The psychology of trolls

Today we’re going to talk about something really important: The psychology of trolls.

I know, I know. The internet’s rule is “Do not reply to trolls.”

Yet I reply to every one, meaning I may have the most well-curated troll library on earth. Should I fund the Sethi Museum of Troll Psychology?

Let’s dig into my archive. Here are a few emails I’ve received. What do you notice?


Besides a clear lack of mastery of basic English, these trolls reveal a lot.

I want to show you how to handle these emails, because if you’re creating anything, eventually you’ll get comments like this.

So this post is for the creators out there. The people writing blog posts, trying to help other people with fitness or some kind of business. You’re going to get nutty emails at a certain point. It will happen!

Let’s start with an amazing back-and-forth dialogue I had with a reader named “Cliffy.”

Let’s pause for a second. What am I doing here? How do you think he’ll respond?

“I just know I’m down and out.”

OH SHIT! What do you think just happened?

Do you see how unexpected this interaction is? It’s so bizarre, it almost defies belief: Someone sends angry emails, you respond with compassion, and they instantly change. What’s happening here?

Fortunately, I have extensive data on trolls, since this is one of my hobbies (n=thousands). At this point, I can predict their behavior with 90%+ accuracy from the first 2 lines of their email (Confessions of a CEO: The 8 types of people who will never buy your product).

Of the trolls I write back to, more than 50% eventually end up saying something like Cliffy did.

“Life is not going that well.”
“I’m having a tough time.”
“I didn’t even think you were actually reading this.”

(Which raises the question: Why are you even writing back to a computer?!?)

A lot of people ask, “Ramit, why do you spend your time on this?”

First of all, I’m fascinated with human behavior. Second of all, I don’t get the chance to interact with somebody like this in real life. This is a chance to get curious.

Cliffy is one of millions of people who leave angry emails on social media and forum comments. But there is something much more interesting here than his angry rhetoric.

I want to hear from you. What do you notice about these trolls? What’s your takeaway? Leave a comment below with what surprised you. I read every comment.

The psychology of trolls is a post from: I Will Teach You To Be Rich.