Diary Of An Internet Troll

I get sucked in sometimes. About twice a year. I have to respond.

It’s the old joke: “honey, I can’t go to sleep right now. Someone on the Internet is WRONG!”

The last time it happened was…yesterday. But I’m getting better. After a few back and forths I blocked that person. I blocked myself from responding.

Why do I ever do it? Simple, for a brief moment I need love. I think I will get it “out there”.

I’m always wrong.

A few weeks ago, someone claiming to be a full time Internet troll wrote to me and let me ask him questions him about his obsessive trolling.

His name is GVOK.

You may know him if you spend thousands of hours on http://www.startrek.com arguing about politics or Jesus.

GVOK is no teenage, pimply idiot typing out screeds from his high school computer lab. GVOK might be your lawyer.

He wrote:

“After graduating law school I worked for a LAW FIRM, bored out of my mind and miserable for eight years and was laid off in 2009. I had also bought a large, beautiful house that I am now renting out because I could no longer afford the mortgage.”

So GVOK, while he was at his former job as a high-priced lawyer, started spending hours every day on message boards.

south_park_wow_computer_lab

He wrote:

“I’ve had three experiences trolling. Two message boards on Star Trek and one comment section of a Youtube video on whether Jesus was real.

Trolls rarely admit they are wrong and I’m no exception. I was converted from being an upstanding board member into a troll by a board bully named Admiralbill.

Now Admiralbill was a staunch Republican, a real ditto head, ex-navy guy from Texas. He vehemently attacked anyone who remotely espoused a liberal viewpoint.

After a few times being attacked by him and observing him attack others I decided to attack back. ALL OF THIS IS TO SHOW I THOUGHT MY REASONS WERE PURE.

The following is a list of methods I employed:

1. I would post a news article that tended to put the Conservatives in a bad light. This was obviously intended to push Admiralbill’s buttons but I could always argue that I thought the article was interesting and might stimulate discussion. It had the effect of putting him on the defense because he felt compelled to respond to it.

2. I would then keep him tired and on the defensive. I did this by responding quickly and concisely.

I always found it funny when another poster would write a long drawn out post responding to every single point in the previous post.

I would just choose one point to refute or agree with. THIS HAD THE EFFECT OF NEGATING ALL THE WORK OF HIS PREVIOUS POST.

I conserved my energy with small posts that took me ten minutes to craft after they exhausted themselves with long ones that took an hour.

3. I usually asked questions in my responses. This also put him on the defensive because he felt compelled to respond to a direct question. Thus he never set the tone because he was always responding to the tone I set.

4. I specifically stated at times that I did not want Admiralbill to respond in specific threads to avoid conflict. Of course this had the intended opposite effect.

I think it was more than five years before I was banned from the website. I was constantly thinking of new ways to piss Admiralbill off. To this day part of me still hates how mean and self righteous he was.

James, I know you don’t vote but it’s enough motivation for me to vote Democrat knowing that in some small way it gets back at him.

There’s definitely an addictive cycle when it comes to trolling. The exhilaration is the drug that for a moment takes away the pain I feel during the 90% of the rest of the cycle.

I can only speak for myself but I suspect most trolls (and people who engage in e-debates in general) probably share a common personality type. They probably work jobs or live lives that are in someway unsatisfying. They want to feel special and crave attention and respect. They are highly dependent on the opinions of other people.

And this is really at the heart of the matter, a message board troll feels intense shame. It is shame that motivates him to shame others. Where this shame comes from is a whole other discussion but part of it definitely had to do with working a job I hated for so long.

As you mention in your book it is basically pointless to try to change another person’s mind but I suppose at some level I was also operating under the delusion that if I said the right thing he would admit he was wrong.

There is an interesting connection between trolling and working these boring corporate / cubicle jobs that became clear to me after reading your book.”

And he ended his discourse with:

“Thanks”.

GVOK, you’re welcome. TC mark

image – Troll

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James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow James on Twitter or read more articles from James on Thought Catalog.
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