We already knew that trolls were troubled individuals, but now there is science to back that up.
A recent study in Personality confirms that internet trolls are troubled people. See: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-online-secrets/201409/internet-trolls-are-narcissists-psychopaths-and-sadists)
An internet troll is someone who comments just to agitate others. These are the folks who insult random strangers, post inflammatory content and basically have no purpose except to upset others.
It turns out that people who like to troll score off the charts for the Dark Tetrad. The Dark Tetrad being the 4 most negative personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism. In fact, researchers say that they association between the Dark Tetrad and trolling is “so strong that it might be said that online trolls are prototypical everyday sadists.”
What this means is that people who troll – do it for fun. Sadistic fun. They find pleasure in other people’s distress and suffering. The same is probably true for certain types of sadistic bullies.
What this means for the rest of us. Don’t take trolls seriously and don’t feed them. Trolls are fed by our suffering and emotional agitation. To ignore them is to starve them. And don’t allow them to taunt you into respond to them. All their taunts mean is that they are getting desperate.
The other advice I have is to feel sorry for them. Sadists and psychopaths don’t have it easy. And if their only real way to interact with the world is negative, then they have a lot stacked against them. So if you become the target of one or a mob of trolls, arm yourself with compassion and don’t get upset. It’s not about you, it’s about their sadistic need to feed on the suffering of others. And that’s pretty darned pathetic.