The mad bad world of the internet - and how to avoid the nasties

graffiti behind bars, London 2012

Negativity and general horribleness is something people often worry about when they start to think about being active in the online space. However, it’s normally a fear of what might be directed at us, rather than a fear of what we might ourselves thoughtlessly blurt out.


But honestly, for the most part I think you can easily avoid the nastiness that sometimes lurks online - and I’ll go further than that – play nicely and you can make some very worthwhile connections and be part of some genuinely enriching conversations. Generally I've found the online space to be filled with warm support and a great sense of fun.

I'll admit I've been in a couple of online discussions where things have gotten very negative and once or twice I've found myself being "attacked" for something I've said....sometimes stuff like that can happen. Hey, it’s not so dissimilar from real life.


Updating this post for 2018, it was originally published in 2013, prompted by a local news item that had caught my eye which is no longer relevant and I've just deleted all references to that, the whole issue of serious nasty trolling of women online has become quite big news.


I was listening to Women's Hour this afternoon about their #SaveOurTrolls and #takebackcontTROLL campaign and accompanying song which was quite interesting and I wonder if the catchy tune they've just released will worm it's way into into the collective subconscious as a meme for our times and perhaps give wannabe trolls or active trolls some pause for thought, perhaps prompting them to change their behaviour or seek help. At any rate, those sensitive souls who might otherwise take troll comments to heart and be hurt by them will hopefully now have a different perspective on what is really going on when someone sends some online vitrol their way - and be less likely to be hurt by it - and that has to be a good thing. At the end of the day though. I still think the advice I drafted below is still relevant today


Here are my tips for dealing with negative comments online. #vintagebutstillhot   


I have a clear intention about how I choose to navigate the online space- and I think it mostly works: 

  1. Be true to yourself. Speak your truth. Say what is important to you. Be self expressed. That is your privilege and it is what people will love you for.  It is the value you can give to your online community.  
  2. Honour everyone else. Everyone you encounter is an extraordinary human being, they may not all behave impeccably all the time, they may sometimes express themselves in ways you find objectionable, they may react to you in ways you don't like, but be gentle with them. Everyone has a hard path, most people are doing their best. Anyone being unreasonable most likely has problems and those problems are unlikely to be about you. When you speak your truth, always try to do it kindly and with consideration for others. 
  3.  If you find yourself under attack - don't react. Don't get drawn in to other people's dramas. Protect yourself, be prepared to withdraw / detach with love / however you want to think of it. give yourself time to calm down before responding to anything anyone writes or says that upsets you. Walk away from conversations where people are being unreasonable, you are not obliged to participate. There's a lovely phrase "don't feed the trolls", it means don't engage with attention seekers who choose to try and upset you. Pity them, sure. Wish them well. Hope that they will overcome their present difficulties and stop feeling the need to abuse others. But you don't have to try and fix them and you certainly don't have to play their game by getting involved or returning their nastiness in kind. 
  4. See feedback as a gift.  Even feedback you think is unfair can be useful, sometimes it's the most useful of all, if you just give yourself time to reflect on it and decide what value there may be in it for you.  Recognise that feedback is not the truth, it's just one person's perception, but by listening and seeking to understand what people are trying to say to us, we can sometimes learn something useful about ourselves, we may learn how to communicate more effectively with difficult characters, we may realise that we have been being difficult ourselves, we can learn what kind of thing is likely to trigger others, or we may sometimes simply learn better how to protect ourselves and what places we perhaps don't want to hang out in any more.
  5. Don't internalise negativity. Don't ever feel trapped by it. We all have choices what conversations we choose to engage in. Some people sadly find themselves in family, employment, or local community situations which may be limiting and that's really hard, but the internet is "virtually" endless (geddit) and if you find yourself connecting somewhere where negativity reigns - you can always find somewhere else to be.

Take care of yourself and why not also take care of others - as far as it feels reasonable to do. We're all learning this stuff together and it's a brave new world with limitless possibilities....


Stay safe out there.


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