May 18, 2016

How to Deal with Negativity from Strangers Online

How to Deal with Online Negativity from Strangers

If you're under the age of 30, chances are you've been using the internet and social media as a part of your everyday life since way back when. Our generation has grown up surrounded by advances in technology and increased digitalisation. I remember my first desktop PC, complete with Windows 95, handed down to me by my cousin...

It was fairly innocent, me and my brother would play the Goosebumps and The Curse of Monkey Island games and print out MS Paint pictures for our grandma.

Fast forward a few years and I'm in high school, me and my friends chat on MSN (hands up if you included Jimmy Eat World lyrics on your status ~*tYpEd LiKe ThIs*~) and have MySpace accounts. Again, all innocent and apparently safe interactions. My contact with strangers is limited and the accounts are used to chat with friends after school and to hopefully be featured in my crush's 'top 8'. I remember ditching MySpace in favour of Facebook around 2006/07, which is when social media really became prevalent. Everybody's cat (yep, even mine) and grandma now has an Instagram account.

I'd never had a "bad" experience online until I used Instagram. Even then it wasn't until I went over 10k followers that I would start to get unkind comments. It's not a regular occurrence and I can say that it's happened only a handful of times, but when it does happen it's always pretty personal. If you don't like swearing, I apologise, but here's a few quick examples of the comments left on my photos by strangers:

Your life resembles that of the sound of a shit hitting the side of a toilet bowl
Do you have Valtrex in the UK? Cuz you need it boo (I had to google Valtrex, it's herpes medication - I've never even had a coldsore) 
Just another instagram slut with shitty tattoos 
Pet slug eyebrows (Fair enough I did go through a stage of filling my eyebrows in rather heavily).

As you can see, some very creative efforts... *clapping hands emoji*

In addition to people forgetting that there is in fact a live human with feelings behind my Instagram, I've had fake accounts made using my name where my photos/selfies were reposted with captions about how stuck up and attention seeking I am, saying things like, "Look at me!"

Apparently, feeling good about yourself and documenting it is narcissistic and only done in order to seek validation. Therefore, you need to be reminded to get back in line, meek woman! God forbid that  in a world of unrealistic beauty standards and pressures to weigh 4 stone, alongside balancing a career, baking a cake and reading 10 tips to give the perfect blow job (all while doing a handstand), you are keeping your chin up and feelin' yourself enough to post a pretty photo of your face. I love selfies. I love seeing women compliment each other. I love seeing my friends feel beautiful and powerful. Life is hard and we don't get anywhere by beating each other down - lift up your sisters.

Going off on a tangent there, sorry.

Dealing with online negativity from strangers can be really tough. By nature, it takes a lot to throw me and I generally respond constructively to nasty comments left on my Instagram - meaning I suggest they deal with their evident issues/anger instead of taking it out on strangers and tell them to have a great day. Then I block them. I acknowledge that for some people it may not be so easy to shrug off and you may not feel confident in telling the haters to back off.

BUT


The bottom line is that it takes a certain kind of person to hide behind a screen being hateful. Whether you're receiving creepy anonymous messages (one of the reasons I deleted tumblr a few years ago - that and the fact I'm not 21 anymore), a random person is leaving insulting comments on your instagram or your photos have been posted around with malicious captions - take a breath and think for a minute how the person behind it must feel about themselves. I mean, how down and out would you have to be to say unkind things to strangers you've never met or interacted with, who are simply going about their lives? Just like with regular bullies, this kind of behaviour comes from a place of desperate unhappiness, insecurity and self-loathing. If you can take that initial shock, upset and anger you feel when you get told "Your life is shit and you're a poser", into pity for the bully, it can be healing. As hard as it may be to not retaliate, practicing compassion for people who are so clearly plagued by issues is a helpful way to process negativity (online or otherwise) without blaming yourself. It's something I've come to realise recently and I wish the penny had dropped sooner.

To put it simply... 


A complete stranger behaving spitefully and cowardly towards you online is basically threatened by your light / talent / kindness / confidence / smile / great butt / ability to not be a douche on the internet - delete as appropriate. You don't deserve mean comments and you are not the one in the wrong (unless you're Donald Trump).

Don't for one second think that you should be silent or that trolls have a free pass. They don't. Deal with the negativity in a way that makes you feel comfortable. If that's ignoring, blocking and deleting the comments - great. If you prefer to respond in a 'kill 'em with kindness' type of way (my personal favourite) - go for it. Maybe just a screenshot and hashing it out with the girls in your group chat is all that's needed. At the same time, people say that bullies love a reaction so you shouldn't give them the satisfaction, but that's never sat well with me. We need to call out nasty behaviour and stand up for ourselves to let them know that online trolling is completely unacceptable. If anything, it might help them address their problems and realise that what they're doing is f**ked up.

Assuming that it's people over 18 reading this blog, you're an adult and you are entitled to use social media and be active online without feeling afraid or worried about negativity. I truly understand how hard it is to put yourself out there, only to have people criticise, shoot you down or be unpleasant, but I refuse to let it stop me doing what I'm doing and neither should you.

Have you been affected by trolls? How do you deal with online negativity? Have you ever left anonymous "hate"? Do you think Instagram is an easy platform for people to be mean? Let's talk about this some more - leave me a comment to get the conversation going x

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6 comments

  1. LOVED THIS. I had to delete my instagram account cause i felt kind of distracted from the real world. Now i feel more me, more confident, more everything. I genuinely love your attitude, keep up the good work! And let the haters, hate. they have nothing to do with their lives, xo.

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    1. Thanks for the comment and kind words, Vee! That's a really brave move! I have had breaks from instagram in the past and sometimes wish I could just delete it, but I use it for blog/work purposes and have worked really hard to build a following. Sometimes I do feel a lot of pressure to maintain and update, but I try and keep in touch with myself and live a life offline - it can take over very easily if we let it! x

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  2. Hello! I came across your blog via Instagram and really like your posts. They are all so well written, informative and honest, which is lovely and refreshing to read. So thank you for sharing! I've never understood why people feel like it's okay to be cruel online, and not think about the repercussions. "Kill them with kindness" is one of my favourite mottos and I think it feels much better than retaliating out of anger/hurt. Great post.

    Lynsey X

    www.lynseysliberties.com

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    1. Hey Lynsey! Thanks so much for stopping by and for your lovely comment. I've made the mistake of lashing out in the past and have learned the hard way that all it does is add fuel to the fire. As difficult as it can be to take the high road, I'm doing my best! x

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  3. I've called my mum upset multiple times because people have left such crappy comments on my page. I'm a sensitive flower and it genuinely does make me so sad to read shitty comments directed at me, especially when depression can so easily convince you theyre true, even amongst the other 99% positive messages. Sometimes I feel pathetic because I actually allow the words of 14 year olds on the internet upset me, but I know I would never have done that so it really gets to me. I try not to let it but it really does, and the more following I get the more I worry. It seems I've really lucked out with a beautiful warm hearted supportive following so thats what usually gets me through the mean stuff. Will never understand it!

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  4. Yes, I have been trolled but not on Instagram, mine was on Twitter. I will send you more info in a mail xx

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