How would you feel if someone wrote to you, and called you slimy and manipulative, and told you to "go take a 10-hour bath and wash your mouth out with soap!"?
It doesn't feel great, that's for sure (ask me how I know).
But that's exactly the kind of vitriol that can get thrown at you if you put yourself out there, particularly if you publish content online.
It doesn't matter if you're an innocent 7-year-old posting gaming videos on YouTube, or a grandmother sharing family recipes on Food.com.
When you go public, you're going to attract haters, critics, and trolls.
"The haters gonna hate," Taylor Swift belts out, but is it enough to just "shake it off"?
Depending on the source, the message, and where the verbal attacks happen, there are different ways of dealing with them.
Sometimes a troll is just not worth a moment of your time.
If they're hiding behind anonymity, their message is hateful and profane, and they're obviously just trying to stir up controversy, then the best response is... none.
Just ignore them.
"All a troll wants is you to turn the spotlight onto them," confessed Paul Jun, a former troll. "They will use anything and everything to get it."
His advice? "Never feed a troll."
Sometimes negative comments don't come from haters and trolls, but from critics. They're credible sources, mentors, or even customers.
Although their words may hurt you, they are not motivated by hate. They're pointing out inaccuracies, offensiveness, or sources of confusion in your content, because they want you to do better.
In this case, the best course of action is to engage with them.
If you made a mistake, then correct it. If you said something confusing, then clarify. If you offended somebody, intentionally or not, then apologize.
The best way to do this is to:
- Validate their efforts. Appreciate the effort and time they took to reach out to you, and make them feel that you're listening.
- Assume positive intent. Recognize that they're coming from a place of wanting to help you.
- Pivot to your core message. After you've addressed their concern, go back to your key message (e.g., how much you value the relationship).
Sometimes haters need to have a dose of their own medicine.
If somebody is spreading defamatory lies about you or your company, for example, then it's time to take a more aggressive stance yourself and go into a crisis-management approach.
Do remember that haters have plenty of time on their hands, so be very careful when feeding the trolls and looking for a fight.
Online hatred sometimes degenerates into criminal activity. This includes scamming, hacking, identity theft, harassment, hate groups, SWATing (making false reports to the police to put other people in danger) , and non-consensual intimate images.
This is the time to get help from the authorities. Alert the website admin or community manager of the site.
And document everything: names, usernames, email addresses, and messages. Take screenshots before accounts are taken down or posts are deleted.
Don't Just Shake It Off. Make It Stop
It's sad that the technology that has made it possible for almost anyone to create a platform for their views has also opened the floodgates of hatred and maliciousness.
"These people, they're insignificant gnats," actor Dan Aykroyd said. "They're losers; they have no lives of their own. They can probably barely pay for the wifi they're using."
That's little comfort, though, when damage has been done, as in the case of the elderly losing their pensions to online scams.
By taking appropriate action, all of us can make trolling, hating, and bullying less fun and effective.
You can begin today by making your own platform a safe place for people to express themselves and even disagree--without resorting to rudeness, disrespect, and abuse.
Big companies are moving in this direction. Walt Disney Co. and Salesforce reportedly backed out of bidding for Twitter following the horrific attacks on the social platform directed at actor Leslie Jones.
CNBC host Jim Cramer, who spoke to Salesforce's CEO, said, "Haters reduce the value of the company."