Today we’re going to delve into the psyche of an Internet troll—how fun! Deindividuation is an important term to understand in this quest to understand the mind of an Internet troll. It means that when we reduce our sense of identity, we are less likely to stick to social norms. A fascinating study demonstrated that when someone threatened to jump from a high building, they were encouraged to do so by bystanders. People were more likely to jump if they were part of a large crowd, above the seventh floor, and if it was dark outside—factors that allowed the observers to lose their own individuality. Since trolls are less focused on their identity and “distant” from others, they tend to exhibit aggressive behavior when sending emails, for example.
Simple anonymity provides trolls a sense of protection and allows them to move without any kind of indication of identity or even distinguishing characteristics other than potentially a username. People can really misrepresent their identity—a man can pose as a woman or vice versa. However, even if one’s identity is known and anonymity is removed from the equation, the inability to physically see the person on the other end causes one’s inhibitions to be lowered. In other words, trolls can comment rudely on others’ Facebook statuses because there is no possibility of immediate direct face-to-face confrontation.
Trolls may also view the online sphere as a form of escapism. Emily Finch, a criminal lawyer studying identity theft in cyberspace, “People may see cyberspace as a kind of game where the normal rules of everyday interaction don’t apply to them.” Have you ever said something to someone online that you would never say offline? Please discuss in the comments and check out the infographic below presented by BestPsychologySchoolsOnline.
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