Social media has many positive impacts. Just to mention a few, it helps individuals connect and deepen their relationships, and it also empowers businesses to boost their bottom line. Unfortunately, it’s also true that social networking sites have given rise to negative ways of communicating. Take, for instance, social media trolls. This negative social behavior can cause untold suffering to its victims. So, what does it mean to be trolled on social media? Let’s find out!

What Is Trolling on Social Media?

Let’s start by looking at what is a troll on social media. A social media troll refers to someone who is out to instigate hostility and conflict in a social network. Such a person uses abusive and inflammatory language to evoke an emotional response from other social media users.

So, trolling on social media is the use of inflammatory or insincere messages to provoke other users to display emotional responses. An example might be the posting of fake news on a journalist’s Facebook page.

Why Do People Troll Each Other?

People who troll others like to cause suffering to others, and they also enjoy evoking emotional responses from others. Other people troll others for attention-seeking or personal amusement. Besides, most social networks allow people to use user names that aren’t linked to real people or names. Some of these people hide behind this anonymity and troll others.

According to psychologists, internet trolls are motivated by atypical social rewards. While most people are motivated to do good by positive social rewards, trolls are motivated by negative social rewards, such as creating disruption and mayhem.

Results from a recent Australian study indicated that psychopathy and sadism are both predictors of malevolent trolling. People who enjoyed hurting others were more likely to troll. The study also found that most trolls tend to be males that have high levels of psychopathy and sadism traits. Another conclusion made from the study is that trolls also have an empathy deficit, especially when it comes to their ability to internalize real people’s emotions.

What Is the Impact of Trolling on People?

Trolling is a prevalent occurrence. According to ABC Net, more than a quarter of Americans admit to having engaged in online trolling. Unfortunately, trolling can cause both physiological and psychological negative effects on the victims. There are various studies documenting the effect of trolls on people’s physical, emotional, social, and academic well-being.

Trolling affects the victim’s everyday life as it’s a cause of distress and worry. Victims of online trolls are also angrier, irritable, and depressed and almost twice as likely to attempt to take their own lives.

Other negative feelings that trolls can cause include:

  • Humiliated;
  • Exposed;
  • Overwhelmed;
  • Vulnerable;
  • Powerless;
  • Angry;
  • Depressed and anxious;
  • Worthless.

Further, most social media users base their sense of worth on the number of comments, likes, and retweets they receive on their postings. This is one of the reasons why social media trolls have a profound effect on most social media users. Additionally, trolling affects the mental health of the people involved and has even led to some people wanting to inflict harm on themselves.

Trolling also makes the victim feel dissatisfied and disinterested in life. It can also lead to an individual’s decision to quit social networking channels. For instance, Ed Sheeran, Jessica Valenti, Gabby Douglas, Leslie Jones, Normani Kordei, and Lauren Zuke are a few examples of celebrities who took a temporary break from social networks or quit social media for good due to trolling.

The good news is social media trolling is now being taken seriously by the law. For instance, several people in the UK have been imprisoned due to online harassment. Although there are no social media trolling laws in the US, one can be prosecuted for online harassment or bullying. If the troll uses false or disparaging language, this may constitute online defamation. If the posting by the troll is offensive, such that the victim suffers emotional distress, one can file a lawsuit against the troll for damages.

What Is A Troll?

The definition of a troll is a person with malicious online behavior characterized by the aggressive and deliberate provocation of others. Trolls seek to harm or upset others by using inflammatory posts or messages. The term is coined from a fishing term which means to attach bait and wait for someone or something to bite. Online trolls attach their bait which is an aggressive or inflammatory comment, and then they wait for other social media users to react. Trolling takes place publicly on posts or comments that are visible to others. Notably, abusive, mean, or aggressive messages that are made in private aren’t trolls but bullying.

Trolling vs. Cyber-Bullying

Online trolling occurs when a social media user deliberately posts a comment or content that is aimed to cause a negative reaction. Trolls seek attention through negative behavior. They enjoy the suffering or negative reaction their behavior triggers.

Cyberbullying refers to targeting a person through the use of social media platforms. The bully sends hurtful private messages to the person or posts mean social media comments about a particular person. Cyberbullies also share information about the specific person that they know will make the victim feel embarrassed or sad.

While the two behaviors are almost similar, the main difference between the two is the intent. The intent of active trolling is to seek a reaction from internet users. They might not even know the victim they are trolling personally. On the other hand, cyberbullying is more personal as the cyberbully knows their victim. The hurtful message they send is often about the victim, and its intent is to shame, harm, or harass the victim. The cyberbully can render the abuse through private messaging or public social media posts, pictures, videos, and comments. Additionally, while online trolls post occasionally, cyberbullies are more persistent.

How to Cope with Social Media Trolls?

If you’re a victim of internet trolling, you may be wondering if there is something you can do to deal with the trolls. Fortunately, there is. Here are tips on how to stop and cope with trolling.

  • Don’t feed the trolls – A troll’s reward is social mayhem or a reaction. Thus, if you react to the trolls, then you’re reinforcing their behavior. In fact, if you give attention to a troll, they are likely to troll you more. The best medicine for trolls is to ignore them.
  • Block the trolls – If you notice a user is trolling you repeatedly, block them.  Every social network has a block button. Don’t hesitate to use it if you feel a person is harassing you. Also, try not to dwell too much on the comments or posts of such people.
  • Report the platform – If you’re being bullied or trolled online, report the behavior to the social network or the site owner. Ensure you keep a record of the intimidating messages, posts, or videos, as this increases the chances of the person being censored or kicked out of the social network.
  • Report the police – If the abuse continues, report the matter to the police. In the US, although there are no laws that address trolling, there are laws against cyberbullying. The laws vary from state to state, and the punishment will also depend on the severity of the abuse.
  • Make your social media profiles private – If you feel it’s necessary to make your profiles private, please do so. Making your social media profiles private will protect you from social media trolls and cyber criminals.
  • Be confident – If you have low self-esteem or lack self-confidence, you will often find yourself being affected by trolls and other negative social media comments. Be confident about yourself and your opinions on social media. This will help you remain upbeat even when you experience frequent trolling.


Online trolling negatively affects an individual’s physical, social, and emotional well-being. If you’re on social media, you should figure out how to coexist with others without engaging in trolling. If you’ve been a victim of social media trolling, the above tips can help you cope with or stop trolls.

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