September 25, 2021
When Instagram decided to hide Likes, we were ecstatic because by hiding the count, the relentless competition between users to rack up double taps could finally be laid to rest.
But more than that, it was a sweeping step towards a more supportive, upbeat and encouraging social media and that’s our topic of conversation today.
What do we do when the virtual space we call our second home becomes a damp, drizzly and bleak November? In other words, how do you handle a cesspit of trolls and haters.
Why is the internet a fertile ground for negativity?
Hint: the vicious cycle of rude words and depression is not its fault!
The web created by social networking sites is an ecosystem comprised of everything between LOL memes and SMH news. It is also a universe ripe with anxiety, envy, depression, and an endless array of issues.
As people who live and love it, we know the adverse impact social media can have on emotional health and mental wellbeing.
The life of an influencer is stressful. But as it turns out, it isn’t the internet’s fault. Experts say that the bleak hallmarks of #influencerlife are due to neurological wiring, i.e., our brains aren’t wired to decode purely text-based communication. (We get the irony, considering that’s all how we connect currently!)
When we see a post, tweet, comment or DM, the brain has no information on the tone of voice or body language. This lack of cues activates a part of the brain that houses the “fight or flight response.”
So, when we read or see something on the internet that’s not to our taste, it is like a bugle call. The brain feels under attack, and it responds in the same fashion. A real example makes it clearer:
Scroll through the comments on the post, and you’ll read users fighting over the origins of henna along with calls of cultural appropriation. The negative rejoinders are instinctive and arise due to the “online disinhibition effect.”
Succinctly said, when people communicate in cyberspaces they do so with less restraint, which creates a cycle of negativity and consequent problems. If they had seen the same thing in real life, the reaction would have been much calmer, saner and healthier.
Getting the cycle?
A photo is published, someone doesn’t like it and comments harshly to which another user takes offence and the merry-go-round and round.
Concrete steps to de-stress your socials and handle trolls
Posting a new experience or tweeting your heart out is not exempt from pitfalls. Keeping it one hundred and exposing a vulnerable side doesn’t guarantee appreciation.
Some followers will ridicule it, others will hate it, and strangers won’t stop commenting with snake emojis. To put it differently, the online disinhibition effect will be on full display. That said, there are simple yet tangible methods of curbing or handling negativity on social media.
We’ve touched on the topic briefly before, but here we dive a bit deeper.
Handling comments from haters
Once a content creator has made their mark, harsh comments and negative reviews become a part of life. They can’t be avoided, but they needn’t be a niggling source of cynicism.
If the comment is genuine…
Take a moment. Think if the words are actually rude or is it just your fight response activating. A poorly thought reply or even a minor step will lead to a not-so-good aftermath.
Acknowledge the feedback. Apologise if there has been an error on your part, and appreciate the follower for bringing the issue to your notice. Take a cue from Kylie:
If the comment is rude or abusive…
When the comments, replies or tweets get ugly, take any of these three steps:
- Be a wisecrack and send a witty response. It will disarm the person and won’t have you pondering over the words as a hamster wheel stuck in the head. Or, maybe, send a sarcastic thank you like Chrissy:
- Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument. Hit them with facts calmly and serenely. It will educate the troll and every other follower. Andy Murray’s quip is a perfect example:
- Exclude yourself from the narrative, one that you never asked to be a part of, i.e., ignore the haters. They feed off attention and answering them ensues needless shouting matches. After the first genuine reply to the comment, answering more of them is like adding fuel to fire.
Managing the aftereffects of negativity on the internet
Fencing with naysayers is one side of the social media coin. The other is the mental aftermath. Detangling a messy situation and reading hateful comments on a public platform takes a toll. Dealing with this side-effect is elementary, my dear Watson.
Don’t go down the rabbit hole
Scrolling through an influencer’s Instagram or Twitter handle is similar to tripping into a well of pity-party. Stop fretting over someone else’s perfect life, growing follower number, or the gazillion likes. The their-life-is-better mindset is an illusion.
Be like Drew Barrymore
Cruel comments are not your reality. They are the opinions of others. Fewer hearts or shares is not the epilogue of your story; it is just another chapter. Take them with a pinch of salt and get back on the horse (with a bit of help), precisely like Barrymore:
Be a champion
Curbing offensive comments shouldn’t be limited to your own Twitter feed, Facebook post or blog. Be an influencer who builds a supportive community. Respond with positive and uplifting comments on another content creator’s post, especially when you catch a troll bashing them.
Be a version of John:
When they come for his wife:
Channel negativity and haters into inspiration
Trolls are rarely looking for productive dialogues, those who do are one-offs. Refusing to engage and answer, takes away their leverage. Therefore, the power that sooner or later extinguishes negativity is turning a blind eye.
Also acknowledge that posts are highlights of a creator’s life and not the pain and sweat filled behind-the-scenes. What is visible is the 10% tip of the iceberg; the rest hides beneath the veneer of filters. Taking social media as the whole truth is foolhardy.
So, whenever you find yourself growing grim while scrolling or swiping screens, let it fan your fire. Make the feed of another influencer a source of inspiration rather than a chasm of pessimism.
Finally, share your journey, not just the outcome. Posts like that can break the status quo and bring a progressive transformation – a change where your journey to becoming an influencer inspires others. Make it a place where loneliness is absent and positive interactions are par for the course.