Trolling in online communities: a practice-based theoretical perspective

Angela Gracia B. Cruz, Yuri Seo, Mathew Rex

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


The literature on trolling has viewed trolling as discrete instances of transgression undertaken by antagonistic individuals. We identify three main issues with current theorizations: diffuse definitions of “trolling,” blurred boundaries between trolling and other online anti-social behaviors, and the context dependency of trolling. To address these unresolved issues, we adopt a practice-based theoretical approach. Informed by this approach, we analyze trolling behaviors not as products of individuals' attitudes, values, and decisions, but rather as behaviors embedded within and occurring as part of social practices. Specifically, we conduct a practice-based theoretical analysis in a multi-site exploratory study involving online archival research and in-depth interviews with online community members. Based on this analysis, we propose that trolling be conceived as a constellation of three social practices: learning, assimilating, and transgressing. Also, we find that practices of trolling transgression can have a dual pro-social and anti-social impact in online communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-26
Number of pages12
JournalThe Information Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Anti-social behavior
  • Community management
  • Online communities
  • Online trolling
  • Practice theory
  • Social media

Cite this