The internet is the modern version of the wild west. Anyone can take aim and fire at you because they feel like it. Big mouths become bigger, and quiet entities shed their placid masks. Personalities like mine — oversensitive and over analytical — don’t thrive in this acid environment.
I hate viewing comments on The Straits’ Times (our local newspaper), because it is full of ignorant remarks. It’s a surprise how many stupid people there are in the world. Yet I click on them, because drama is always enticing. But do you know what’s even more surprising? The most hurtful comments I have received so far (which isn’t a lot, really), are from people who are just like me.
I’m speaking of those with chronic illnesses. Aren’t they supposed to be more understanding and empathetic? I guess it’s easy to become bitter when you live with pain every day. As the popular quote by Nietzsche goes, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” Chronic pain has a way of hatching its eggs in your brain.
So how do I deal with hateful or hurtful comments online? Here are some things I do to help me, which isn’t to say I’ve become a master of Zen calmness.
1. Shut the Tab and Sleep on It
Some comments grate on your nerves (for those of us with fibromyalgia or CRPS, that might be quite literal). You seethe with anger, and are out for blood and justice. Close the tab. Typing anything in that frame of mind will only make you look whiny, incoherent, or more stupid than your opponent.
Sleep on it. Let your subconscious filter out the unnecessary words you had for retaliation. It also has a way of calming you down. When I wake, I realise that it wasn’t that bad after all. Nobody died, the person was being stupid, and I even feel pity for their unhappy state of being. What happened to this person that he or she would feel so repulsed about what I said? Now I’m ready to respond, if I decide it’s even worth it at all. I make my point in three sentences, instead of 30. It is clear, logical and informative. I’m sure it’s better than any response I could have given the day before.
2. What They Think of You is None of Your Business
Seriously, what can you do about it? It doesn’t matter if you make perfect sense, get all your facts right, and treat them with respect. They can still choose to diss you, or think your writing is crap. What does it matter? Good writing is subjective to begin with. And isn’t it wonderful that the world is such a diverse place, with so many interesting perspectives? Of course, if the person is just being a dick, then move on. No need to get your hands dirty with toxic waste.
What other people think of me is none of my business. — Dr. Wayne Dyer
3. Focus on Producing More Quality Output
The one thing that helps me to get out of the offended rut is to focus on writing even more. They didn’t like that piece? Whatever, I’m working on my next one already. I let myself become absorbed in the process, which I find very therapeutic and fulfilling. This triggers ideas for yet more posts and projects, and stirs the settled dust of excitement. I can’t wait to work on them next! At this stage, I have forgotten about the hurtful comments. Or rather, I am too engrossed on crafting something new, that the comments seem inconsequential. Dandelion fluff in the air.
This applies to good opinions too, by the way. While any writer would be happy to hear good feedback, I also try not to get too lost in them. The same method applies — start making your next article shine. You might have had your one minute of fame on the internet, but by tomorrow they’re gushing about something else. It’s just the way we’re wired. Don’t stop writing if you enjoy it, because you think it isn’t worth it. If you enjoy it, then that is enough.
…One of the highest places you can get to is being independent of the good opinions of other people. — Dr. Wayne Dyer
4. It’s Not About You. It’s About Them.
When someone spits vitriol at your writing, it has either touched a raw nerve, or they are on a different wavelength. There isn’t much you can do if they don’t want to help themselves, or choose to let ugliness rule their lives. If your frequencies are out of range and lost in transmission, you can try reconnecting. Sometimes you strike gold, but more often than not it produces a lot more static feedback.
Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. — Miguel Ángel Ruiz
I stopped explaining myself when I realised people only understand you from their level of perception. — Unknown
In conclusion, I wrote this article as a little reminder to myself too. Something I can refer to whenever I feel defeated. Keep writing, enjoy the process, and be proud of the output. All the best to you, my fellow writer!