The Psychology of the Twitter Egg Troll

egg-troll

Twitter trolls come in various forms, but one of the most predictable is surely the classic, anonymous, “egg troll”. If you’ve received aggressive, critical or insulting tweets from a faceless character-assassin who unexpectedly emerged from the depths of the Twittersphere, you’ve already met the egg troll. But don’t take his criticism seriously. It isn’t really you he derides. It’s himself.

WHAT IS AN EGG TROLL?

A Twitter egg troll is a pathologically anonymous serial commentator, whose interjections are invariably unwelcome and of a highly negative nature. The “egg” element references the troll’s profile picture, which remains unchanged from the Twitter default. It’s widely expressed that the egg troll avoids uploading a picture of himself because he’s unattractive. But some would shift that slightly, saying it’s because he specifically wants to insult other people’s looks without giving them any means to retaliate.

The egg troll’s faceless profile, however, really denotes a much broader expanse of cowardice. Anonymity is the cornerstone of an egg troll’s activity. It exempts him from any kind of lasting consequence. Without anonymity, the egg troll simply would not have the guts to confront people in the way he does. He’s only willing to attack on the basis that he can’t be identified and held accountable. The absence of a profile picture is therefore integral to his menace. It’s the egg troll’s virtual mask.

Another theory on why the egg troll does not upload a profile picture is that he’s too lazy – and this does withstand scrutiny. If you look at a typical egg troll’s tweets, virtually none of them contain anything but his opinions. He doesn’t bother to add references, links, illustrations… He has a minimum-effort mentality, which helps explain not only why he remains an ‘egg’, but also why he became a Twitter troll in the first place. He’s too idle to matter to anyone. The only way he can make any kind of impact is through criticism of those who do matter.

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GENDER AND PROFILE

Egg trolls appear predominantly male. A high proportion of them also express socially unacceptable views. They’re littered with misogynists, racists, extremists, and other undesirables whose opinions are unwelcome in most walks of everyday life.

This high incidence of ‘isms’ ties in with the troll’s need to offload the blame for his own shortcomings. It’s all about him trying to explain why other people win and he loses – without admitting his own faults. An easy way to do that is through bigotry. Bigotry provides him with irrational, yet substantially-supported explanations for his own failure. He might suggest, for example, that his lack of success is down to “immigrants taking all the jobs”, and attack immigrants on that basis.

The egg troll’s campaign of negative commentary strives to remedy not only his envy, but also his struggle with rejection. He’s permanently butthurt, and he wants others to experience the same misery. His targets are most typically people who have out-achieved and/or rejected him.

There’s strong evidence that a high proportion of egg trolls have been rejected by their targets (or members of their target groups) whilst using Twitter under a previous identity. Egg trolls don’t identify rejection as a problem with themselves. They blame the people who reject them, and then return as anonymous eggs to vent their anger in the most cowardly manner possible.

PROJECTION OF SELF-LOATHING

The egg troll routinely projects the blame for his own failure or rejection onto others. For example, if a troll is of little or no interest to women, he attributes “issues” to the women, and angrily jibes at them. Commonly, he’ll berate the women’s looks. It’s a reversal of reality. In truth, people are rejecting him and his ugly attitude and views. To make himself feel better, he re-frames that so that HE’s the rejecting party. He’s attempting to dissipate the hurt of having no control over situations, by talking himself into the driving seat.

“You’re so ugly! I would never be interested in a relationship with a woman like you!”

It’s essentially the way he feels other people see him, and he’s turning it round in revenge. He seeks to give others “a taste of their own medicine”. Even though they never set out to cause him pain, and their feelings towards him were a product of his own shortcomings. Shortcomings he’s too lazy to address.

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CONTROL

Egg trolls are control freaks. This, coupled with the fact that they are inherently powerless, adds further to their anger.

IN REAL LIFE

The concealment of an egg troll’s identity means it’s often difficult to establish who they are, let alone what they’re like in real life. However, they’re sometimes recognised by the people they target because their grudge is so obviously linked with a specific, identifiable event. For those who feel the need to know, other methods can be used to identify trolls on Twitter.

Much of the thinking on how Twitter trolls behave in real life is speculation, but it’s likely that the anonymous ones, at least, are far less aggressive and confrontational when offline. The very fact that the user has adopted anonymity suggests that aggressive negativity is not a demeanour with which he’s comfortable being associated as a real person. We can also conclude that if this kind of trolling is largely about rejection, the culprit is going to simultaneously be trying to achieve acceptance. The obvious way to do that is by being ‘nice’.

And we do indeed see lots of evidence of highly erratic demeanour on Twitter. Some users can flip from fawning sycophancy to abuse in just moments. It’s not hard to imagine some egg trolls being fawning sycophants in real life, then putting up the egg mask to vent their anger when they’re rejected. Some, indeed, may simultaneously run both a ‘nice’ and a ‘nasty’ profile on Twitter itself. The ‘nice’ profile begs for positive attention; the ‘nasty’ one deals with the rejection.

So it may be that a Twitter troll does not exhibit his or her online behaviours in the offline world. Maybe the only way to spot a potential egg troll in person, is through a tell-tale laziness and lack of success, a desperate need for attention, and a tendency towards bigoted views.

  Author: Bob Leggitt

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