Dr Nelli Ferenczi, psychology lecturer at Regent’s University London, was recently invited to join a panel of speakers at a meeting hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the impact of internet trolling.
Held in the House of Commons on Wednesday 13 June, the panellists researched the nature and experience of being trolled, and understanding what lies behind it. The APPG on Psychology was established last year to raise awareness amongst parliamentarians and policymakers of the importance and relevance of psychology, and to provide MPs with an evidence based approach to some of the major challenges facing society currently.
Images courtesy of Nikki Powell at NK Photography
Chaired by Dr Lisa Cameron MP (Scottish National Party MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow and Chair of the APPG for Psychology), Dr Ferenczi was joined by Professor Catriona Morrison (Head of Psychology, University of Bradford), Dr Shazia Akhtar (Post-Doctoral Researcher at the University of Bradford) and Professor Abigail Locke (Psychology Research Lead at the University of Bradford).
As a cross-cultural social psychologist, Dr Ferenczi is interested in applying a cultural lens to identity, our close relationships, and how we engage with others. Her research interests are currently centred in three main areas: bicultural identity, engagement in social media, and in particular, antisocial and prosocial behaviours, and understanding the impact of culture in forensic interview settings.
Dr Ferenczi’s panel presentation looked at ‘furthering our understanding of why individuals endorse and engage in misogynistic behaviour on-line, such as commenting, harassment via microblogging sites, bullying, and sending threats’. Dr Ferenczi reported on research which found that narcissism mediated sex differences in endorsement of antisocial motives for Facebook use, such as bullying and trolling.
To the extent that men reported higher narcissism, they also reported greater endorsement of antisocial motives for Facebook use. Conversely, women reported a more relational self – their identity was more likely to be constructed within the context of their social relationships. In turn, a relational self was linked to endorsement of more prosocial motives for Facebook use.
Top line findings of research into MPs’ experiences of online trolling by Professor Morrison and Dr Akhtar showed that, of 181 UK MPs surveyed, all reported having received at least one form of online abuse and threat. Male MPs received reliably more online abuse compared to female MPs; the most common type of abuse was posting defamatory and false information. Female MPs reported receiving a variety of different online abuse, including racial, sexual and religious abuse.
The expert panel concluded that the findings of the research suggest an urgency to better police social media platforms for public figures. Further research needs to examine the best approaches for the victims of trolling in order to manage the abuse they are subjected to, and to better understand what drives individuals to engage in antisocial behaviour online. Further research could also centre on interventions which promote more communal ways of interacting online, thus creating safer online spaces.