A new study proved that “internet trolls” are just as terrible offline as they are online. The study focused on online harassment behavior as it could be traced to personality characteristics in “real life.” Slate gave us a run down of the characteristics the researchers were measuring:
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).
Finally, scientific proof of what we all knew: Horrible people are horrible, regardless of their medium of expression.
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.
Correlating “trolling behavior” with sadistic personality traits might make people who tend to brush off trolling take it more seriously. Online harassment does very real damage, causing psychological distress and even fueling suicide. The terminology of online vs. “real life” need to be retired. Eventually, we’re going to have to face it: the internet isn’t some magical alternate realm of existence where people act differently, it’s just another part of reality. And just like life outside the digital world, there’s no escaping assholes.