Dealing With Trolls & Online Negativity

Go online and it won’t take you long to find negative comments, whether posted under a YouTube video, as a reply to a tweet, or in the comments under a blog post. The fact is negativity is alive and well online, and if you venture into the virtual world you will meet it sooner or later. The anonymity of an online existence appeals to different people in different ways, with some choosing to use it to deliver acts of kindness, encouragement, or charity. However, others will find it to be the perfect environment to criticise, belittle, and berate.

Despite the fact that you may not even know the person who has decided to launch an online attack against your blog or social media post, it can still be hurtful to read something negative about your ideas, beliefs, or opinion. Tell yourself you’re not bothered, or that the person attacking you is just talking rubbish, but it may not take away the feelings. So, in a world where there are people determined to lash out at us, how do we deal with the criticism?

This is a new challenge for society – your parents probably didn’t have to face such potential virtual-world attacks, and certainly not on the same scale as today.

The first step in the process is surely to reframe how you look at the criticism. If something is clearly untrue, such as, ‘You have no friends and nobody likes you,’ it is easy to think over your friends and how they like you. Simple enough, but it becomes trickier if there is a possible grain of truth in the attacks.

Instead of getting upset, try to take the comments as something to learn from. If something is really bothering you to the point where you can’t just brush it off, ask yourself why. Is there something in the comment that has hit a nerve?

If so, ask yourself what that tells you about yourself, and your insecurities. Try to use the information like a lesson to yourself, was your blog slightly misinformed? If so, you have learned something new, and you can improve from the criticism, even if it wasn’t well intentioned.

This can become more difficult when a troll seeks to just attack you for no real reason. It may because our minds tend to attach to negativity rather than positive experiences, which goes right back to our survival instincts (“Look out for that Lion,” versus, “What a pretty flower”). So try to pay attention to the compliments you get while seeing the negative comments for what they are. You may even want to try using humour to disarm the negativity – instead of hiding from the comments try reading them aloud in a funny voice or joke about them.

Of course, another god way to avoid negativity is not to feed into it. If you know you made a mistake at work or in class, don’ go searching social media for evidence of people criticising you, and remember there will always be trolls – it’s their problem, not yours!

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