Learning that not everyone is kind all of the time, is one of those early life lessons you wish no one had to endure.
Maybe it was a group of girls in the playground, who wouldn’t let you play with them. Or perhaps you were teased for not having the right trainers or rucksack. Or maybe, someone went out of their way to say mean and spiteful things to you at school, or even at work.
Surprisingly, some people fail to grow out of this behaviour in adulthood. Shocking, I know.
We’ve all experienced it at some point and most likely will again. Though the truth is, this often says more about the person behaving unkindly, than those who are mistreated.
I often hear that the internet is a breeding ground for bullying and negative behaviour, though I have to say that, by and large, this has not been my experience. I have met so many lovely, kind and supportive people online, that the positives most definitely outweigh the negatives.
However, every now and then, someone will check in with me online, just to have a pop. I can count on one hand the number of times this has happened. Once, when I had an article published on The Huffington Post (comes with the territory) and then once again, just this week.
Each time it’s happened, it’s felt like a kick to the chest. A sting of hurt and embarrassment, that’s later replaced with anger. How dare someone go out of their way to be cruel? You know what though? These emotions are fleeting and soon turn to pity for the keyboard warrior spreading their misery.
Unkind words rarely spring from a happy place.
My brief tango with negativity online made me realise that the best thing you can do when this happens, is to tell people you like and trust, before brushing it off. Build a lovely online community around you and be there for one another when things go a little sour.
It’s not much different to real life in that sense.
Here’s my advice for handling negativity online:
- Take a deep breath and remember this is their problem, not yours.
- Tell people you trust.
- Decide whether to respond politely (kindness must be disappointing when you’re trying to get a rise out of someone) or to just delete.
- Have a good laugh.
- Move on and keep doing what you do, regardless.
You can also take some practical steps to stop negative behaviour online by blocking or banning the perpetrators from your social media networks. In addition to this you can block certain words or phrases from being used on Facebook and Instagram, by manually entering the words you want to block in your account settings (click the links for how to guides).
I also asked a bunch of other bloggers and Instagrammers for their opinions on online negativity and this is what they had to say:
- I can’t understand people sometimes. I always feel it’s quite cowardly to hide behind a computer screen and people seem to think it’s ok to act that way. – topknotanddaisies
- Ohhhh! I used to write a very pretty (award winning) lifestyle blog about my life in the village and my children and my allotment and my chickens. It was honest, too, about the hard sides of life, and I was writing it as my marriage was falling apart and then when I was a single parent to four children of ten and under. And someone left me a comment suggesting I should be less smug. Smug! It stung so much that I stopped blogging and it took a long time for me to get my courage back. It’s easy to be cruel in an offhand comment online, but it’s far better to spread kindness and be nice to people. And that’s what I try to do. – rachaellucas
- I think the thing people online forget is we’re all real and we’re mainly just doing our best to get by. Kindness is underrated. – liveotherwise
- I Guess the best thing would probably be to respond with humour or to just totally ignore it altogether. Neither is easy unfortunately, but if you turn to the positive people, try to seek the good vibes again, and put the negative one behind you, it makes things easier! There is so much love too here so it compensates! 😘 – karenbhphotos
- I just delete them, I think if I respond they get what they want. – nicolagfriend
- I had one of these today. I’m still learning, despite blogging 6 years and counting. I always try to remember it says more about the commenter and their state of mind than you or what you’re saying. That helps me anyway! – mollyjforbes
- I will never understand why people feel the need to write something negative. skeletonweirdo
- People who are negative and sarcastic are usually not very happy with their own lives. I would ignore them or reply to them in a way they don’t expect e.g. send them a very kind message, thank them for their comment and act like it has no impact on your own happiness. – heitermagazine
- Oh I hate negativity. Why do people have to say horrible things. It’s not easy but try to remember the good comments not the bad – rvk_loves
- Kill them with kindness, ask them why they felt the need to leave a comment like that. Be reasonable and nice, something they are not being so you’ll rise above them! – evekammonen
- Favourite piece of advice, don’t be a dick (though that is aimed at the douche who felt it was necessary to tear someone down to make themselves feel good) For you, don’t let the bastards get you down, not worth it. – life_with_alison
- I really do think that some folk lack social skills online – they forget that people have feelings, and hiding behind a phone or laptop to write a comment means sometimes things are lost in translation, and they don’t realise their comment is hurtful. Remember all the lovely comments, and try to shrug off the odd strange one. It’s hard I know, but agree with the kill it with kindness tactic! – tamsynmorgans
- It’s so hard to ignore the negative stuff. It can really sting. I always delete, make a coffee and have 10 minutes to myself to reflect. By the end of the time I have usually managed to reflect and come to the conclusion it says more about them than anything else. – winnettes
- People really forget that I’m a human and not a shop and can on very occasion get narky with me. The things that works is generally being open, honest and kind. I’ve gotten the odd apology email afterwards too! – biancajonesjewel
- I generally find that people who are mean online are usually quite unhappy in their own lives. Ignore and move on, they don’t deserve your attention. – tinkertailoronline
- I think you have to try and ignore and move on, it’s not always easy though. – hannahargyle
- Ignore, ignore, ignore- they’ll always be someone who doesn’t like social media, or doesn’t like what you do, or who is (and I hate playing this card usually) jealous. Hold your head high and keep doing what you’re doing, it will annoy them more! – becky_freeman_
- It feels like you need a thick skin in this business at times, doesn’t it? There are far more lovely people out there than there are mean though, I’ve found that out for myself today too! – bysarahmostly
- I love the saying “be kind to unkind people, they need it the most” then…take a deep breath, make a cup of tea and then get on with making your day wonderful. – educatingneiva
- Oh no, that’s such a shame! It hasn’t happened to me much but I usually reply with something either totally sarcastic and bizarre, or something really nice! Both tend to freak people out a bit! – crazycatladyldn
- I just think ignore them is the best advice. There is always a mean girl somewhere!! Embrace all that’s good and let go of the nasty stuff. – acupfullofglitter
- Aw! I had a horrible comment two days ago too 😘 people can be so mean. For literally no reason. They must be pretty miserable themselves to muster the energy to be like that. – thisisjules
- I always try to remember that it’s ‘their stuff’ not mine. Their low self esteem, their bad morning, their insecurities. No excuse of course, they just don’t know how to make themselves feel better without putting someone else down. – picturetakermemorymake
- Just ignore it, there will always be someone trying to be negative, if you can deal with it in a positive way you are doing the right thing. – alicedaisy__
- In my experience writing a very “human”, courteous and yet pretty honest response that shows them how you feel is best, because in most cases they just weren’t thinking and a gentle reminder that you’re a human with feelings helps. I had someone really attack me on social media once and I messaged him telling him how he had made me feel and he replied with an apology explaining that he was autistic and didn’t know how to read tone of voice very well etc. Also, your other followers tend to jump in and defend you if it’s a public exchange and you have shown how you feel about it. But if it’s someone who really just struggles to relate to other people and keeps attacking you (ie a real troll), it can be best to just tell them you think they’re being rude and you won’t engage anymore – and then don’t reply after that. _by_sophie_
- I don’t get why anyone would feel the need to make such stupid comments! Life is too short! I guess you have to try not to take bad comments personally. – suerap_art
- Please don’t do what I did when I received a very negative comment about a blog post several years ago. I was so mortified I actually didn’t really ever blog properly in that space again! In fact, I’ve only just begun to blog again (in a different space) in the last few weeks. – poshyarns
- I have learnt this: don’t react, don’t give them anything, block them and don’t give the negativity any headspace. Haters are going to hate. cloudfishing_
I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who responded to my comment with their opinions. It just goes to show that the online community is a largely kind and supportive place to be!
If your experiences of online negativity constitute bullying or harassment, you can seek help from Stoponlineabuse.org.