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Dealing with hate online

By June 18, 2009June 23rd, 2009How To,


What is going on? Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched the Hate Meter rise. One of those times, it was disturbingly turned on me in reaction to a post I wrote, but the horror of it really supersedes the target. Hate is just nasty. There’s no way around it. And social media seems to breed its own brand, or maybe it’s the same old, same old – just wearing a new dress. A new dress getting soaked in a shit storm.

Why people hate

I’ve got to say it seems to boil down to these three things:

  • Insecurity
  • Fear
  • Need for attention

Social media, for worse in this scenario, offers people a filter. They can and do behave in ways that they would probably never behave in real life. No one can see them, they don’t have to look into a person’s eyes and see their heart and soul. They can hide behind their computer screen armed with 26 letters and some exclamation marks.

How they hate

Social Media is so vast that it gives the haters quite the array of options:

  • Social networking, such as Twitter. They can bring someone down swiftly by tweeting something nasty to their followers, pushing the retweet or carrying on in public (@reply) conversations.
  • Video. This makes them seem bold, when really they’re hurling their hate at a camera, not an actual person.
  • Blogs. Let me count the ways. They can write their own nasty post or leave horrid comments on someone else’s.
  • Email. Start a hate campaign, make it juicy, add pictures and it will go viral.
  • Forums. How fun to start a hate thread!

The Umbrella: What to do about it

In the face of social media hate, you have some choices to make:

  1. Fight back. Now this seems like a good idea at first, doesn’t it. ‘How dare s/he say that about me!’ Believe me, I understand that you’re raring to go. But, just like my older brothers who teased me relentlessly, this is what the hater wants. They’re baiting you. So…
  2. Silence is really an incredible option. Bite your tongue, dog’s chew toy, a towel. Walk away from your computer. Channel George Clooney and do not engage. (if you got that joke, you get a gold star)
  3. Block ’em. You have the right to block people from your blog and your networks. You do not need to be harassed on your own ‘domain’ – so to speak. I’m not suggesting that you block or censor naysayers. Differing opinions are great and add a lot to the conversation. But hate and violence are not to be tolerated.
  4. Find an outlet. Friends, trusted colleagues, your mom. Rant to them. Let them love you and tell you it’s okay. Have them remind you of how wonderful you are and how batshit insane the hater is. If you can, invite them all to an email party – let the stream of love and fun ensue. The hater is left to hate alone in silence while you’re all having a lovefest.
  5. Depend on your peeps. Watch with glee as your readers go to the mattresses for you – defending, talking back, throwing themselves in front of you like the iron clad shields that they are.
  6. Rise above. Go do something that puts you back on track. Write a killer post. Retweet good people. Make a donation. Hang with your family. Don’t forget that you are better than this hater and their hateful stink. Hate can be like quicksand, don’t get pulled down into it. Don’t believe it, don’t invite it in.
  7. Be careful. If this hater is really scaring you or making serious threats, do not hesitate to take it directly to the police. Don’t forget to document and save all correspondence. Not only emails, but screen shots of tweets, forum posts, etc.

Don’t forget that the ‘world’ is watching. Oftentimes the hater is just making a fool out of their own sorry self. If you keep your wits about you and do the right thing, your social media value and reputation will only go up – and so will your self-preservation. Now, go on with your bad self…and make love, not war.

Image credit: Kayepants

Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • It will never cease to amaze me why some feel the need to tear down others. NeverneverneverneverNEVER! I’ve seen this recently and I just shake my head, dumbfounded.

    It’s sad and says much more about the “hater” then their target. Surely it has to backfire every time!

    Regardless, your points are spot on. All I can think of is “tarbaby” and engaging the negativity is a fist in the goo. No thank you. I’ll walk away and find another way to spend my time.

  • Sugar Jones says:

    Happiness is the best response. Not always easy, but not so hard with a good tribe on your side.


  • Great post and very timely! Silence is definitely a good option, but sometimes it is oh. so. hard. ;)


  • I have been very fortunate in terms of my readers and the typical comment writer on blisschick.

    But there have been a couple of times when the comments pushed my hate-of-snark button. Oh, how I wanted to dress that person DOWN.

    I walked away from this impulse and let it go.

    Yes. Happiness and silence really are the best responses. :)

  • Astacia says:

    Rock on sister! It is so hard to take the high road but it’s the best thing when drama flares.

  • Unfortunately, on the internet we open ourselves to all kinds of strange and hateful folks. Recently I dealt with a swarm of teenagers (or, so I thought — turns out they were old enough to know better) who had read one of my posts & were slamming me on a forum. They weren’t just disagreeing, they were talking trash.

    I tried to keep my wits about me, and my mouth shut, and the storm went away…but taking the “high road” isn’t an easy one, is it?

  • Michelle says:

    I had to comment on such a great, great post. Thanks for writing, sharing, being out there for all of us to connect with.

    I try very, very hard to simply let everything be what it is. I vent to only those closest to me, (hubby, BFF) and it stays there. This public bashing is for the birds IMO.

    If I care in the least about the person spewing venom, I will have a conversation — in private.

    That’s the way I choose to play that game, anyhow.

  • Well said. When the fracas involved me, I chose silence. I’ve never regretted it. I think keeping quiet is often the hardest solution, but it’s also the most effective.

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    Yeah–I’ve experienced this! I think the Internet is a lot like academia: people stroll around looking for someone to criticize and take down. Don’t take it personally.

    I’ve tried (not always successful) to continually put positive vibes out there–to respond to negativity with a “thank you” or just a prayer for that obviously deranged person.

    The other day I was so tempted to write a very negative comment on an author’s Facebook fan page because she had been spamming me for weeks with messages to buy her book, which I am not interested in buying. THEN she spammed me with a message to buy this other book about the process of writing the first book. She said her first book was a best seller. Well, I work in publishing. I knew that was a bold faced lie. And then it really bothered me that she was using that lie to get people to part with nearly $50. So…. I came really close, you know? But I held back. (And I’ve done my best not to ID her here).

    I might send her a private email, but I’m going to wait until the annoyance factor dies down for me. I want my communication to be about feedback and not about anger.

  • Becky Pearce says:

    This recent Twitter post from @TomZiglar seemed really appropriate here.

    If you ever get “flamed” on twitter, don’t react, just quote Zig Ziglar – “Every obnoxious act is a cry for help.”

  • Lea says:

    Great advice, Julie. I recently had this conversation with a friend who’d been bullied by a hater online. I struggle to understand why people do this… it’s baffling. And the internet offers new brands of anonymity, giving haters extra camoflauge.

    Bravo and love to you!

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