Boredom main cause of internet trolling – survey
Boredom is the main cause of "trolling" and "cyberbullying" on social media sites, a study shows.
People troll on Twitter and Facebook because of seven reasons including boredom, amusement and revenge, according to experts.
In a study looking at 4,000 online cases of trolling, linguist expert Dr Claire Hardaker found culprits were from all ages and backgrounds.
Dr Hardraker of Lancaster University's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences said: “Aggression, deception and manipulation are increasingly part of online interaction, yet many users are unaware not only that some of these behaviours exist, but of how destructive and insidious they can be.
“An incredible amount of time and strategy can be involved in trolling, as my research into the techniques they use highlights."
She found people trolled for seven main reasons, such as digressing from a topic at hand and moving onto sensitive issues.
Trolls also criticised faults which they displayed themselves, such as punctuation errors, to deliberately provoke exasperated responses.
Some asked deliberately naïve questions to make people feel guilty, which others gave dangerous advice to encourage risky behaviour.
She also found trolls broached taboo topics in an insensitive way, or plainly attacked people without any justification.
Another technique was to send the same offensive message to multiple groups of people in a ‘spamming’ tactic.
Dr Hardaker, whose findings were published in the latest edition of the Journal of Language, Aggression and Conflict added: "The image of trolling is that it is mainly the work of young people, but the fact is trolls come from all ages and backgrounds.
"They will use different strategies to trigger the response they want from people. Some of these are a lot sneakier than others. It is not just about personal abuse.
"Trolls are also becoming more and more sophisticated. The aggravation typically springs from the degradation of the 'signal-to-noise' ratio.
"The time-wasting noise of one troll-post is relatively easily ignored, but the noise of hundreds of replies to the troll-post, and complaints about those replies, can entirely drown out the worthwhile content."
She also warned that trolling can develop into more serious behaviour including cyberharassment and cyberstalking.
A number of celebrities have become the victims of trolls, including Blue Star Duncan James, who recently revealed he received several homophobic messages on Twitter and The Voice judge Jessie J, who has also been the subject of abuse on the social media network.
Here are the top seven reasons for trolling and why they are so effective:
- Digressing from the topic at hand, especially onto sensitive topics.
Not necessarily overtly argumentative, this tactic frustrates its targets with its pointlessness and circularity. Digression onto sensitive topics triggers the strongest reactions.
- Being hypocritical, especially for a fault that the critic then displays themselves.
A simple tactic, often this is pedantic criticism of grammar, spelling or punctuation in a post which itself contains proof-reading errors to provoke exasperated responses from others.
- Displaying antipathy, by taking up an alienating position, asking pseudo-naïve questions.
This tactic is heavily reliant on deceiving the group it is aimed at and covertly manipulates egos, sensitivities, morals and feelings of guilt, usually to trigger emotional responses. It can also create moral dilemmas.
- Endangering others by giving dangerous advice, encouraging risky behaviour.
A trolling strategy designed to masquerade as help or advice whilst actually causing harm and/or forcing others to respond to prevent harm. It relies on the target's social responsibility and moral obligation.
- Shocking others by being insensitive about sensitive topics, explicit about taboo topics.
This appears to succeed mainly due to the strength of feeling provoked by the deeply personal and extraordinarily hurtful nature of the troll's insensitivity. It triggers a desire to retaliate that is stronger than the desire to deny the troll the satisfaction of a response.
- Being aggresive by insulting, threatening, or otherwise plainly attacking them without provocation.
This is open and deliberate aggression without any clear justification with the aim of antagonising its target into retaliating.
- Crossposting - sending the same offensive or provocative message to multiple groups then waiting for the response.
The message sent by the troll in this tactic is totally off topic and irrelevant. This deliberately careless 'spamming' tactic can result in potentially thousands of users being inundated with unwanted or irrelevant messages.