How to Deal with Trolls, Naysayers & Online Bullies By Therapist Hillary L. McBride
I’ve had my fair-share of trolls, naysayers and even libel over the last 7 years as a blogger, not to mention pornography and sexism which boggles the mind, but equally, I understand that sharing my life publicly means this kind of bile is inevitable. The pros always outweigh the cons thankfully: the many women who stop me on the street to thank me for helping them start online businesses and believe in themselves more, or to reach out for help after trauma and depression: that’s what matters to me and keeps me going.
I’m also thankfully a strong lass as we Yorkshire folk say. I know who I am and I like myself. It’s so sad that reads like an act of rebellion when we should all feel the same.
It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when others publish lies about me of course, or try to defame me but I have, over the years found that I can handle the trolling better. That I know myself greater than ever before and thanks to my amazing manager Neil Ransome and a strong unit of close family and friends, I never stay down for long.
I’m also lucky that through my job, I have the chance to collaborate with gifted people such as therapist and author Hillary L. McBride, MA, RCC, a registered clinical counsellor in a private practice in Vancouver, Canada who wrote a powerful post recently on the blog, how to talk to your children about body image .
Hillary kindly helped me recently when I was hit with libellous drivel, and at the hardest time of my life when I’d lost my second-mum, my beloved Auntie Zak. Her insight, clarity and care helped me hugely, and as always, whenever I benefit, I like to share the wisdom so others can too.
I always forgive and move on, not letting anyone stop me in my tracks. I know this isn’t the same for all though as the scale of emails and messages I receive from other bloggers and vloggers who too find themselves at the receiving end of abuse, who stop creating because of it, deeply saddens me. This post by Hillary is for you all.
Over to Hillary:
The internet is a beautiful place: we can go there to escape, to learn, to dream, to buy, to vent, and to be inspired. But, its no heaven. And sometimes, it can bring out the worst in us and others. When I think about what happens on the internet these days, I think about an old proverb about a surgeon’s scalpel. The thing itself is not good or bad, it’s just a thing. It’s what we do with it that can be harmful, or helpful; a scalpel can be used to save someone’s life, or end it, based on the intent and skill of the person who’s hands it is in. In the same way, the internet is not good or bad, but we can use it to hurt ourselves or others, or build ourselves or each other up.
Regardless of your level of emotional vulnerability on the internet, there can be a lot which is gained from sharing about your life with others. But, when doing so, it’s important to understand some of the risks that come along with that, and what to do about them. These are some thoughts that came from a conversation I had with Vicki about what to do about trolls, naysayers, and online bullies:
I think it’s difficult to manage being a public figure, and a real person. When people attack you they are attacking this public figure, but often not thinking about the human person behind it all. We create an object out of ourselves when we post content online, because people don’t see the human person behind it, they attack what they see, the one or two dimensional story that doesn’t include the emotional reaction they would get, the tears that water in our eyes, if they said it to us in person. This is why its so hard to say something mean to someone in person, but so easy to go home and write something nasty about them from behind the computer screen. The internet, in this case, acts as a filter we can hide behind.
I think what is most helpful for me to remember is, ‘hurt people hurt people’. If we can remember that the person’s hurtful behaviour is coming out of their own pain, then we can remember that it is not a reflection of our true worth. SO, if you have a story about them that helps you feel like it helps you know it’s not about you, then that can be helpful. As for yourself, it is also important to have people who tell you the truth in your life. When you are public, people may think they know you, but they don’t. So having the real people, the ones who love you, close, and sharing your stories with them, that is important for inoculating you against the things others do that hurt.
Maybe, just sometimes, they have a point (not in the libellous incident) but generally this gets lost behind the nasty words. If you can take anything from what the person is saying, then consider that a testament to your strength. In some cases, this won’t work at all – they are just being cruel. Other times, there is a gold nugget in a criticism which helps us see a blind spot we might have, and we’re missing it behind all the cruelty. You might try having a friend, someone you really know, look through a critical comment to see if there is anything in there you need to hear or be aware of. Otherwise, just click delete or block, and move on sister.
Put up boundaries! If you are writing publicly about things, make sure comments and emails go into a specific folder so you can see them when you’re ready to see them. That way you’re not caught off guard by a nasty email from someone underneath an email from a partner or a best friend or consider switching off comments on your blog/posts. If you’d rather not do that then try turning off the notifications on your phone. Or, if you are getting a lot of heat from something you have put up- try having a friend go through your emails or messages to delete the cruel ones for you: the ‘delete’ button may become your new best friend. Get used to deleting things, and moving on. You are too magnificent in the world to get caught up in the story of someone who is trying to bring you down.
If you think something is too sensitive to post online, then don’t! It is good to have some things you keep just for yourself, or your family and closest friends. Sometimes, that’s the only way to make sure they stay precious.
Vitally, have people in your life who can support you, build you up, and remind you what they love about you and all the good you bring into the world.
Hillary McBride is currently a PhD candidate in counselling psychology at the University of British Columbia, where she conducts research on women’s experiences across the lifespan, from a feminist perspective. Hillary has a book which came out October 2017 called Mothers, Daughters, and Body Image: Learning to Love ourselves as we are – published through Post Hill Press, and available through amazon, or order at any local book store.