A new study
from the University of Manitoba has shockingly claimed to have found that the Internet trolls we all know or love so well may not be very nice -- or particularly mentally healthy -- individuals in real life. The study tried to explore whether or not Internet trolls fell into the so called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others). The study (mostly survey, really) claims to have found
"... correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior. What’s more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that an individual spent, per day, commenting on the Internet."
It's worth noting that the survey found, by and large, that most people online are perfectly reasonable and decent human beings. At the very least they're just quiet lurkers:
"To be sure, only 5.6 percent of survey respondents actually specified that they enjoyed "trolling." By contrast, 41.3 percent of Internet users were “non-commenters,” meaning they didn’t like engaging online at all. So trolls are, as has often been suspected, a minority of online commenters, and an even smaller minority of overall Internet users."
The study appears to rely heavily on subjects pulled from Amazon's Mechanical Turk
, who may not be a good control representative of what constitutes normal behavior, either online or off. The study also appears to be rather heavily reliant on simply asking people if they liked to be jerks on the Internet -- which if I
were an Internet troll, I'm not sure I'd answer correctly. Reading their analysis and methodology
, it's not clear to me if the researchers did (or could) calculate how anonymity can turn a relatively normal person into a blathering jackass (as this classic Penny Arcade comic illustrates
in deep scientific detail).
Is somebody necessarily a sadist offline because anonymity turns them into a jerk when they're online? Isn't it possible that people act worse online because the sense of anonymity gives them the belief they're free from repercussion and can therefore experiment with darker, but not necessarily dominant, aspects of their personality they'd fear to explore offline? Wouldn't that especially be true of children, who may express anger at their lack of power through online rage, but develop into perfectly normal people as they age?
You can dig through the full methodology yourself
, assuming you're smart enough, professor. Those shoes make you look fat. I'd also like to point out that the Beatles sucked, Internet Explorer is the vastly superior browser, the RIAA makes a lot of solid points based on sound scientific data, the Comcast merger will help cure cancer and save puppies, and my little sister is much better than you are at this game, bro.