Internet Trolling, Unpleasant and Anonymous Behavior on Social Networks

Trolling is a situation that all of us, to a greater or lesser extent, have suffered on the internet. But why does it happen? Here are some answers.
Internet Trolling, Unpleasant and Anonymous Behavior on Social Networks

Last update: 20 August, 2021

Online interactions have long been a reality on the Internet. Furthermore, they form a fundamental part of people’s lives. In addition, just like in any other area, some people try to create a good atmosphere online while others go trolling.

What are the motivations of someone who trolls on the internet? What do they get out of it? The number of people experiencing trolling is growing yearly. However, this doesn’t explain what leads a person to exhibit this kind of behavior online.

In this article, you can find out about a study that was conducted to answer these questions. You’ll also find out about some other factors that relate to trolling behavior. Futhermore, if you’ve ever been trolled yourself, you can discover why it happens here.


Trolling usually affects teenagers

The word trolling refers to online behaviors that seek to annoy or cause harm via messages posted on social networks. These might be forums, blogs, or other public spaces. The messages are usually posted anonymously.

The figure of the internet troll takes its name from the mythological creature with the same name, that was known for doing malicious mischief to humans. There’s also another meaning that comes from the world of fishing. In this field, trolling is a technique that consists of slowly dragging a baited hook from a moving boat.

Using these definitions, it might appear that people who exhibit this type of behavior are simply making innocent jokes or mischief. They aren’t. In fact, trolling is an antisocial behavior that can become a nightmare in the lives of its victims.

What are internet trolls like?

New research recently published in the journal, Social Media and Society sheds light on the motives and personality traits of internet trolls. In fact, it was due to the increasing prevalence of trolling that the researchers undertook this analysis. They wanted to learn how to prevent and correct it.

The research consisted of an online survey that was completed by more than 400 Reddit users. It found that people with dark triad personality traits like narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy – combined with sadism, were more likely to carry out trolling on the Internet.

Women who participated in the survey tended to view trolling as dysfunctional. However, the men were more likely to view it as functional.

Surprisingly, the trolls who displayed these provocative behaviors, leading users into useless conversations, didn’t think that they were doing anything unacceptable. They simply thought that pointing out the shortcomings and mistakes of others in a public setting was an enjoyable experience.

Is being honest the same as trolling?

It may seem that the solution to this type of behavior is to restrict users’ opinions about other members of an online community. However, the study found that there was no correlation between being outspoken online and trolling behavior.

There’s one aspect that dictates the difference between a healthy debate and trolling. It’s the fact that those who exercise the latter don’t care about how their words and actions can affect others. In fact, they’re more concerned with improving their own experience than creating a positive climate.

What to do in a trolling situation

Woman looking at mobile phone

By now, all, or almost all users who participate in online communities, have encountered a person who tries to spoil the environment. Alternatively, they might directly harass or insult other people. It’s a situation that produces anger, frustration, and often results in what the troll wants: to be answered.

Experts have given a series of extremely useful tips to prevent situations from escalating when the troll tries to provoke the online community. Here they are:

  • “Don’t feed the troll”. These people want to get others involved in their game so they can continue to offend and harass. Therefore, the best thing to do is ignore them and report them immediately.
  • Remember who you are when you connect to the Internet. Often, anonymity leads to disinhibition in the performance of offensive behaviors. This is because the interlocutor isn’t present, hence there are fewer consequences. Therefore, the experts advise that if you come across certain ideas or personalities that you don’t approve of, remember that you wouldn’t offend them in person.
  • Learn to recognize a constructive conversation. There’s nothing wrong with presenting opposing points of view, as long as it’s done with respect. When this isn’t the case, it’s best to end the conversation.
  • Complain. Today, the most effective solution to trolling lies in making the trolls suffer consequences for their actions. Indeed, social platforms usually have mechanisms to ban them. Furthermore, in cases of harassment, they can be reported legally.

The good atmosphere on the Internet

Although the troll may seem like an evil and alien figure, we’re all capable of being toxic online. We might even do it unconsciously. This is because social networks are like town squares where everyone can speak at the same time and nobody stops them.

For this reason, instead of condemning online communities, it’s more important to contribute something to them. In fact, we need to work towards creating safe, positive spaces, where activities like trolling and harassment have no place. This is everyone’s responsibility, both in the physical and virtual world.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bargh, J. A., McKenna, K. Y. A., Fitzsimons, G. M. (2002). Can you see the real me? Activation and expression of the “true self” on the Internet. Journal of Social Issues, 58(1), 3348
  • Bergstrom, K. (2011). “Don’t feed the troll”: Shutting down debate about community expectations on Reddit. com. First Monday16(8).
  • Brubaker, P. J., Montez, D., & Church, S. H. (2021). The Power of Schadenfreude: Predicting Behaviors and Perceptions of Trolling Among Reddit Users. Social Media+ Society7(2), 20563051211021382.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.