It Doesn’t Take Much to Turn Into an Internet Troll

Even though internet trolls aren’t actually mythical animals, we tend to liken them to inhuman, basement-dwelling creatures that spew hateful comments at unsuspecting people. What we fail to recognize much of the time, however, is that what internet trolls exhibit is human nature—albeit, in some of its most reprehensible forms. In fact, science shows us that it isn’t that far of a leap to go from typical, everyday human to bullying, ranting troll.

The art of posting offensive and provocative commentary online is, apparently, not that difficult to master. Researchers from Stanford and Cornell conducted a study to understand how susceptible the average person is to succumbing to their darker nature and becoming an internet bully.

Over 600 participants were recruited for the study and given the task of reading an online article and to participate in commenting on its content. The comments they could see from others ranged from neutral to troll-worthy. Before this task, participants were given either a simple or challenging pretest to complete and they asked to rate their mood; predictably, those given the more challenging task were crankier.

The results showed that those who were in a sour mood before reading the article and saw nastier comments underneath joined in the trolling behavior 68 percent of the time. Those who viewed neutral comments and took the easier pretest acted as trolls 35 percent of the time, or about half as much as the other group.

Jure Leskovec, lead author of the study, described the phenomenon in a statement as a “spiral of negativity.” Being exposed to trolling comments and down-voting, as well as participating in flagged conversations, all leads to increased bullying behavior online.

The Stanford computer scientist argues that the solution to such offensive and hurtful acts may not be to simply shut down comment sections—as some sites have done—but rather to spend more time understanding what creates these types of environments in the first place.

The research gives credence to arguments that propose stepping away from inflammatory social media conversations and the advice that you should “never read the comments section.” If you go into these territories in a salty mood and see nasty comments from other people along the way, be mindful of what you do next and make sure to catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror to make sure a troll isn’t staring back.

When to Walk Away From a Social Media Argument
5 Tips for Listening During an Argument
Is Facebook Ruining Your Sleep?

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V9 months ago


Jerome S
Jerome S9 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Patrice Z
Patrice Z10 months ago

Good information. Thanks for sharing.

Carl R
Carl R10 months ago


Telica R
Telica R10 months ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

nahia L
nahia L11 months ago

@ Zef rose: I personally think you are deeply mistaken. Words have power, a lot more power that you seem to realize. In fact, dictatorships rose from words. Just think, zef rose...

Philippa P
Philippa Powers11 months ago


Mariana L
Mariana L11 months ago


Tin Ling L
Tin Ling L11 months ago

thanks for posting

Danuta W
Danuta W11 months ago

Thanks for sharing