BEN spends up to 70 hours a week on the internet getting high on other people's anger and despair. The unemployed 19-year-old from Victoria - who spoke to news.com.au on the condition of anonymity - doesn't go out much and doesn't have many real friends, but he doesn't feel alone. He believes he's part of a community of similar-minded people who scour the web looking for pages to vandalise and lives to upset. Ben (not his real name) first started trolling in 2008 on the online forum 4Chan. His first act was innocuous enough: he weighed in on a discussion about religion and claimed to have disproved everything people had written. Since then his trolling has become more vicious and destructive. "It just makes me happy when I can make someone angry. It sounds weird but I kind of feed off their anger. The angrier I can get them, the better I feel," he told news.com.au. He usually only trolls a post or website once before moving, not out of any sense of decency, but because he is scared of being arrested. He said the worst thing he ever did was vandalise the Facebook memorial page of a young girl who had committed suicide. "I wrote, 'How's it hanging guys'." He doesn't feel any remorse, and strangely doesn't consider his actions bullying despite claiming he probably wouldn't have started trolling if he had not been bullied at school. IT'S HOT IN HELL "I'd feel responsible but I wouldn't care. I've pretty much lost all hope for humanity anyway, I don't believe that anything can save people," he said. Ben and the hundreds of thousands like him reflect the dark side of the internet. They believe themselves to be cultural critics, indulging in harmless fun, but RIP trolling is one of the most destructive and harmful forms of trolling. It mocks and exploits the pain of those grieving the loss of loved ones. It ranges from the sort of distasteful comment Ben posted to plastering pages with photoshopped pictures of babies in meat grinders or hardcore pornography. Last year Bradley Paul Hampson became the first Australian to be jailed for it. He plastered the Facebook tribute pages of two slain schoolchildren with child pornography, an act the judge described as depraved. In the UK, one of the most infamous RIP trolls, Sean Duffy, was sentenced several months later for persecuting on Facebook four families of dead children. On one girl's memorial page he wrote: "Help me mummy, It's hot in Hell." But trollers like Ben and Hampson may not be just hurting their victims. Cyber-researcher Karyn Krawford claims that extreme trolling may be a sign of mental ill-health. Ms Krawford said she had done studies which showed the empathy of mental health sufferers decreased for every hour they spent online. LACKING EMPATHY "This lack of empathy caused people to become emotionally immune and desensitised to images they're not seeing in real life," she said. In one study, subjects displayed a complete lack of empathy when shown images of people dying. "They couldn't see how much that person was hurting; they couldn't see the cut off arm or the pain and distress and terror. "As a consequence they were able to make these remarks and express these bullying type behaviours." Twenty-three-year-old stay-at-home mother Sarah, from South Australia, is one such bully. For years she limited her trolling to snarky posts on the parenting website BabyMama.org, reserving her vitriol for discussions about breastfeeding and vaccinations. But last month her actions spiralled out of control and she started actively bullying other users. Sarah set up a Facebook page belittling another mother that had posted near naked pictures of herself on the website. "She started getting negative replies and deleted the pictures but I saved the pictures and uploaded them to a Facebook group where she was humiliated," she said. Sarah quickly apologised and deleted the photos after other users criticised her actions and the site threatened her with expulsion. "I randomly targeted a lady for no reason, humiliated her for no reason - just to be a biatch. Looking back now it was petty. I'm one of those remorseful trolls, I suppose." Sarah, like Ben, attributed her trolling to years of bullying she suffered at school. "I dropped out of school in year nine," she said. "I suppose I'm an asshole to people because I’m carrying all this spitefulness around with me. I hurt people." Sydney student James admits he has problems switching from the "vicious but joking troll" persona on gaming sites to "James the nice guy" elsewhere. "On gaming sites, if you don’t troll you’re pretty much seen as someone who is sucking up to the site moderators," he said. And he has no shame when it comes to trolling. "If the person I was trolling was from a poorer area, maybe I'd say something like 'How does it feel having no future knowing you're from that area'," he said. "It's just my mentality to make it personal and a lot of people take things way too seriously – especially on social networking sites." POWER OF THE WEAKLING Psychologists have long attributed bad behaviour online to "deindividuation" - the feeling people get when they think they are anonymous. "Social distance can cause a 55-year-old climate change sceptic with a job and a mortgage to behave like a spastic donkey with strange malicious behaviour," said researcher James Heathers, of the University of Sydney. He said the quality of online conversations in general seemed to be worsening by the day, and had now turned into a competition to see who can yell "urrgggh lame" the loudest. "There's no turn-taking, or reacting like there is in face-to-face communication," he said. "The conversational structure is completely broken and there’s no thoughtful consideration of issues." Psychiatrist Dr Tanveer Ahmed said people who troll may well feel a sense of regret, guilt or shame afterwards but mostly they rationalise their behaviour. “It's a bit like the day after a big party - a part of you could be filled with regret but most of you is like, 'I was off my face, I'm giving myself a pass'." He said that people don't feel the need to moderate their behaviour when they were online. "The ability to say 'hi how's it going' to people we dislike helps us function in society, but that facade isn’t required online and often the first thoughts that come to mind – thoughts that would be unacceptable in other forums – are the first ones we bang up into a comment section on the web." He said a sense of power was important to how people behaved online. "You're far more likely to be a troll if you’re a relative weakling elsewhere," he said. "The internet is kind of a Wizard of Oz type setting, where people can feel big, whereas in another social setting they can be, well, pissheads frankly." MEET THE TROLLS BEN - "It just makes me happy when I can make someone angry. It sounds weird but I kind of feed off their anger. The angrier I can get them, the better I feel. I'd feel responsible but I wouldn't care. I've pretty much lost all hope for humanity anyway, I don't believe that anything can save people." SARAH - "I randomly targeted a lady for no reason, humiliated her for no reason - just to be a biatch. Looking back now it was petty.. I’m one of those remorseful trolls." JAMES - "On gaming sites, if you don’t troll you’re pretty much seen as someone who is sucking up to the site moderators. It's just my mentality to make it personal and a lot of people take things way too seriously – especially on social networking sites."