How to Be a Troll -- the Internet Variety

BOSTON ( MainStreet) -- The Internet is full of creeps.

Amid the wonders of the Web and the many ways it has improved society, there is a troubling underbelly of cyberbullies, predators and scammers.
Trolls basically come in two flavors -- pranksters and the folks who are so tightly wound, so polarized in their thinking, that almost any observation can push them over the edge.

There are also the trolls.

For those not steeped in cyber vernacular, trolls are those folks who do their best to hijack the comment threads accompanying articles, postings and photos on Web sites. The comments, usually cloaked in anonymity, can range from absurdist and humorous (at least to them) to scathing and offensive.

The culture of trolling has become so rampant that there is even a visual representation (a crudely drawn, grotesque face) that is posted as a "gotcha." That image, this year, is popping up on Halloween costumes.

Trolls basically come in two flavors: the intentional and unintentional. The latter are those folks who are so tightly wound -- so polarized in their thinking -- that almost any observation can push them over the edge. Like the Queen of Diamonds in the classic film The Manchurian Candidate, there are key words that trigger their hate. On our Web site, the mere mention of "Obama," " Apple ( AAPL)," " Sirius ( SIRI)" or pretty much any biotech company will usually guarantee a flood of caustic comments, often hunt-and-pecked with misspellings ("moran" is a common insult), the grammatical command of a Nigerian scammer and a propensity for keeping the Caps Lock button pressed.

Regardless of their own leanings -- and often independent of what an article actually says -- authors across the Internet are attacked as being "socialists" or "Nazis." Print even the slightest positive thing about Apple and be prepared for a flurry of iHate; be even slightly critical and the fanboys will swarm.

The other breed of troll are better described as pranksters (but frequently cruel ones) who are in it for the "lulz."

An online Troller's FAQ that harkens back to the heyday of Usenet newsgroups describes the typical troll as "a quasi-thermodynamic exchange between the sensitive and the cruel."

"You look for someone who is full of it, a real blowhard," it says. "Then you exploit their insecurities to get an insane amount of drama, laughs and lulz."

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