My own theory is that persistent trolls are the online equivalent of people who do not (or cannot) distinguish between positive attention (praise, approval) and negative attention (criticism, disapproval), but simply perceive attention = good. I think this is to do with early development/parenting: I suspect they've either come from large families where every child had to fight for parental attention; or one or other parent has been emotionally distant/disengaged (through depression, perhaps, or drug use) and our troll has learned that only the most extreme behaviour is sufficient to win him any attention at all. For whatever reason, any attention is welcome, with the board becoming a parent-substitute in the troll's 'look at me' reenactment of old patterns.
But: Trolling is fun.
As someone who has avidly trolled in the past (I grew out of it, mostly) I can clear the mystery up for all y'all.
First off, getting a rise out of people is priceless. There is a distinct exhilirating rush knowing that you've really twisted the knife, gotten the goat. There is probably some amount of sadism to this. Hurting other people for fun.
Analyzing someone for buttons, then carefully pressing them, can also be challenging as fuck. While people tend to fall into certain categories -- with broad, generalized buttons -- everyone is different, and it can take a gentle touch and canny wits to unearth that little something that will really set someone off. We're talking about seriously honing mental muscles that don't otherwise get much use.
I mean... don't any of you enjoy arguing with people, like, IRL? I /love/ it. Coming out on top in a contest of wits is fucking awesome. Notably, most internet trolling is pretty crude, but not everyone's *good* at it, right?www.barbelith.com/topic/22769