Internet trolling can be defined a lot of ways. Researchers are just beginning to study it, but it’s basically antagonizing people online to get a response. Positive or negative… any response will work, because what they’re trolling for is attention.
“You literally are blogging or posting something that shifts the topic at hand, which is an article or research that has been done, or a current event. Now, everyone shifts their focus to you. It feels good, it builds up self-esteem,” said Sarah Feuerbacher the director of the SMU Center for Family Counseling.
“Inside I was validated. ‘All right, the stuff I’m reading is paying off because I can make a person feel like crap,’” said the guy who, online, went by “Dynomutt.” He had an adolescence that’s pretty much a case study in internet trolling.
“Since you have that screen of anonymity behind you, in front of you, you can say what you really want to say,” said Dynomutt.
“It’s very much about power and control over a situation or individuals. So, it very much gives an individual the ability, in that brief moment, to feel good about themselves, even though their actions are negative,” said Feuerbacher.
“It made me feel empowered at the time. Going through that phase, I guess 14, 15, I didn’t feel all that powerful outside of this little realm,” said Dynomutt.
He mainly trolled religious message boards, and … not just every now and then.
“Maybe about four hours a day. Weekends, probably more. Summers, definitely more than four hours a day,” he said.
Dynomutt still wants to remain anonymous, because it’s time to get a job. He says “trolling” is behind him.
It isn’t only teens trolling. ‘Goochlore’ is still actively trolling, and he’s been doing it for more than a decade. He invited us over to show us how he trolls.
For a … prolific… internet troll, like Goochlore, there’s an art to it.
“They’ll either ignore this, like a normal, sane person would do, or they’ll get totally mad,” he said. “What you want to do is give enough truth so they’re like, okay, this person knows what they’re talking about, and then you kind of layer in the troll in there, so it’s not apparent.”
When he gets a response, he jumps.
“You’re just poking at them, telling them they suck or they didn’t do that right. Everybody has their own thing that they get mad at and you can pick it up pretty quickly,” said Goochlore. “It makes you feel accomplished that you made someone feel angry over text. How is that possible?”
Goochlore says he does it mainly out of boredom.
“It’s almost like being a knight for justice. There’s so much stupid stuff on the internet that there needs to be a filter out there. What that filter includes is making up ridiculous things and having other people believe them,” said Goochlore.
When I told him “it sounds to me like you’re kind of adding to all of the ‘ridiculous things’ by trolling.” Goochlore responded with, “Some would see it this way.”
Feuerbacher says trolling is much more than a boredom remedy. it can be dangerous.
“It escalates. It’s abusive behavior. It’s bullying behavior. Even though it’s done behind a computer screen, it’s still behavior that’s hurting someone else, or large masses of people, but it’s also hurting that individual. They will change, if they haven’t already. They will change in their public world. They will start to include some of these characteristics and statements and beliefs,” she explained.
Feuerbacher says trolls should seek counseling… and their victims should seek to ignore them.
“Even if you’ve got this altruistic, I’m trying to help them, I’m trying to make them see that their ways are erroneous and hurt people, again, it is giving them attention and shifting the focus of what the original content was about on to them,” said Feuerbacher.