Tapestry

Inside the mind of an online troll

An online troll describes his motivations for insulting people on the web and he compares the gratification he gets from trolling to the fulfilment he gets from volunteering.
For Cody online trolling is gratifying and gives him a sense of power, but there's a catch - that high doesn't last. (Getty Images/Adam Berry)
Listen9:46

"Look, you're dumb, here's why."

That's the sentiment that often motivates Cody*, a self-described internet troll, to bash someone online.

The Toronto resident says it's not something he'd typically say in real life.

"But these are internet people. This is online. The gloves are a little bit off, the faces are behind the anonymity of being on the internet, so people tend to just go straight for the jugular."

Cody says his trolling peaked during the 2016 US election, and that his main targets were Hillary Clinton supporters. He says that politics sparked his insults, but it was the thrill of the fight that kept him going.

He says one memorable exchange involved a Clinton supporter from the midwest.  

"We're looking at each other's profiles. And we're kind of bashing certain things, like, 'well, what do you know, you work at a gas station in Wisconsin,' you know. I think I was kind of slinging things like that."

Cody says trolling is gratifying and gives him a sense of power, but it's short-lived. He says it plays a paradoxical role in his life, feeding him in a way, but also harming him.

"Concurrently, you can know it's bad but you can still be doing it."

He says after the initial boost he gets from trashing someone, he's left feeling on edge.

"It's emotional junk food. It makes me feel good, but I know it's for the wrong reasons."

And just because Cody is an online troll, doesn't mean he's unfamiliar with being kind offline.

For example, he volunteers as a hockey coach, mentoring young players, hoping to develop their skills and confidence.

He says the rush from trolling pales in comparison to the boost he gets from coaching.

"It makes you feel authentically real good and there's no hang ups about it."

Cody says he also once entered a burning farmhouse to rescue two elderly women -- one of them in a wheelchair -- and their dog.

Again, he says, the emotional boost was long-lasting and gave him a feeling of fulfillment.

If trolling is junk food, this feeling, Cody says, is more nourishing.

"A fine prime rib. That's what it is. It's good."


Throughout the episode we featured some of Kinnie's music, check out the playlist below:

1) Song: Wind in Your Sail, Artist: Kinnie Starr, Album: Anything
2) Song: Anything, Artist: Kinnie Starr, Album: Anything
3) Song: We Are Sky, Artist: Kinnie Starr, CBC premiere