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    Online Trolls: How Many Are Out There?

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    Statistics show that, out of a global population of some 7.3 billion people, about 3.17 billon use the internet. Of that number, about one in three are active on social media.

    Every moment of every day, people can be seen sharing moments as memorable as childbirth and marriage to something as mundane as what they’re having for lunch, or how many miles they ran this morning.

    But there’s a dark side to social media, an unsavory element that lurks on your page ready to pounce on your status or tweet and spew its backwards views, totally ruining any chance of productive or respectful discourse. We call them trolls, we detest them, and try to ignore them, but, have some of us become that thing we hate? 

    According to YouGov, 45 percent of American adults know the word "trolling," as it relates to the culture of the internet, and not a peaceful fishing exercise, and 28 percent have admitted to engaging in troll behavior by antagonizing a stranger online. 

    "Nearly a quarter of those who have ever posted content (23 percent) admit to having maliciously argued over an opinion with a stranger, while 23 percent have maliciously argued over facts. 12 percent admit to making deliberately controversial statements," the report reads.

    A "classic" troll is normally a person who assumes an online identity to disrupt online conversations or invade comment sections for the sake of their own enjoyment. The security supplied by the anonymity of the internet allows for trolls to act as viciously as they like with near impunity. 

    The Anti-Troll Alliance classifies trolling "the same as Cyber-stalking, because let’s face the facts — trolling is exactly the same as cyber-stalking, though with a limited timespan. While cyber-stalkers concentrate on only one target, the Troll can have up to 100 targets (the number of victims in the forum he posts) per day, and can move from group to group creating more and more victims."

    A 2014 study published in the Personality and Individual Differences Journal found there was a connection between trolling and other asocial tendencies.

    "…trolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism" it read, "Of all personality measures, sadism showed the most robust associations with trolling and, importantly, the relationship was specific to trolling behavior. Enjoyment of other online activities, such as chatting and debating, was unrelated to sadism. Thus cyber-trolling appears to be an internet manifestation of everyday sadism."

    Reformed troll Paul Jun wrote on website 99u that trolls act the way they do chiefly because they seek attention, and lack stimulation in their everyday life.

    "A troll’s behavior reflects a deep insecurity so having someone respond to their words gives life meaning, regardless of how pathetic that may sound," he said, warning that, “All a troll wants is you to turn the spotlight onto them." 

    Jun advised that since trolls are driven by ego, there really is no defeating them. 

    "You will never beat a troll. You will never change a troll’s mind…never in my years of dealing with trolls have I seen a troll lay down his or her arms and say, 'You know what, you’re right. I was so wrong.'"


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