What would our lives be like without the internet? It’s so hard to imagine now because there are so many great things about it that improve our lives every day. Yet, it seems like negativity on the internet only continues to grow. It makes sense why there are hate sites that exist, some people enjoy being negative and breaking other people down because it makes them feel better about themselves, it’s often the areas that they struggle with that they end up picking apart in someone else’s life. Additionally, there are more and more people putting themselves out there on personal blogs. This adds plenty of fuel to the fire for those looking for stuff to comment on.
It’s nearly impossible to silence out the negativity that’s directed towards us. I’m writing this article for a number of reasons. It’s not to complain about the existence of negative people or to plead for them to stop. That would be a weak move and a waste of time because it’s part of the business we are in and it’s probably not going away. I think it’s important to bring the topic back up and encourage bloggers to discuss openly. This post should help you develop your own strategy for handling negativity. If we are smart, we can reduce how much it bothers and prevents us from doing what we want to do with our lives and businesses. We shouldn’t completely ignore negativity but we also shouldn’t pick a fight with anyone that has something bad to say about us. Hopefully this post will help.
Types of Negativity
Through blogging Julia and I have encountered three types of negative people on the internet. People that can’t comprehend how something comes to be, disgruntled followers and just plain assholes. When receiving negativity it’s important to distinguish from whom the message is being broadcast by so that you can follow your strategy for handling the negativity. Another thing to consider is if the commenter is anonymous or not. If a commenter has the guts to leave a comment and provide their real identity, then the least you can do is read what they have to say. Let me break it down on how to best receive and handle negativity from each group.
Negativity can root from confusion. When things don’t add up in the minds of followers it can frustrate them. Take their criticism as a challenge for you to be more clear about how you explain things. Or, in the case of highly personal information, ignore their comments. Things like money and relationship status are areas of your life that people have no business knowing about. Anyone that doesn’t “get” life enough to know not to ask or comment on personal areas of your life, should be ignored. As an example, I think a lot of people are confused by traveling and how much bloggers spend, they must think that you have to come from a “billionaire” family to pay for everything.
Let me clear something up for anyone that doesn’t understand the blogging industry. Bloggers have little to no overhead, for the most part running these websites is super cheap, nearly all revenue that bloggers receive turns into profit. Finally, our biggest expenses, Clothing, Travel, Computer and Camera equipment are all directly related to the operation of our businesses. It’s a lot easier to pull the trigger on these purchases if they are helping to build our businesses.
Disgruntled followers are followers of yours that have, at one time, liked or even loved your online personality but they no longer agree with some of the things that you are doing. It’s important when fielding criticism from this group to try and put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand why they have developed the opinion that they have. People that have followed for a long time can often form critical opinions if they feel that they are being alienated. The way that bloggers handle revenue driving efforts can also make these types of followers unhappy. For the most part, people don’t like the feeling of constantly being sold to.
These followers are all smart, most have followed for a long time so they know where you have been, they might even feel like they have a certain “equity” in your blog if they feel that they are partially responsible for your growth. So take their feedback constructively. Search for something to pull out from what they are saying. I’ll talk about it further in the post but as long as what they’re saying works with your current path then you should listen to them and make the adjustment.
For example, Julia received a comment from a frustrated reader about not answering questions on her blog. Julia’s immediate thought was to get defensive and say something along the lines of “considering the volume of reader emails that I get I try my best but I can’t get to them all”. But instead she commented back and agreed she could be doing a better job and thanked the reader for the constructive criticism.
Assholes and Know-it-Alls
Pure haters are people that have a pretty good understanding of the business that you are in. For whatever reason they feel the need to exploit that knowledge to go out of their way (wasting their time) to be vicious. With Assholes, make sure to stand up for yourself. The good thing about Asshole comments is they’re often idiotic, there is either little to no truth in what they have to say or they are commenting on something that you cannot change. For instance, let’s say you aren’t stick skinny and are often criticized for being fat. If you’re confident in your body and yourself, let that person know they can’t break you down. If you’ve ever noticed someone else being ganged up on for something completely uncalled for, try and defend them; believe me it feels great when someone else sticks up for you.
In the case of Know-it-alls they exist because they apparently have never done a wrong thing in their life. As an example I’m sure they have memorized exactly what items can go in Compost vs. Recycling vs. Trash . What gets them off is finding someone doing something they think is wrong so that they can call them out on it. I have to admit that I’m a bit of a Know-it-all and it can feel good to be right about things but it takes an Asshole to tell someone else (that they don’t even know) how to live their life. My favorite attitude to have about these commenters is to ignore them, simply for the fact that if we as human beings are so concerned about all the possible things we could do wrong, we would never end up doing anything with our lives.
Choosing when to respond to a comment is incredibly difficult. Know by responding that you are turning a comment into a conversation. Keep the conversation constructive and meaningful. Ask yourself if you’re responding in a way to make yourself feel better or responding in a way that actually needs to be said. Use sarcasm fragilely as you can come off as inconsiderate. The least ideal situation would be if your response stirs the pot even more. Fighting fire with fire is rarely a good idea.
Tone of voice
When we speak in person to other people we can sense the tone of their voice. We can tell if they are mad, sarcastic, joyful or a hundred other emotions. This helps us decipher what people really mean when they say something. On the internet, it’s hard to know what someone really means. If you ever have a question about it, ask the person to further clarify. They are either going to climb back in their hole or they are going to think about their response (since their first comment was probably not well thought out) and they will probably write something that’s constructive that you have the option to accept or deny.
Believe in yourself
Congratulations, you’ve at least made it in someway. If you have people hating on you it means that you must be doing something right. One of my friends jokingly prides herself in the size of her thread on a certain hate site. It’s important to continue believing that the path you have started down is the right path. You can continue to evolve and improve but make sure that the direction is based on what you want and what your data analysis is telling you.
For instance, a lot of fashion bloggers start out wearing more budget friendly outfits. As they start growing they start making money, it’s only natural that they will start accumulating more expensive clothing, shoes and accessories. While hopefully their style doesn’t change much, they no longer cater to the budget friendly audience, this often fuels a lot of hate because a big chunk of the original audience can’t fully relate to that blogger anymore. I know plenty of bloggers that have gone through this life cycle and you probably know of some too, shit, that was essentially our lifecycle. I can’t speak for other bloggers but I know we made that decision because it was the path that we wanted to go down to build a premium brand and all of our data continues to support that conscious decision that we made.
If you find yourself listening too much to what others think you should be doing remember it’s never too late to make a change. Figure out what you want to do and do that. In order to make changes, you have to believe in yourself and not worry about alienating others.
The truth can hurt the most
It’s our natural instinct to get defensive when someone challenges us. The next time something really gets to you, try to fight the urge to be defensive. Be honest with yourself about why it bothers you so much. I’ve found that the more truth there is in the criticism, the worse it can make you feel. Sometimes the truth hurts the most. Reflect on what you’ve had your eyes opened to and use that as motivation to improve.
Have you ever noticed how you can receive 90% or more positive comments but somehow the 1 or 2 negative comments are all you can think about? Screw the negativity and focus on the positive. There are so many metrics that we have that can help reaffirm what we are doing right. Take some time to read the emails and comments your followers send you. Write back to them and thank them, it’s not until you respond to them that you really feel proud of what you are doing. In the same way that you should stand up against negativity for the people that you love to follow, make sure you also go out of your way to say something encouraging to them. We’ve gained a lot of great friends through blogging and I try to go out of my way to make sure they feel recognized for the great job they are doing.
Try not to delete negativity
Sometimes I want to delete negative comments, other times I want to remove a photo if the whole conversation has turned sour. For the most part, I now believe this is a childish move. When I’ve irrationally silenced other people’s voices it’s actually been more painful when they called me out on it compared to the original criticism. Notice that I say “try not to delete negativity”, I changed that from “never delete negativity” because if something bothers you so much and it’s not constructive, then delete it if you feel it’s necessary. In the end, much like having a driver’s license, people have the privilege and not the right to say whatever they want. You are the owner of your Instagram photos and your blog comments, so if you find someone is abusing that privilege, as the sole governing authority, you can block them or delete what they have to say.
Go to your happy place
Dealing with negativity can leave you in a depressive mood. It’s important that you can find somewhere or something that gets your mind off of the negativity and makes you happy. Try to find something healthy to do as short term solutions might not be the best habits to form. One of my happy places is being outside, especially in an amazingly beautiful place. It brings me a lot of joy to take landscape and wildlife pictures. Other really great options are working out, yoga and meditation.
One final note on finding your happy place, make sure that you are continuing to develop non-digital relationships with other people. It’s easy to become a hermit and get sucked up in this digital age where our moods can fluctuate depending on how well an Instagram photo does. If you are lucky enough to work from home and set your own schedule it’s often hard to motivate yourself to leave your house and make sure you go out of your way to see your friends in the flesh. Having fun, catching up and laughing with friends is great for relieving stress and reminding you of the more important things in life.
It’s important to talk about the issues you are having
When you feel like you’re constantly being attacked you might start to feel alone. Many other people are going through what you are going through. Strike up a conversation with anyone and see if they have to deal with negativity. You’d be amazed how much better you’ll feel when you realize you aren’t alone. When talking with other people that put themselves out to the public, make sure you discuss your strategy for dealing with negativity. Tackling negativity as a problem that can be solved will turn your mind to focus on the challenge at hand.