If you’re a woman who uses the internet, there is a really good (like 99%) chance that you’ve encountered a male troll. And if you haven’t? Well, please share your secrets because those fuckers are lurking everywhere. A study recently confirmed what women of the internet already knew; men are more likely to be internet trolls. And spoiler alert, it’s because they’re more antisocial and narcissistic.
I’d like to meet the Captain Obvious who conducted this study and shake their hand. But of course, there are going to be men, and women, who shout #notallmen. My head hurts from my eyes rolling so hard.
The study, which was conducted by researchers from Brunel University and Goldsmiths, University of London, used Facebook as their social media platform of choice. According to the study, people basically use social media in two ways: prosocial, which means that you’re using it to make connections and maintain relationships, or antisocial, which means you’re using it to get attention and be a troll.
Women mostly use Facebook in a prosocial way. It’s a great way to keep in touch with friends and family and join groups where you can find like-minded people. More men use Facebook (and social media in general) in an antisocial way. They like being assholes for no apparent reason. And because of the fact that they’re more inclined to use social media in a negative way, chances are they’re narcissists.
Again, any woman who has encountered a male troll on social media will say “no shit.”
As a woman who uses social media pretty much every day, I would be remiss to say that I haven’t encountered my fair share of trolls. Being a woman writer who is published exclusively online, my interaction with male trolls increases tenfold. As a writer, I generally try to take it in stride, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t bother me, or that it isn’t frustrating and offensive.
Even though this particular study uses Facebook as its control social media platform, we all know Twitter is likely the worst when it comes to narcissistic male trolls. They’re like freaking cockroaches over there; you can never truly get rid of them. Unwanted male comments can run the gamut in terms of the level of misogyny and disrespect. I once had a strange man tell me that if my ex was good enough to make a baby with, then he was good enough to marry. I have never laughed harder in my life. I’ve gotten my fair share of mansplainers too. But the best are the ones who try to use your own words against you, as if you’re going to be hurt by what came out of your own mouth.
One could argue that since last August, the amount of narcissistic male trolls has quintupled. Mainly because we have the most narcissistic male troll in charge of the country, tweeting like his life depends on it. (Seriously, someone make him sit on his damn hands already.) Tweeting every single grievance and personal vendetta is supremely narcissistic, but indicative of the inherent purpose of antisocial internet use.
“People with narcissistic tendencies may behave in hostile ways as a response to comments they perceive are negative,” said social psychologist Nelli Ferenczi, one of the Goldsmiths researchers and co-authors of the study in an interview. It should be noted that the study was conducted by three female psychologists: Ferenczi, Tara C. Marshall, and Kathrine Bejanyan. According to Dr. Ferenczi, they decided to conduct the study after getting trolled online because of their work. This is the first study of its kind according to Brunel University.
The connection to trolling and narcissism is the most interesting part of their research. Before it was assumed, but now we have evidence that it’s actually true. When you call a narcissist on their behavior, somehow it’s always your fault. Even when you’re not talking about them, they have a way of making it about them. Male fragility and narcissism seem to be running rampant on the internet, and women who dare stand up to it get fed to the wolves. “Underlying a hostile action might be the intent to re-establish power and self-esteem,” Ferenczi added, which makes absolute sense. By bullying women online, these men are taking back whatever percentage of power they feel they have been robbed of.
The researchers were quick to add that, yes, women can be online trolls too. Obviously. But it’s typically on a completely different level with men. Because male trolls tend to be narcissists, they are more likely to drag it out, get more personal (attacking a woman’s appearance is a big one), or get more people involved. I have seen it with my own eyes. You probably have too.
Unfortunately there is no real solution to the problem. We can’t kick all men off social media, or make them complete a course in misogyny before activating their accounts. So we’re just going to keep confronting it head-on. We will keep calling it out. Not staying silent is our biggest weapon.
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