Friday, April 19th, 2024

Close this search box.

MAKING IT BETTER: Internet Trolls And Bullying: A Serious Threat To All

No comment
Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

The issue of internet trolling, bullying, unkindness, meanness, whatever you want to call it, all falls under the umbrella of human beings treating one another at best with very little humanity and at worst with the darkest cruelty you can think of. Sometimes you wonder, ‘what is this all about’? This is a brief vignette from an internet discussion I recently read; the discussion was around the recent doping brouhaha the tennis champion Maria Sharapova has found herself in:

  1. ‘It’s really a shame this has happened to Maria. While I think she has made a mistake and has to face the punishment, the fact that she has legally been using the product for almost ten years and it was not only until January that it was made illegal would suggest she was just careless. It’s not as if she has really been cheating for years, she was careless not to pay attention’
  2. ‘What do you mean she was not cheating. She is disgusting! I hope she dies and she never works again in her life. All that money she has been making while she has been cheating for years. She’s nothing but a b…h and I hate her!
  3. ‘You are wrong B she wasn’t cheating for years, if the tennis authorities did not say the drug was illegal until January, that’s not her fault. She was not hiding that she was taking it. Her mistake is that as soon as it was pronounced to be illegal she or her people should have stopped it immediately’
  4. ‘I agree with you B. You must be foreigner A and C. You talk like all those foreigners who don’t understand or know the meaning of rules. You should all be gathered together and shot. Also it is typical of women crying wolf once they have been caught! I hate all of you and wish you would all die!’

This is just a mild version of the types of vitriolic, hateful exchanges that prevails on many sites. If it hadn’t become all pervasive and has had devastating effects on people’s lives, hugely impacting sometimes even to the point of fatal results, it would be comical.

As an observer of this phenomenon I have watched and read in absolute horror how comments in chat rooms, and in newspapers descend into absolute gut wrenching obscenities, mudslinging, eye watering abuse, simply because people have differing opinions.

As a mental health practitioner it has raised many serious questions as to the psychology involved with this phenomenon which continues to flourish and spread like a horrible infection.

The internet is a wonderful thing and we have never had anything like it. It must be one of the greatest gifts to mankind in the 21st century. The fact that I can reach another human being at the other end of the world in an instant and share an experience with another woman who might be in distress, or celebrate with a group of people an accomplishment in an instance of its occurrence is incredible. Sadly, the same is true of all the potentially negative and harmful things people think of to engage in terms of its immediacy.

I have often wondered what is really going on under all this abuse. Is it fear, anxiety, pain, oddly enough even a desire for intimacy that is hidden under all this white noise?

In mythology, a troll is a supernatural being. They were thought to be evil and dangerous. Fast forward to modern day, trolls are no longer mythological; they are real and definitely evil and dangerous.

Trolls have infested Facebook and other social networking sites, to spout mostly utter gibberish, disjointed discourse, and continuous offensive and inflammatory crap in the hope of sowing discord, starting arguments and upsetting people. Their entire raison d’être is to seek out people to argue with on the internet over nothing of any real significance. There generally tends to be no real purpose behind their comments except to upset as many people as they can. It sounds absolutely exhausting and pathetic!

Trolls particularly enjoy harming and intimidating people. Psychologically this tends to be in line with elements of the characteristics of socio paths, sadists and other noxious personalities. These are personalities with traits that impair their ability to build healthy relations and to function in a civilised non anti -social way. They manifest Machiavellian behaviour.

Sometimes,  people for one reason or another, possibly coming from some abuse of their own in life which they have not come to terms with, build defences and protective mechanisms early in life to avoid feeling the pain in their own lives. They are quick to recognise any vulnerability in others and project all their hurt on to others or situations, in an attempt to deflect from their own pain.

Whatever investment, relief or satisfaction they derive from their actions will almost always be temporal and never satisfying. Just like an addict they will soon have the craving to repeat the action and behaviour in the quest to fill a bottomless pit, to feed an insatiable emotional void.

Trolling is on par with mob mentality. It brings out the worst in human beings because by lifting our moral constraints, our social etiquette which regulates our behaviour, it encourages the herd mentality.

Trolls feel powerful in that moment they are causing chaos, they are lifted, and they feel in control in ways that are not accessible to them in their regular lives.

Social Psychologists cite what is known as ‘de-individuation’ as the behaviour people who are part of a group exhibit when they partake in mob or herd behaviour. There is a loss of self awareness which leads them to abandon the normal restraints and inhibitions the rest of the population abide by. They lose their sense of individual identity. This is encouraged and has a place to flourish under the anonymity the internet provides. They are able to disassociate from their despicable behaviour in the knowledge that they will and cannot be held accountable.

On does wonder if certain people are more susceptible to this type of behaviour than others. Is there a particular pathology at play here? I tend to believe that in general we are all susceptible to all types of behaviour under certain conditions if we don’t pay attention to our thoughts and actions. When some people feel that their behaviour cannot be traced back to them they are more likely to break social norms and potentially engage in anti-social behaviour. Having said this, researchers have found that certain situations and personality characteristics play a role.

There is a certain level of very disturbing human behaviour that pertains on the internet as well as in real life which is becoming the norm. It would appear many of us have lost certain vitality and the capacity to live, grow or develop in healthy, God fearing ways. This does not even have to be a religious thing. It’s the principle life force that distinguishes higher animals (us) from the lower animals and non-living things. I think of it as ‘emotional incontinence’, the muscles are getting weaker and the spillage is getting wider and the stench is pervasive!

When people don’t deal with their pain and anger over the course of their lives, they learn to project and exhibit displaced anger in inappropriate ways. Sadly the internet is one of the ways that has afforded them this avenue. Many times the things they are railing about are things they invariably hate in themselves but are unable to have insight into.

Your happiness today, at this moment regardless of what has happened to you in the past is totally in your hands. No one can make you feel angry, unaccomplished, diminished or sad except you. Don’t give that power to anyone else no matter who they are.

As for those engaged in hurtful behaviour, in impacting other peoples lives negatively, in damaging lives; may you find peace , may your pain be healed, may you be made whole, may you see the light. The following simple words of wisdom are dedicated to you:


Only when we are sick of our sickness shall we cease to be sick’

‘Knowing ignorance is strength. Ignoring knowledge is sickness’

‘One who understands others has knowledge; one who understands himself has wisdom’

‘Serve the needs of others and all your own needs will be fulfilled’

‘A contented man is never disappointed. He who knows when to stop is preserved from peril, only thus can you endure long’

Dr Wayne W. Dyer

Gloria Ogunbadejo writes a weekly column for Punch Newspaper. She is a Psychotherapist, a life coach, a spiritual counsellor and an ordained Minister


One Response

  1. Thank you again Gloria,
    I get to read something that queries my right standing as I wish to call my sanity.
    I believe that age and experience tend to nurture us. While we shall always have the volatile ones among us, they will reduce in number if the social media regularly moderates what is allowed.
    At least the band wagon will deplete.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *