School of Communication and the Arts


Doctor of Philosophy


Wesley W. Hartley


trolls, trolling, social media, speech acts, online disinhibition, communication tactics, troll, cyberbullying, linguistic patterns, virtual speech acts, Grice's Maxims




The troll is one of the most obtrusive and disruptive bad actors on the internet. Unlike other bad actors, the troll interacts on a more personal and intimate level with other internet users. Social media platforms, online communities, comment boards, and chatroom forums provide them with this opportunity. What distinguishes these social provocateurs from other bad actors are their virtual speech acts and online behaviors. These acts aim to incite anger, shame, or frustration in others through the weaponization of words, phrases, and other rhetoric. Online trolls come in all forms and use various speech tactics to insult and demean their target audiences. The goal of this research is to investigate trolls' virtual speech acts and the impact of troll-like behaviors on online communities. Using Gricean maxims and politeness theory, this study seeks to identify common vernacular, word usage, and other language behaviors that trolls use to divert the conversation, insult others, and possibly affect fellow internet users’ mental health and well-being.

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