A study from people who apparently have yet to be introduced to the Internet suggests that positive opinions and behaviors online are a lot more influential than negative ones. Basically, this means that Internet trolls are not as powerful as you fear they are.
Using an unnamed news aggregation website (like The Inquisitr, but not The Inquisitr), scientists looked at favorability ratings of over 100,000 comments. Comments that got a positive boost from researchers had more reach and popularity, boasting a 25 percent higher rating from other users.
Basically, if an article was “liked” on a website like Facebook or Reddit, new readers would come along and also approve of it. Positive reactions created a sort of “herding” effect, according to the study’s author. Negativity, not so much.
In fact, in some cases negativity actually brought out skepticism among other readers. Other users were quicker to cancel out Internet trolls or bury them in a thread by voting up more positive stuff.
“One possibility is that seeing something positive makes you feel better about seeing something positive, and if you see something negative, you react to try to bring it back to zero,” said one Stanford economics prof who wasn’t involved in the study.
It’s news that proves a boon to anyone who has ever gone to bed wringing their hands over some nasty comment they got on their YouTube video or tweet. Conversely, anyone who has felt smug for all of the “likes” a nasty comment of their own got, well… we hope you enjoyed your 15 minutes as a jerk, because that comment didn’t make as large an impression as you thought.
But the real lesson here? Maybe we focus too much on all the negativity online and the Internet is not as nasty a place as we thought it was.
Do you think that Internet trolls are less influential than positive ones? Feel free to be nice or a jerk in the comments, and we’ll see what happens!