Trolls are not psychopaths living in their parents’ basement, typing vile comments to vent rage about their miserable lives.
Instead, trolls are mostly normal people, just like the rest of us.
Trolling isn’t done by specific people. Instead, it is likely to occur in specific situations.
According to recent research by Stanford and Cornell, over 80% of trolling can be predicted by two factors: the poster’s mood and the tone of previous online comments.
People who are in a bad mood—due to the day of the week, time of day or specific events—are much more likely to be offensive or bullying.
What’s more, the first comment on a post has a significant impact on the rest. If it is rude or aggressive, follow-up comments are much more likely to be.
When the two factors occur together—someone in a bad mood reads an offensive opening comment—it’s the perfect storm for trolling.
Before you get too depressed, the researchers found some good news, too. Civility in comments is also contagious. Frequently posting community rules helps keep discussions on the high road, as does having a person with high social capital intervene when trolling first occurs.
Sources: Business Insider 2017, New Scientist 2017, Stanford 2017.