Loving the Trolls • How to Deal with Online Abuse

trolls online abuse

Getting comments on my blog used to be the highlight of my day. When I got an email notification in my inbox, I would rush to open it, thrilled that someone had taken the time to comment on something I had written.

These days — not so much.

Almost every day I receive an abusive comment on my blog, or an offensive personal email. The author is compelled to tell me how morally corrupt I am by calling me derogatory names. I am frequently told I should be ashamed of myself or I need to grow up. My inbox is not a pleasant place to be.

It is a situation I have never encountered in real life. I am fortunate to have never been bullied at school or at work. In fact, I am usually the one beating myself up because I am worried I have upset someone else by being too blunt and insensitive. No one has ever called me names, except for that particularly distressing period when my ex-husband and I were splitting up.

So, with a little help from my emotionally intelligent boyfriend and my online friends, I have had to learn how to deal with online abuse. This is what I know about trolls.

It says more about them than it does about you

There is that saying that everyone who irritates us acts as a mirror reflecting an unhealed part of our soul. When I get upset over something someone has posted on a blog or on Facebook, I pause to consider what tender part of my heart is hurting. I still get enraged about the control religion tries to exert on women’s sexuality but I try not to voice my strong disagreement while I’m still healing from my wounds.

I completely understand why my post about having an affair stirs up intense emotions. There are people whose fathers have cheated on their mothers, and husbands and wives who have cheated on their partners leaving a trail of pain and destruction in their wake.

I have never said I was proud of what I did — I said I wasn’t ashamed. There is a difference. Shame is a destructive and debilitating emotion that feeds off of guilt and regret. I take ownership for what I did and I’m not afraid to talk about it. I know there are many women who keep their infidelity a secret. I wrote that post for those women.

They wouldn’t say it to your face

People who use a fake name or write anonymously are not particularly brave. If a person can’t look me in the eye and say something to my face, then they aren’t worth listening to. I never take advice from faceless and nameless strangers who shout at me from behind their computer screens.

You don’t have green hair

If a person I walked past in the street starting pointing and laughing at me, I would stop to ask why. If they told me it was because I had green hair, I would shrug and walk away. I know I don’t have green hair, and the people who know me, think my hair is quite pretty so clearly the person in the street is a little nuts.

If someone wants to assert that I am a slut, then I’m going to treat that statement the same way. I know I’m not a slut, and so do the people in my circle of family and friends. If an accusation is untrue, it is of no importance.

Your online persona is only a small part of who you are

I will let you in a little secret — despite all my opinions about sexuality and relationships my real life situation is pretty much the same as yours. I’m a faithful, monogamous, ridiculously smitten girlfriend whose only transgressive behaviour is not being married. And these days, that is hardly groundbreaking.

If you want to imagine me wearing leather every night, swinging from the chandeliers and bonking anything that moves, then be my guest. The reality is much more boring and normal. I have wild ideas but I find no need to act on them.

All expression is good expression

It would be hypocritical of me to champion speaking out about taboo subjects and then silence those who have different views to mine. As much as possible I try to leave comments on my blog from people who respectfully disagree with me.

Even people who write nasty things have a right to voice their opinion. If I’m allowed to say what I think, then so are they. But if they are going to be mean about it, I just hit the “delete” button.

If you have to respond, be F.A.K.E.

Most of the time ignoring trolls is best way to go, but if you are compelled to engage, use one of the following F.A.K.E. responses.

BE FUNNY
A friend told me about this one. No matter what the person says respond with, “I’ve told you this before, no matter how much you flatter me, I’m not going to sleep with you.” I wouldn’t suggest using it on a blog post where you have no way of knowing who you are talking to, but it does work on Facebook if the person being rude is a friend of a friend.

BE AGREEABLE
Whatever you do, don’t argue — just agree with everything they say. Be warned though, it is difficult to pull this off without sounding sarcastic. “Thank you for your comment. I will take your feedback into consideration.”

BE KIND
“Thank you for reading and taking the time to share your perspective.”

BE EMPATHETIC
“I understand where you are coming from, and I hear what you are saying.”

It is the fucking internet

The internet thrives on trash and nonsense, bad behaviour and poisonous ideas. It is pretty much a hyperactive three-year-old who needs a nap. When that three-year-old squeals at me in a high-pitched voice “You’re a poopy head,” I am not going to take it seriously.

What is your experience with trolls? Do they wound you or have little impact? What is the best comeback you’ve ever used in response to online abuse?

About Katie Paul

Embracing my midlife sexy while exploring modern love & relationships • Devoted to all things beautiful • Master of Arts in creative writing & non-fiction writing • Join the hottest group on FB → Sassy Midlife Women

33 thoughts on “Loving the Trolls • How to Deal with Online Abuse

  1. I usually try to respond with ‘have a nice day’ or something along this line. If someone doesn’t want to talk with you (ie be open to discussion) but just want to talk at you no amount of argumentation can change that.

  2. If I disagree with someone, I don’t leave a comment. I click the page off my screen and cuss at myself for giving them a page hit.
    I think you are brave. You write about a few subjects I would dare not write about publicly for the reason you wrote today. The Internet is a strange world.

  3. Hi Katie, what a great topic. I love your description of the internet being an overactive 3 year old. Perfect. I can’t believe how much troll comments and emails you get. That’s an awful lot to deal with. You’ve got it right though. I’ve had some negative comments and emails but not to that degree. Huff Post published one of my most popular articles about my sexless marriage. The men went off the wall on that one. I got called all kinds of things and stopped reading the comments at about 30. In total there were over 300 comments. I got called ugly on twitter via a direct message from someone under a pseudonym. So, ya. Trolls are brutal but I ignored all of it. Your tips and sample responses are fantastic. Thanks for this share!

  4. A thousand times YES!

    I had one particularly nasty troll who kept commenting on my weight (ur a gross cow!) and telling me I was a no talent hack of a writer. There was no name nor a valid email. After awhile I stopped responding or acknowledging. Eventually the asshole went away.

  5. Nowadays, if I see a post that I am in vehement disagreement with (think anti-vaxxers, female suppression, homophobic posts), I just click off. Because I know my little comment will not be a mind-blowing revelation to them, so why even bother!
    I get people feeling hurt and lashing out at some of your posts but most of the comments you’ve received seem just very childish. You’re truly dealing with them in a very mature way!

    1. My mother used to say “a man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still” which seems to apply here. Or as someone else said – “you can’t argue with dumb” 😀

      Thanks for stopping by.

  6. I admit I’ve let them get to me before. I had to turn off notifications for a while because one blog post brought out the trolls in force. I have no idea what kind of nasty comments are lingering on that post because I haven’t gone back to sort through them yet.

    I usually don’t let trolling comments get to me otherwise. That post was an exception because it was classic anti-women tactics used often to silence women speaking about their experiences. The comment that would wound me the most? Telling me my writing sucks. That would devastate me.

  7. This is such great advice! I would add that while taking the high road in an online response, it is stress relieving to state, out loud, what pompous, douchey windbags these trolls are, and it takes a weight off the soul to curse them with diarrhea????

  8. I love the be F.A.K.E advice. I don’t have enough readers to attract trolls but I think it is great advice for dealing with humans in general. Especially now in the US where we are so divided in this shit storm of an election cycle. The other bit I cling to is on my own list – Be kind and if you can’t be kind be quiet. I have hit the mute button on myself a lot lately…..great as always to read your thoughts.

  9. Hey Katie,

    I want to thank you for your transparency, and for saying what a lot of us are thinking but are not free enough to say.

    I am a Christian, but I believe that religion divides, so I am not religious. While I don’t promote promiscuity, I am a woman with female needs. I left a twenty-year abusive marriage last year, and am trying to find my way. I have been and am currently, the other woman, hoping for forgiveness for being involved with a married man who is twenty years younger than I.

    With that said, I am glad to not be the only one who understands my plight. I appreciate your efforts and always look forward to your emails.

  10. Hi. Came your way from a Facebook post in a blogging group. I am pretty much giving up on those groups, because my blog is PG-13 and I feel about as welcome as a turd in a punch bowl. Nice to see someone else who doesn’t have a Mommy, travel, beauty, or food blog (not that there’s anything wrong with those)!

    The older I get, the less fucks I give for real. All the power goes to whoever gives the fewest. When you can get to a point where you’re not just pretending something doesn’t bother you, but it REALLY doesn’t, then the trolls have no power. In life, that would be a lot easier than on my blog. That blog is my baby. I haven’t gotten any really negative comments yet. I do get people who follow and then unfollow, and that’s cool, but anything that reads as “mean” will still have the power to affect me. I’m pretty sure the people making nasty comments don’t have their own blog though, mostly because they lack the damn skills.

  11. Unfortunately, trolling consists of more than half the internet. After twenty years of being online, I’ve seen some really nasty stuff out there. None of it makes me proud to be a human. I agree with what you’ve said with one exception. I would never reply to nasty comments. It gives them exactly what they want and that’s attention. Great post!

  12. Best post ever. So much truth and wisdom here. I have not had the experience of nasty trolls (I don’t think enough people read me – hahaha), but I’m filing this one and sharing it out there for anybody who needs a little support in this area. You are a class act, lady. A class act.

  13. Where is the like button?! Thanks for visiting my blog Katie. I agree with everybody, those people must have pretty sad lives and ugly interiors. Not worth the the time to write back and most importantly since it’s their problem, not yours, you can’t change them, their need for attention or their boring lives!
    Saddly, I don’t have that problem though, because I almost don’t get any comments! I guess I envy you! ????????
    Great post, I’ll be back for more xx

  14. Another brilliant, wise and balanced article.unlike some of your others, this isn’t relevant to me really as I don’t blog, and the only comments I make on fb are on my own page shared with friends, or on a couple of other local fb pages. What I don’t understand why people do it. As you rightly said, these people wouldn’t dream of being so rude, offensive or unpleasant in real life so why do it online? Really, who cares what they think and why do they think that is of relevance to anyone else?. It’s like people moaning about a TV programme…if you don’t like it, change channel or switch off. Same with the Internet…it’s a vast source of information and humour and ideas. Find what you DO like and switch off the rest. We all have a choice. Sorry for the long post!

  15. I wanted too add a huge THANK YOU for your blog. Some of your articles have really resonated with me and have been really helpful. Please keep on blogging, stay well and have fun. x

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