The Psychology of an Internet troll

March 14, 2012 9:12 am

If you encourage people to comment on your content, don’t be surprised if some extreme POVs are expressed

We’re told that engagement is everything – especially in the world of content marketing. For the most part, this is true. But for some people, this maxim appears to have morphed into the equivalent of an ‘any publicity is good publicity’ philosophy.

Enter the Internet troll…

If you engage in content marketing and want people to engage with you through it, or even if you’re simply enjoy consuming online content, you’ll have noticed that every so often a comment pops up that is so inflammatory that it seems to be inviting a tirade of reactions and responses.

Which is exactly what it is doing. Internet trolls span the entire spectrum from satirical pot-stirrers to highly offensive, hate-mongering racists. Or worse. Yes, worse.

UK man Sean Duffy was jailed after leaving disgusting images and comments on Facebook tribute pages dedicated to honouring dead children. Suffering from a range of mental illnesses, it was found Duffy had become ‘hooked’ on trolling, and spent hours searching the Internet for tribute sites purely to mock people’s losses. Sadly, this is not an isolated event, and attacks on grieving families, purely for sport, are all too common.

Satirist David Thorne has had more than his fair share of trolling experience, usually with fairly comedic outcomes. His targeted trolling efforts are well documented on his website, and most invite hearty belly laughs. It’s easy to see how the line from funny to cruel can be crossed (admittedly, it’s a tightrope Thorne teeters across regularly) and in an interview with Wired, Thorne discusses one of the ‘meaner’ pranks he ever pulled:

‘I joined a knitting forum under the guise of Edna, a 74-year-old woman with 14 grandchildren. After making friends and exchanging crosshatch tips, I declared, “I can hear someone breaking in downstairs,” and logged off, forever.’

Trolling can be a corporate endeavour

It isn’t just individuals engaging in trolling – far from it. While it may not always be branded as such, trolling is commonly found on mainstream news sites – and not just by the commentators. Last year, a ‘travel’ article by Carolyn Webb appeared on SMH that basically decried Bali as a horrible place filled with rabid hawkers who didn’t even have the decency to learn her Australian customs and conform to them. It was deliberately inflammatory, and whether or not this was the choice of the editor or the writer herself, it provoked an overwhelming 1001 responses, and led to the hashtag #carolynwebbwhybother trending on Twitter.

So what is the motivation for all of this rabid, angry, online commentary? Obviously, in online news situations, more engagement leads to more advertiser dollars, so there’s no real mystery there. But what of the individuals who deliberately provoke outrage and hurt for sport? Is the world really filled with this much rage?

Well, thankfully, no.

A study conducted at Stanford University discovered that the people who held the most extreme views were more likely to be the most vocal about them (don’t you just love it when research dollars go into proving things that anyone with a pulse can see as plain as day?). Students were polled and it was discovered that the vocal few actually represented an extreme minority, but because they were so vocal, seemed as though they were speaking for many.

It may not be a groundbreaking revelation, but at least it might help you sleep a little better at night knowing that the majority of people aren’t crazed cowards hiding behind their keyboards.

 

The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.

Read more...

  • News & Views Don’t Forget to Pat the Dog

    Don’t Forget to Pat the Dog

    A few days ago I posted an article called The Stupidity of Silence where I suggested that ceasing all contact when someone doesn’t give you what you want is a really dumb strategy. Here’s another one. We’re looking to sell our house at the moment. Part of the process is interviewing real estate agents. Theirs is an incredibly competitive business where all they’re offering is reputation and the perceived ability to persuade people to buy. The first agent who came […]

    Read more →
  • Content Marketing How to Make Your Content Actionable

    How to Make Your Content Actionable

    Content is not a magical formula that will make your target audience find your product and then breathlessly buy from you. The power of actionable content comes from your ability to attract the right audience, enabling them to interact with you and then to elevate that relationship to the next level i.e. for them to become a customer. So, how do you make your content actionable? Most importantly, you must give the reader, viewer or listener a sense of how they […]

    Read more →
  • News & Views The Stupidity of Silence

    The Stupidity of Silence

    It always astounds me when people in business don’t follow-up with a simple thank you email or even a note – when was the last time you received a handwritten thank you note? – after we’ve had some type of interaction.

    Read more →
  • Email Marketing Features What you Need to Know About Email Marketing for Mobile

    What you Need to Know About Email Marketing for Mobile

    It’s no secret that smartphones and tablets can no longer be ignored by email marketers—and there aren’t many more marketers out there doing so. It is a massive part of customer communication and revenue, but do you know just how massive? The following statistics come from all corners of the globe, and from many different industries. While they keep changing everyday, some are quite shocking. Here’s a brief description of everything you need to know about the power of email […]

    Read more →
  • Digital Marketing Features How to Reduce Your Media Spend & Achieve Better Results

    How to Reduce Your Media Spend & Achieve Better Results

    Digital marketing has changed the media landscape forever and marketing budgets are being spread across channels – mainly digital – that previously didn’t exist. The problem is that optimisation is not as simple as it was before; if you’re not careful, your spend can get out of hand. By optimising each of your channels, you can reduce your media spend and achieve better results – all the while proving a positive return on investment (ROI) for every dollar you spend. […]

    Read more →
  • Features News & Views Digital Marketing Lessons To Be Learnt From Donald Trump

    Digital Marketing Lessons To Be Learnt From Donald Trump

    Donald Trump teaching you marketing lessons? Seriously? Yes, seriously. Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has made the race for the White House fascinating. And fascinating doesn’t happen by chance. Exceptional marketing combined with good old fashioned, in-your-face salesmanship are central to the success of his campaign – so far. So putting aside your opinion on his politics, let’s look at what can be learned from Trump’s ‘Making America Great Again’ campaign. Know Your Audience Contrary to the opinion […]

    Read more →
  • Digital Marketing Features How to avoid digital dead ends

    How to avoid digital dead ends

    Have you ever noticed that so-called ‘express lanes’ on the road or in stores are often slower than the normal lanes? While I know it’s easy to go on auto-pilot when performing mundane chores like driving or shopping, it amazes me that people so often follow the actual signs instead of reading the signs around them. Because we humans are inherently disengaged, conflicted or uncertain as to what we should do in many situations, we’re attracted to people and things […]

    Read more →
  • Social Media When the Social Media Circus Leaves Town

    When the Social Media Circus Leaves Town

    David Bowie died almost two months ago. Soon after, we posted about the tawdry British reality TV show making money from his ex-wife’s reactions. Inevitably, her presence on the show at the time and her response to the news created a social media firestorm. Focus, of course has moved on to the latest deaths, tragedies, political intrigues and sporting victories / defeats. But it’s worth pondering the enduring impact that not being news has on the people who were previously at the centre of […]

    Read more →
  • Entertainment News & Views Chris Rock’s Oscars Lessons for Marketers

    Chris Rock’s Oscars Lessons for Marketers

    Did you see Chris Rock at last night’s Oscars? Man, he nailed it: loose, funny, topical, irreverent, black. Hang on, what was that? Black? You can’t say that! That’s, that’s, well that’s racist! In isolation it’s jarring to refer to someone’s skin colour or any other personal feature when judging work they’ve just completed. Of course, it’s also completely irrelevant. But let’s back up a bit. This year’s Oscars were all about race. After the nominations were announced in January there […]

    Read more →
  • Entertainment News & Views Surreal Reality TV

    Surreal Reality TV

    Few of us over the age of 40 have not been saddened by the death of David Bowie this week. Whether you liked his music or not, he was undoubtedly an original talent who had a profound impact on much of the culture of the 70’s and 80’s. Contrast the outpouring of love and nostalgia we’re now seeing due to Bowie’s passing with what’s happening on UK’s Celebrity Big Brother. By sheer coincidence, Bowie’s ex-wife Angie is currently a ‘resident’ […]

    Read more →