A bridge too far? BYU research brings internet trolls’ dark traits to light

Jun 24, 2021, 4:56 PM | Updated: 4:58 pm
BYU internet troll study facebook logo...
FILE - In this April 14, 2020 file photo, the thumbs up Like logo is shown on a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. BYU researchers found internet trolls may have some dark personality traits in common, such as enjoying others' pain. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

PROVO, Utah — That internet troll lurking under the bridge of your Facebook feed may look a little different to you, in light of new research into the personality traits of trolls from BYU

Researchers at Brigham Young University found many trolls exhibit the “dark triad” of personality traits. Those include narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. 

“In fact, [internet trolls] really need to have schadenfreude,” Brubaker said. “Schadenfreude is the tendency to receive pleasure from the misfortune of others.”

BYU research: Internet trolls enjoy your troubles 

According to Brubaker, a number of trolls know they’re trolls, and think that they’re funny. They don’t see themselves as speaking out or trying to create dialogue. 

“They want to provoke other people, they want to make them angry, they want a reaction, they want an emotion reaction at the expense of others,” she said. 

Brubaker’s research included a survey of hundreds of Reddit users. It found those who exhibited trolling behaviors also tended to have darker personality traits. 

Read more: Political science professor: Recognizing fake news is ‘up to you’

To the rest of us non-trolls, the internet in general and social media in particular can seem like an unfriendly place. 64% of Americans in a recent Pew survey said social media negatively impacts society. 

“We know incivility in many forms, whether it’s bullying or trolling, is pervasive online,” Brubaker said. “And so being able to understand why it’s occuring is really important.” 

Knowing more about internet trolls, the BYU professor said, could make it easier to combat them — or at least employ mute, block and ignore options. 

The journal of Social Media and Society published the research.

Today’s Top Stories


professor sexual abuse...
Eliza Craig

Former BYU professor charged with 5 more counts of forcible sexual abuse

A former BYU professor was charged with three counts of forcible sexual abuse of a student. However, two additional students came forward.
1 day ago
FILE: Joggers enjoy the sunshine while exercising in Federal Heights area of Salt Lake City. Photo ...
Adam Small

Planning on fasting? BYU study shows a workout can jump start success

The BYU study found that a workout before fasting will get your body into the ketosis phase more quickly.
2 months ago
Brigham Young University-Idaho released its 2021 fall semester enrollment numbers on Friday.
Photo ...
Mark Jones

BYU-Idaho releases fall enrollment numbers

BYU-Idaho officials announce steady enrollment for both online and on-campus for the 2021 fall semester.
2 months ago
Idaho State linebacker Jared Gibson (51) knocks BYU wide receiver Neil Pau'u, right, out of bounds ...
The Associated Press

BYU crushes Idaho State 59-14 for 3rd straight win

Jaren Hall leads BYU to a 59-14 win over Idaho State Saturday afternoon.
3 months ago
BYU running back Tyler Allgeier carries the ball during the first half of an NCAA college football ...
The Associated Press

BYU beats Washington State in 1st game since Rolovich fired

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Tyler Allgeier ran for 191 yards and two touchdowns and BYU beat Washington State 21-19 on Saturday in Washington State’s first game since head coach Nick Rolovich was fired for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Rolovich and four assistants were fired Monday for not complying with the governor’s mandate that […]
3 months ago
football coach...
Curt Gresseth

Religious exemption or not, Washington State coach loses job

A religious exemption won't keep you from being terminated from your job because you refuse to get vaccinated, said a Utah defense attorney.
3 months ago
A bridge too far? BYU research brings internet trolls’ dark traits to light