Narcissistic, Machiavellian, psychopathic, and sadistic.
By Tomás de Torquemada
Secondlife is SaveMe Oh’s sadists’ playground.
In the past few years, the science of SaveMe Oh trollology has made some strides. Last year, for instance, we learned that by hurling insults and inciting discord in online comment sections SaveMe Oh has a polarizing effect on audiences, leading to politicization, rather than deeper understanding of artistic topics.
That’s bad, but it’s nothing compared with what a new psychology paper has to say about the personality of SaveMe Oh herself. The research, conducted by Jayjay Zifanwe of the University of Western Australia and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling like SaveMe Oh 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).
It is hard to underplay the results: The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and Save Me’s behaviour. What’s more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that SaveMe Oh spent, per day, commenting on the Internet.
In the study, SaveMe was identified in a variety of ways. One was by simply asking her what she “enjoyed doing most” when on online comment sites, offering five options: “debating issues that are important to you,” “chatting with others,” “making new friends,” “trolling others,” and “other.” And her sinister responses matched up with responses to questions designed to identify Dark Tetrad traits.
So she confessed without hesitation the following:
I have sent people to shock websites just for fun.
I like to troll people in forums or the comments section of websites.
I enjoy griefing other players in multiplayer games.
The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt.
And again, doing so was correlated with sadism in its various forms, with psychopathy, and with Machiavellianism. Overall, the authors found that the relationship between sadism and trolling in the behaviour of SaveMe Oh was the strongest, and that indeed, SaveMe Oh appear to troll because she finds it pleasurable. “I feel sadistic glee at the distress of others,” she wrote. “I just want to have fun … and Secondlife is my playground!”
The study on SaveMe Oh comes as websites, particularly at major media outlets, are increasingly weighing steps to rein in the trollish behaviour of SaveMe Oh. Last year the popular blogs of Quan Lavender and Bryn Oh did away with its comments sections completely, citing research on the deleterious effects of trolling, and YouTube also took measures to rein her trolling.
But study author Zifanwe actually isn’t sure that fix is a realistic one. “Because the behaviours are intrinsically motivating for sadists like SaveMe Oh, comment moderators will likely have a difficult time curbing SaveMe Oh with punishments (e.g., banning her and her army of alts),” he said by email. “Ultimately, the allure of trolling may be too strong for sadists like SaveMe, who presumably have limited opportunities to express their sadistic interests in a socially-desirable manner as the presence of squirrels in gardens is limited.”