GOLDEN VALLEY, MN - When Laura Betker got dressed for her job as a KARE 11 meteorologist Friday, she had no idea it would cause a storm that had nothing to do with the weather. But soon after she finished her forecast on the 6 pm news, she got a Facebook message from a woman who had watched her on air.
"You look like you dumpster dive for clothing," wrote the viewer, saying Laura looked "ridiculous, unprofessional, a mess." She went on to say, "You obviously know nothing about fashion. Time for a makeover."
Laura shared the note on both Twitter and Facebook, and got hundreds of posts in support.
"I don't think anyone would say what this woman said to my face," said Betker. "Hopefully this is an example of turning a horrible, negative comments into a positive response."
A new study on trolling shows that could help stop it, saying education is key to preventing it. The research, from Federation University in Australia, also found some common characteristics in Internet trolls, finding they're sadistic, have the traits of a psychopath, and don't feel guilty for hurting others.
Hamline University criminal justice professor Jillian Peterson agrees with the study, as both an expert in trolling and a victim of it.
Peterson's wedding video went viral 8 years ago and got nearly 100 million views and more than 90,000 comments, and not all of them were kind.
"We did get trolled," said Peterson. "(The anonymity of the internet) is huge."
She says social media often makes people more vicious and aggressive, creating a mob mentality where commenters feed off each other's hate. She says most never think about the effect.
"You don't necessarily connect that what I'm writing someone else is reading and feeling bad about themselves," said Peterson.
And that includes people you might think are immune to it.
Celebrities get such mean remarks that Jimmy Kimmel made it a regular segment. And singer Ed Sheeran now says he'll no longer read the tweets from his 19 million followers, saying they're abusive and often ruin his day.
Laura Betker can relate, saying there's a big difference between criticism and cruelty. "Feedback is great," said Betker. "Bullying is not."
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