogue. It is viewed as insincere and condescending. The VineYard, (2007)
Sophist Troll: “Sophist Trolls,” or “philotrolls,” fancy themselves Enlightened Philosophers or Learned Experts of the highest order. Often well educated, Philotrolls are capable of speaking intelligently on a number of topics, and when the spirit moves them they can be worthwhile forum participants. Unfortunately, Sophist Trolls are an extremely hostile and intolerant species.” (2006 Ubuntu Forums , Trolls)
Affected Profundity Troll: A mutant subspecies of Sophist Trolls, Affected Profundity Trolls post endless pages of pretentious drivel that is intended to appear wise, but which generally makes little sense (if any). Affected Profundity Trolls enjoy asking themselves questions, sometimes answering them and sometimes leaving them hanging, for they believe this looks intelligent and lends an aura of mystery to their incoherent ramblings. (2006 Ubuntu Forums , Trolls)
Crazy Troll: This guy just makes no sense. You post something about gardening and he claims that all gardeners are women and all women are soul-sucking incubus (incubi?) who are only out to lure men into bed so they can marry them, then divorce them and take all their money to buy more tomato plants and meth. Kristen Lamb (2012)
Done-It-All: These trolls know and have experienced everything. Their knowledge is paramount and they will drown you in facts and anecdotes until you give up. Emily Turner, (2013)
Downer: This troll complains about everything: too much information, not enough information, boring posts, it was better last year, someone else does it better and no one listens. Emily Turner, (2013)
Fail-o-blog Troll: Fail-o-blog troll’s dream is to have a blog as successful as the one he trolls. Unfortunately — as you can see for yourself if you’re foolish enough to follow the link he provides to his tragically unread blog, he is incapable of expressing himself coherently, interestingly or amusingly. His tone is bitter, thwarted, envious: like Iago, only without the quick-wittedness or charm.” James Delingpole (2011)
Fraud Troll: This person, who claims any number of things to gain the sympathy of the world, has none of the problems he or she claims to have. (The Band Back Together Project)
Frost Troll: Like an infantile child who proudly sits in his own shit, the Frost Troll’s social ineptitude makes it nearly invulnerable to any criticism. Its Achilles heel is the rejection it faced as a youth. Maybe it was that rather unfortunately timed “cold sore” outbreak which was forever memorialized in the high school yearbook or that embarrassing first time experience with the poor girl’s armpit. Josh Gross(2013)
Frost Troll 2: Taking its name from the loathsome Skyrim creature, you should tread carefully with the Frost Troll. These are the sort of guys who have convinced themselves that being an asshole qualifies as a legitimate sense of humor. The breed consists of those who blow cigarette smoke into a cancer survivor’s face, or who, even more offensively, wear an Ed Hardy V-neck.
Hate Monger: One of the most nauseating types of Internet trolls is The Hate Monger. This commenter blasts the Internet, and otherwise civil discussion, with hate speech. Be it sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise, the Hate Monger reflects the ignorant dregs of humanity. (Criminal Justice Degree Guide)
Hater: They don’t need a motive, they just move from victim to victim saying not very nice things and making you feel like you’ve done something to deserve it. Which is nice. Robin Edds (2013)
Old Warrior: The Old Warrior has been there and done that. He has little time to spare for those who have not been there and done that. The Old Warrior has been there and done that to such an extent, in fact, that he is always right. Anyone who disagrees with him, therefore, is wrong by definition and should shut the hell up. Old Warriors place a very high premium on one’s credentials relevant to the subject matter discussed, failing to understand the logical fallacy of appeals to authority. (2006 Ubuntu Forums , Trolls)
Pretend-novice: Has an agenda to push but pretends to not to understand arguments against said agenda in order to push the agenda further. By appearing to be a new user, she can get away with combativeness without appearing aggressive or hostile and can always excuse any poor arguments as ignorance or genuine inquiry. (2006 Ubuntu Forums , Trolls)
I’m Better Than You and You’re a Moron Troll: This type of troll isn’t out-of-control-crazy, just more condescending and smug. This troll looks for picky things to criticize as justification for why you are an idiot with the mental capacity of a sea cucumber. These trolls will also take time to spell out specific reasons why they are too good/talented/smart to listen to you. Kristen Lamb (2012)
Just Don’t Get It Troll: Just Don’t Get It Troll is the feeblest form of troll life. In fact he hardly qualifies as a troll at all because he doesn’t understand what proper trolling is about, or indeed what the interweb thing is really for, or anything. He’ll often begin his rants with “I can’t believe you get paid for writing this rubbish” or “How disgraceful that a fine newspaper like the Telegraph should allow its reputation to be sullied by such bilge”. James Delingpole (2011)
Know-it-all: Whatever you know, they know more. They spend a lot of their time attempting to discredit every Guardian article ever written, whilst still claiming it’s their favorite newspaper. Robin Edds (2013)
Lame Teenager: The Lame Teenager responds with clever sayings like, “I know you are, but what am I ?” and “I’m rubber and you’re glue…” Warning: Sometimes the Lame Teenager is really a 40-year-old guy who can’t think of anything better to say. Tamar Love Grande(2010)
Point Misser: The Point Misser lacks the part of the brain that detects humor and loves nothing more than complaining about TV shows they haven’t even seen. Robin Edds (2013)
Psycho Trolls: These trolls have an unconscious psychological need to feel good by making others feel bad. Such people may use their real names on the internet, and they may not even realize that they are “trolling”. (Beware the Troll)
Ripper: Driven by ‘Thanatotic’ forces. A Ripper takes part in self-deprecating trolling in order to build a false sense of empathy from others. (Crocels Trolling Academy)
Serial Leaver: If they can’t get their own way, they threaten to leave forever because of the vile bullying and then return a few days later. Repeat. Emily Turner, (2013)
Stalker Troll: It takes a fairly sick mentality to want to be a troll. If you were in any way healthy, you would prefer to hang out the blogs of people you agree with, rather than maliciously setting out to disrupt those of people you hate. Stalker troll is the sickest of the lot. He becomes obsessed with every detail of life of the person whose blog he infests, in the hope of gleaning tidbits, which he can use against his nemesis. For example, one of the regular trolls on this blog makes frequent sneery references to the fact that I suffer from depression. This is bizarre. James Delingpole (2011)
STD Troll: As many of you know, a sexually transmitted disease is hard to kick, just like this troll. Even when you think you’ve lost it for good, it comes back for another round. Unless you are a Zen monk, you’ll quickly lose patience with this cretin and reward it with the desired reaction. The best way to fight this troll off is by doing something counter-intuitive: agreeing with it. I refer to this as the “roll with the troll” defense” Josh Gross (2013)
Tactical Trolls: This is where the troll takes the game more seriously, creates a credible persona to gain confidence of others, and provokes strife in a subtle and invidious way. (Beware the Troll)
Troll Behind A Troll Behind A Troll: This Internet Troll, when he or she cannot summon up the support of others, will invent new screen names, logins, and profiles in order to support him or herself and his or her argument. (The Band Back Together Project)
And, though this is a bit complicated, it’s called the “Dark Psychology Triad,” which you can learn more about on the 100+ types webpage.
If any person’s username came immediately to your mind after reading some of these descriptions, there is a good chance that they are a troll. Something is super off about them, whether obvious or not, but you can’t really call them out because sometimes, trolling can be subtle. No, your gut instincts were right.
On comment feeds on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, trolls are easier to spot because of the format. They make an asinine comment and boom, there you go. These forums are also a little less anonymous. Medium, on the other hand, is complicated. There are stories, comment feeds and responses, highlights, and the like. You see a troll-like comment they made on someone’s story, but how can you be sure they are are a troll? This is how I, personally, go about spotting a troll on Medium. (Please let me be clear, I am not a “troll vigilante.” I do not seek these people out, rather these people make themselves known on topics that regularly pop up on my home feed).
- The majority of the time, the Medium troll has no profile picture and an enigmatic name, which lends no personal information to you the reader whatsoever. My theory is that it goes along with the anonymity aspect, and the fact that most trolls are gutless pricks. That is not to say that an anonymous profile is always a troll. Some people prefer anonymity when writing personal pieces, and that’s okay and completely respectable. My point is that I don’t usually see troll profiles with a believable first and last name with a picture of them and their children on it.
- The majority of the time, the Medium troll has a low number of followers and has not established themselves within the community. Why would they? They are natural outliers in their personal lives and lack the social skills to form solid connections even on the internet. Most communities like this don’t vehemently support people like them.
- If someone exhibits an occasional troll-like behavior like commenting something nasty or ignorant, acting superior, or playing dumb, that doesn’t necessarily make them a troll. Maybe they have history with the person they are commenting on that we don’t know about. Maybe they are having a bad day. Maybe this is a topic that is super sensitive to them. However, when a person on Medium shows a PATTERN of this type of behavior, then yes, they are a troll. Perhaps they are always commenting hateful things, usually on the same topics. (ie: I hate feminists so I am going to go to ALL the articles tagged feminist and then attempt to hurt them and/or make them feel inferior). If they are always recommending hateful, bizarre, or trolling articles, if they are highlighting similar things…these are all red flags.
- If they have no stories of their own and their entire profile is solely comments, this is a red flag. Not always will these people be trolls, because sometimes people need to dip their toes in a bit, but if they are just being negative as hell and asserting their opinions without writing their own content, it is clear what their intentions are. They don’t want to post well-researched opinion pieces, they just want to be right. Also, they are probably afraid that their content sucks or that people won’t like it, which is a classic low self-esteem indicator of trolls.
Okay, you spot someone that you believe is a troll. Their commentary is bothering you. What should you do?
There are many options here, solely based on personal choice.
- You can report/flag their comment as inappropriate. At the bottom of the comment there are some dots that give you further actions once you click on it.
- You can fight back, like I do if I feel like it’s worth it. Some bullies and trolls will run away when you confront them- others love it. I tend to call them out as a troll and point out that this is unacceptable behavior on Medium, because I truly believe it is.
- You can direct them to the trolling website that I listed above, or any other trolling website you find. It’s simple and if they actually fit the definition and read the page, there’s not much to argue there.
- You can ignore them, if you are able to do that.
- You can kill them with kindness.
You also have the ability to block anyone you want. I feel like there is a taboo surrounding blocking on Medium sometimes. Blocking someone does not make you weak, mean, or insist that you are running from your problems. The troll chose to put their content out there, and it is YOUR choice to not allow them access to yours. If provoked, a troll is likely to go to someone’s page, find their most personal piece, and then pick it apart and make fun of it.
Why would I want to subject myself to that?
I may be on a public internet forum, but if I feel even slightly threatened or annoyed by you, I have the choice to block you without repercussions or consequences. Simple as that. If I see that you are antagonistic, rude, and making your way through the rape survivor pieces on Medium, then why would I not take two seconds to protect myself and block you before I am the next victim? I have no time for that childish behavior.
*Before I close, if this article makes you upset or defensive in any way, I urge you to look at why. If you truly have good intentions on Medium and are just doing your best to produce content and grow as a writer, then you should feel empowered and educated by this article. We are not perfect, so I’m sure at times we have all exhibited troll-like behaviors, but that does not make us trolls in and of itself. Trolls are EASY to spot, if you know what to look for.
If you are reading this and thinking, to some degree, “Oh wow, she’s just a whiny little feminist who wants to censor everything,” that’s not true either. Strongly disagreeing and even arguing with someone on Medium is completely separate from exhibiting trolling behavior. I do it all the time. I am not advocating for people to shut their mouths and be nice all the time.
If you are reading this and thinking, to some degree, “Oh man, get over it and just ignore them because they are not worth your time,” then while I understand your point, I can’t, in good conscience, do that. Do I sit home and cry about trolls on Medium? Absolutely not. But lately it seems that I can’t get on without someone commenting on my writing as a troll, or witness a troll engage a really good person in an unfair fight. (These are usually complete strangers we are talking about, remember).
Trolls are extreme, borderline-psychopathic people that are trying to hurt good people. The more people see it and call it out, the more power we have. I wrote this not only for me but for all the people I have seen as victims of trolling behavior recently. It is not fair, and it is not right.