As long as you’re using your voice, creating content and expressing your opinions, you will find people who disagree with you. And if you are doing all of that online, you’re probably going to receive hateful comments. How can you deal with those? How can you stop those negative comments on your social media from getting to you and hurting you? Let’s talk about that today.
Having experienced negative comments personally for years and also having worked with YouTube creators during my time at Google, I’ve developed a framework on how I deal with those – and I wanted to share it with you!
Before we get into it I want to make a distinction between hateful comments that are intended to hurt you and feedback. Those are two very different things, but sometimes people don’t know how to properly give feedback and it comes out in a very negative way.
If you’re getting constructive feedback in a respectful way, that’s wonderful! Use it to improve yourself and your work – those are not the type of negative comments that I’ll be addressing in this video. Right now I want to help you deal with the other type: the blatant hate and hateful feedback. I’m going to walk you through some important steps and my decision-making process that will help you deal with those types of comments on your social media and grow a thicker skin.
I’ve summarised all of the steps in a PDF document that you can download and print out, so you don’t have to take any notes. Click here to get it!
Step 1: Pause to acknowledge how awesome you are
I want you to pause and recognise the fact that what you do matters. You are speaking out for causes you believe in. It’s amazing that you aren’t afraid to use your voice! Your social media is reaching audiences that are way beyond your friend and family circle – because your friends wouldn’t leave negative comments like that on your content, would they?
Think of it this way: having haters means making an impact in this world. Having haters is a great sign that you are reaching strangers who need to hear what you are saying.
You aren’t here to please everyone (besides that’s impossible!) so of course, some people will disagree with you. Your voice will inevitably resonate with some while alienating others. And haters feel entitled to throw some dirt on you because that makes them feel better about themselves – we will talk about this in more detail in the next step.
So pause and think about all of the people you’re impacting. Be proud of yourself and your work. Acknowledge how awesome you are for doing what you are doing. Do a few affirmations and gratitude statements if you’d like to! I’ve created a list of affirmations and gratitude prompts to help you strengthen your sense of worth – you can download it for free by following a link in the description of this video!
Make sure you don’t skip this step because it will help you create a mental shield between you and the troll + it will be a wonderful exercise in strengthening your sense of worth and impact. I’m a big fan of attaching positive habits to negative triggers!
Step 2: Think about the hater
The reason why online trolls seem so powerful is because they’re anonymous. They don’t know you and you don’t know them. They feel invincible! And I bet they would never say even a fraction of the negative comments they leave on your social media posts if they had the chance to do so in person. Because the truth is that they’re insecure and make themselves feel better by bringing down others.
When was the last time you’ve felt compelled to leave a nasty comment on a post? I don’t mean constructive feedback, I’m talking about a comment that’s intended to hurt the person, make them feel worthless. I don’t ever remember doing that myself. And I’m on social media a lot! If I disagree with something and I feel like I need to speak out, I’ll do so calmly, presenting facts and feedback.
Trolls feed their egos from bringing people down. They spend their precious time on this planet by making others hurt and doubt themselves. Think about how sad their lives must be if instead of working on their growth and reaching for their goals, they’re spending time spilling hate all over the internet. What are you doing during that time? The exact opposite: you’re adding value and building your future.
Next time you get a hateful comment, imagine the person writing it and how sad their lives must be. Because it is really sad.
Step 3: Filter feedback from emotion
You always want to get all the feedback you can get so the next step is to recognize feedback and filter it out from emotion. You’re not doing it to satisfy the troll, you’re doing it for your personal growth and development. We’ve already established that this person is led by emotions, isn’t rational and is trying to make themselves better by bringing you down. So this step isn’t about them, the language you use or your response to them, this is whether you can take advantage of this comment and extract feedback that you can actually implement and use.
Critically look at the comment and see if you can filter out the emotion and hateful language from useful feedback. If you can, make sure that you take it into account in the future! If this comment was purely emotional or hateful, then let go of it. A lot of the times it will be clear at the first glance and unless it has some useful feedback, don’t spend too much time on this step.
Again, don’t let this person’s negative comments get to you – because remember, they’re intentionally trying to hurt you! I love this quote by Brené Brown:
“You can’t take criticism and feedback from people who are not being brave with their lives”.– Brené Brown
Write that down on a sticky note next to your desk, make it your phone background or set up calendar reminders for yourself with this quote, it’s so powerful!
Step 4: Decide whether to engage
Engaging with trolls on your social media is normally a thankless activity, they’re there to cause havoc and they want you to hurt. They don’t care about facts or your emotions – they’re drunk on their anonymous power and they need another dose of bringing someone down.
However, I do that sometimes. Here’s my decision-making process and engagement strategies:
First, I try to gauge whether the person can be reasoned with. I ask myself the following questions:
- Was this comment intended to hurt me or does the language come from ignorance/lack of understanding?
- Was this a genuine attempt at feedback, but poorly delivered? If so, can I help this person give better feedback?
- Does this person seem like they can be reasoned with? Can I help them understand how their language comes off as offensive – so that they improve their behaviour in the future? (I will sometimes look at their profile to judge that for myself)
- Is this someone who I’m interested in engaging with?
Depending on my answers and my gut feeling about this person, I’ll decide whether to engage. I always listen to my intuition in cases like this!
If I engage, I do so respectfully, so that if the person understands their pitfalls, they model my tone. I thank them for their feedback and always point out the language that has offended me.
For example, on a post about feminism, I once received a negative comment saying to “keep that shit to myself”. My intuition and the person’s profile told me that this person can be reasoned with and will correct their behaviour if dealt with respectfully. So I calmly pointed out that this language was disrespectful to my beliefs. The person mirrored my tone and apologized. Not everyone will be this receptive, but I think of it as turning one troll good at a time.
Now we’re entering the danger zone in the engagement decision-making – engaging with people who aren’t reasonable will most likely lead to more hurtful comments. Do this only if you feel mentally strong enough to not be impacted by further comments.
2. Making a statement
I will engage with a person that can’t be reasoned with if they’ve made a statement that goes against my beliefs and I feel the need to make a counter statement to set the record straight. This happens very rarely, but it’s worth mentioning.
I will essentially issue a statement about my beliefs on the topic as a response and will not engage anymore. For me it’s not about responding to the hater or the troll but about setting the record straight for anyone else reading the comment, who could take my silence as a confirmation of what the comment says. I know that a lot of the times that will start a thread of comments under that, but I ignore them – I don’t even give the trolls the satisfaction of me reading any further. Engaging in anything else under that will only lead to irrational behaviour and you trying to defend yourself – which isn’t worth your time!
3. Doing it for the algorithm
Remember that any engagement (even hate comments) is helping your social media content to be pushed up by the algorithm, so ultimately your content will be seen by more people! Haters don’t realise it, but they’re helping you have more impact and spread your voice.
I sometimes engage with emotional comments to boost my content’s performance. Haters love getting a reaction and they will sometimes post threads and threads of negative comments after you respond. They get so passionate and emotional – and I use that. I ride that emotion/hate bus, taking advantage of people with too much free time and too little ambition. And as a result, the algorithm spreads my content even further!
The key is not letting it get to you though. If you choose to engage with a hater to boost your content’s performance, don’t read what they respond to you. Who cares? Let them freak out, prove their point, flex and show their dominance. Turn off notifications on your phone if you can or leave it in another room!
Finally, there’s a type of haters out there who are simply awful. They have extreme opinions and methods + they can seem stalkerish. The moment I sense any of that, I block those people immediately. I don’t need those kinds of people for engagement and neither do you. So be ruthless and block them straight away!
Step 5: Work on your mental shield
I can tell you from personal experience, it takes time and practice to build thicker skin on social media. But it is essential to build a mental shield between you and your social media for your mental and physical wellbeing.
Your worth doesn’t depend on likes, comments or other forms of engagement. Your online persona isn’t you and those metrics don’t define you. Stay true to your purpose, follow your priorities and take care of your mental health.
Spend more time offline, don’t obsess over metrics and post performance (I know it’s hard, it releases dopamine, but be strong!) and focus on meaningful things in your life. This will help put things into perspective and minimise the impact of this virtual world on your mood and sense of self-worth. In the grand scheme of things, no one cares about what @kittylover3000 has to say on your social media.
To get back into the present moment, you can do a quick meditation – just focus on your breathing for a second. You can also use affirmations or gratitude statements. My incredible friend who is a PsyD candidate in Psychology often recommends her clients do something that gives a sense of mastery – something meaningful to you that you enjoy.
I’ve created some affirmations and gratitude prompts that can help you strengthen your feeling of self-worth, which you can get for free by clicking that link! You can also click here to get a free guide to mindfulness apps. Finally, I have summarised all that we’ve discussed today in a PDF document that you can print out and keep on your desk, glued in your journal, wherever! Click here to get it.
Make sure that you don’t skip steps 1&2. Remember, we’re trying to attach a positive habit to a triggering event so that it loses its effect on us.
I hope that you’ve found this video and my framework useful. Let me know if you’ve received negative or hateful comments and how you’ve dealt with them!