Why We Troll

By Mat Honan on at

At the end of this post there is a comment form, where you can weigh in and tell me I am wrong. If you do that, however — even if you have a great point — you're probably a troll.

I know. You don't think you are a troll. You are simply assured of your righteousness. You're just demonstrating your case. And you're justifiably adamant about it.

Which is exactly what makes you a troll. (Hi!)

Look, there are two basic types of trolls. One is the person who says or does something simply to get a rise out of people, or to fulfill some horrible void in his or her soul. The kind of shithead who harasses women with breast cancer.

But that kind of troll is thankfully pretty uncommon — like the comic book villain who actually wants to destroy Earth. More common is the guy who thinks he's flying the flag for truth and justice, and, in the process, becomes a complete arsehole. A misguided villain. Like Magneto.

Trolling is often no more than self-righteousness. It's something people do because they are convinced that everyone who disagrees with them is wrong; they feel so strongly about other people being wrong that they justify and justify and, in the process, transform into giant dicks.

Why We Troll

Trolling is an inability to filter: an uncontrollable urge to say "you're wrong". You are wrong about Apple. You are wrong about Google. You are wrong about Microsoft, and HP and Android and Sony and everything else, too. And while we are at it, your grammar is atrocious.

"While it is certainly likely that some people in the world are simply mean, I think that more often than not, mean things get said or written by people who have strong beliefs that they think represent the truth," says Dr. Simon Rego, Director of Psychology Training at Montefiore Medical Center. "And they expect others in the world to agree with them."

"I'd bet the people you call ‘trolls' would have good intentions, and see themselves as good people who are simply trying to help the world see things the "correct" (i.e., their) way. I would also bet that they think that other people are the ones being trolls."

Simply put: When you leave that comment down below, about how I'm wrong and Dr. Rego's a hack, and by the way that sculpture's clearly an ogre, it's not that you're trying to be a troll. It's that sometimes we just can't come to bed because someone is wrong on the internet. We stay up all night, seething. Tweeting. Calling in expert testimony from academics to bolster opinions, and writing missives about how everyone else is trolling us.

Why does that sound so familiar?

Image credit: Phycologist from Shutterstock and Terra Trekking/flickr