The Encylopedia of Mental Disorders has a very interesting page on how to spot a Psychopath. They describe a psychopath as
The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) is a diagnostic tool used to rate a person's psychopathic or antisocial tendencies. People who are psychopathic prey ruthlessly on others using charm, deceit, violence or other methods that allow them to get with they want. The symptoms of psychopathy include: lack of a conscience or sense of guilt, lack of empathy, egocentricity, pathological lying, repeated violations of social norms, disregard for the law, shallow emotions, and a history of victimizing others.
I think every regular use of Twitter will have come across accounts that display such behaviour. The site also gives a list of 20 markers. Clearly people hiding behind anonymous accounts only tell you what they want to tell you, so about half, such as sexual delinquency and early behavioural problems they will want to keep quiet, but ten of the markers are quite easy to spot. Here is there checklist and a few notes from me on what to look out for on Twitter.
1. Glib and superficial charm
Key markers to look out for are grown up adults posting rather adolescent looking gifs of kittens, etc and liberally sprinkling all sorts of happy emoji's into tweets, to create an aura of friendliness. If these posts are interspersed with tweets of a vaguely menacing nature, it is a clear indicator.
2. Grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
For psychopaths, it is essential to control situations. Posts from anonymous accounts, bragging of fantastic academic qualifications and top jobs that cannot be verified are typical behaviour. Often psychopaths are quite intelligent but can't work with other people, so will have had decent jobs at some point, but these were very short lived. They invariable end up 'working for themselves' bashing away on a keyboard into the early hours. Often to make up for the lack of real friends, they invent other Twitter persona's to chat with. If you notice an account where tweets are always liked by a subset of linked accounts, this is a sure sign of bogus self affirmation.
3. Need for stimulation
Often psychopaths are driven by paranoia. They tend to think everyone thinks like they do, so are constantly on the look out for new sources of stimulation to feed their delusions. They are very prone to fall for conspiracy theories, as they believe they provide a cover and an excuse for their poor behaviour. They will obsessively hunt out ever more bizarre information sources, the more absurd the better.
4. Pathological lying
As previously mentioned, the need for control is a pivotal feature of a psychopathic personality. When events and facts don't fit a narrative, they will invent one. They believe that if a lie is continually repeated, it will become a truth. Often on Twitter, a psychopath will get rumbled and then take on a campaign of harassment and intimidation of those they see as a threat. They will then construct a whole parallel reality of untruths about those they are targeting. This will involve inventing all manner of claims about what a person has done or said, none of which are ever substantiated with evidence.
5. Cunning and manipulativeness
Psychopaths are very cunning and manipulative. They will devise all manner of cunning ruses to ingratiate themselves with people they see as useful. Once they have dragged someone into their sordid world of fantasy, they make it very hard for those snared to escape. Fortunately on Twitter, it is quite easy to block such characters. The best thing is to block all of their persona's and ignore all of their nonsense. Eventually they will get bored and find someone else to pick on. If threats are made, report them to the Police.
6. Lack of remorse or guilt
This is the classic sign of a psychopath. However badly they behave, there is always an excuse. They seek out cases of other people who have been victims of injustice and convince themselves that they too have been unfairly treated.
7. Shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
This can be quite hard to spot on Twitter. Something bad happens and whilst normal people seek to offer support and solace, a psychopath will see it as opening a door to exploit a vulnerability. They will seek out people who display vulnerability and offer support, but the purpose is purely to gain trust and confidence. Such individuals rarely create content of genuine interest, as they do not see the need to actually engage intelligently with other people.
8. Callousness and lack of empathy
This is far easier to spot. A psychopathic tweeter will seek out opportunity to undermine and make other people feel badly about themselves. They will see a tweet where someone is genuinely upset and will try and inflict a devastating knock out response to it to ensure the person feels awful. They lack empathy, so will have no qualms about saying things that upset people. There is never the slightest effort to see the other persons point of view or to find common ground. It is dominate or destroy.
9. Parasitic lifestyle
Twitter psychopaths are generally rather unemployable. They often have self defined non jobs, claiming all manner of business interests. Often they will see themselves as 'social media experts' and imagine that they are in charge of huge organisations with multiple employees, but are simply bashing away at a keyboard in their bedroom. They make inflated claims about their social media reach, they actively seek spam follows as validation, so that they can con people into supporting their non productive lifestyle. If they have websites, you will see no evidence of anything to back up these claims. No large offices, no names, no official partners. And yet they seek your cash, don't be fooled.
10. Poor behavioral controls
Indiscipline on their accounts is another telling sign. They will often set up an account for one purpose, but when they need to 'dominate a debate', the account will be re-purposed to another, role. The typical modus operandi is to set up an account that will generate interest from the wider Twitter community, then when a following has been gained, the account will suddenly start posting all manner of bonkers nonsense, unrelated to the original purpose of the account. If you spot this, then I'd recommend unfollowing. Twitter psychopaths always have an agenda and it is never your health and well being.
What fascinates me is whether the FBI and the Met Police are actively profiling these individuals. I don't think it will be too long before 'Twitter Psychopath" is recognised as a genre of dangerous criminal. I suspect that many of these people have criminal records and have found that Twitter is a perfect platform for their dodgy activities. I get very concerned when I see such accounts grooming schools and youth clubs. Sadly I think we will need some high profile cases to come to light before this is properly recognised.
And in the spirit of this topic, one of my favourite songs on the subject from The Vibrators. A much underrated band IMHO.