Internet trolls explained by science

They're out there, everywhere. But who are they, where do they come from and how do you deal with them? We've got some answers courtesy of YouTube and science.

Remember: Don't feed this guy!

Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

If you call me out in a comment at the end of this story and I ignore you, one of two things are happening. A: I'm not really ignoring you, but I just haven't gotten around to responding yet. Or B: I think you're a troll.

As it turns out, ignoring Internet trolls might be the right move, according to the folks at the super popular (and therefore probably often trolled) YouTube channel AsapScience.

In their video below, posted Sunday, they break down the science behind Internet trolling, citing a 2014 research paper (PDF) that found 5.6 percent of Internet users -- from a sample size of 1,215 online survey respondents -- either consider themselves to be trolls or at least enjoy trolling activities. (It seems reasonable to me to assume that some trolls might not self-identify, making the actual percentage higher.)

The study, which was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences by a trio of Canadian researchers, delves into the traits linked to trolling behaviors. It found that trolls often have certain things in common, such as psychopathy, narcissism and sadism. If I were a troll, this might be where I'd post an all-caps "DUH!" and a few other rude and inflammatory comments.

Check out the video for yourself to delve a little more deeply into the personality traits of online trolls. The video does note that the anonymity granted by the Internet means trolls don't necessarily have to be dangerous psychopaths or sadists in other areas of their lives. Your barista might make a delightfully delicious latte with a heart swirl by day, but by night he might be trolling hard-working science and technology writers.

Also be sure to heed the lesson at the end on how to deal with trolls. I already have, and it's made my work here far more pleasant than when I've gone below the bridge in the past to feed them.

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