The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in 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).
It is hard to underplay the results: The study 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.
In the study, trolls were identified in a variety of ways. One was by simply asking survey participants what they “enjoyed doing most” when on online comment sites, offering five options: “debating issues that are important to you,” “chatting with others,” “making new friends,” “trolling others,” and “other.” Here’s how different responses about these Internet commenting preferences matched up with responses to questions designed to identify “Dark Tetrad” traits:
These are people who are willing to admit that “The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt.” Thankfully, the trolls come in at slightly six percent (which incidentally is the percentage of men who have committed multiple rapes. Coincidence, no doubt). In most societies, having six percent of your populace who are ginormous dicks would be bad enough. Dealing with them at work, in public, or in your neighborhood is not fun.
But this is the U.S. of A., buster! Here, we let this small, sick subpopulation buy guns. Which brings us to sunny point number two–Michael Dunn, the man who gunned down one kids because he thought they were playing their music too loud in a parking lot. There’s a chilling interview with a former next-door neighbor which describes Dunn’s behavior:
Charles Hendrix, Michael Dunn’s former next-door neighbor, describes violent behavior, lies, insurance fraud, cocaine use, bragging about putting a hit out on someone, and a first wife who said he’d held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her. He says Dunn bragged that he was smarter than everyone else and could outthink them.
There are some really screwed up people out there, and we let them have guns. Oddly enough, it often does not end well.