Wasting Life on the Internet

The idea behind the title of a Mother Jones article, New Study: Internet Trolls Are Often Machiavellian Sadists, was not a surprise to me. Arguing with trolls can absorb a lot of time for no reward, unless you’re a troll yourself:

In the past few years, the science of Internet trollology has made some strides. Last year, for instance, we learned that by hurling insults and inciting discord in online comment sections, so-called Internet “trolls” (who are frequently anonymous) have a polarizing effect on audiences, leading to politicization, rather than deeper understanding of scientific topics.

That’s bad, but it’s nothing compared with what a new psychology paper has to say about the personalities of so-called trolls themselves. The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called “Dark Tetrad”: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others). …

That study is called, Trolls just want to have fun, and it costs $35 to read more than the abstract:

… Of all personality measures, sadism showed the most robust associations with trolling and, importantly, the relationship was specific to trolling behavior. Enjoyment of other online activities, such as chatting and debating, was unrelated to sadism. Thus cyber-trolling appears to be an Internet manifestation of everyday sadism.

Even without trolls, more and more people are wondering if living in the collective is all that rewarding. In a NY Times Fashion & Style piece, The 7-Day Digital Diet, Teddy Wayne writes:

Taylor Ho Bynum, a musician and composer in New Haven, has so fervently adopted the disconnection model that he has written a manifesto about it on his website. … “For composing music,” he said in an interview, being digitally connected doesn’t help. “Ellington didn’t have this,” he said. “Beethoven didn’t have it, Bach didn’t have it, and they all wrote a lot more music than we do. Particularly in the arts, both the creative engagement and solitude necessary are very much at odds with the expectations of the field now.”… “Our generation may be great at getting in touch with the audience, but we’re not great at creating the material for the audience,” …

Wayne agrees:

I wrote my most recent novel on an ancient laptop without Internet connectivity in a silent, shared writers’ space, where I confined myself to a small desk in a carrel and had nothing to entertain myself with other than my own imagination. So far, I’ve been writing a new one from home with the Internet on. I can’t speak for the results, but as Jonathan Franzen wrote in The Guardian, “It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”

I recently made time for an office presentation, and found the activity a lot more engrossing than watching Frasier reruns, or reading the same old right vs left articles. I’ve had a few ideas for writing floating around in my head for over a year, but never found the time to sit down and write them out. We’ll see.

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2 responses to “Wasting Life on the Internet”

  1. trkingmomoe says :

    You should write those ideas. I enjoy reading you. Half the time I am in over my head but you keep my interest. I have been enjoying writing about quilt history on my blog. Quilters are nice people. I do get tired of political trolls.

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