We are currently living in a period in history whereby we are connected with and have the opportunity to be connected with more people than ever. Technology and the connectivity of the world has advanced so greatly. Social media has emerged from that and it is incredible! It is a central part of many people’s lives and businesses.
Today, we can tune in and remain connected with our favourite company, brand, sports teams and celebrities as well as keeping in touch with friends and family. The world we live in can certainly seem much smaller as a result. Many believe that this fascination with connectivity and social media has led to a wide range of problems in people’s ability to communicate effectively face-to-face, has highlighted issues with literacy, and that it is being used less for effective communication and more for marketing and selling these days. It is just one particular issue that I wanted to write about here today though.
Where communication is encouraged, comments sought, opinions wanted and the internet being so expansive, many use those open channels to upset, hurt, snipe and spew vitriol.
Many celebrities, sports stars and prominent members of society have found that the social media that helps them connect with the public and can raise their profile, also can harm, hurt and deal pain. Very often, vitriol is sent with only the intention to deliver spite and cause upset.
Social media has certainly meant that our highly valued freedom of speech can get rambunctious and can descend into vitriol with no other aim that to cause hurt and trouble for others. Most of us have seen it, especially over political issues, religious issues, news items, TV shows and sporting events. Extreme cases get cited and highlighted, though as we all spend more time online these days, there is a good chance you have encountered vitriolic people (or trolls) who say something negative about you or to you online and sends you into a spin.
I have often offered up alternative perspectives to those conventionally or traditionally held in the field of hypnotherapy that have led to snipes and vitriolic comments. I’ve had friends who received anonymous book reviews from people who have clearly not read their book (inaccurate remarks and no authentication) but wanted to cause problems. As anyone’s profile gets raised, so the chances are that they’ll get more of these types of people sniping, trying to cause offense and wanting to hurt.
Science has shown that these online trolls and creeps can increase your stress hormone levels. Raised stress levels can actually cause negative physical changes in your brain structure reducing the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus — an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. It can effect productivity and all kinds of other aspects of personal and professional life. With online vitriol being pretty much inevitable if you ever express an opinion, it’s vital that you develop the skills and best practices for dealing with it.
Learn more about dealing with stress:
8 Ways to Reduce Your Stress
Here are some ways for dealing with trolls and online vitriol…..
1. Set Your Own Limits:
It can seem excruciatingly difficult to deal with negative people and complainers because they wallow in the problem or the issue they have and fail to focus on solutions. They are often immovable and are rarely people you can actually engage meaningfully with. They may continue to try to taunt people to get any kind of reaction so that they can feel better about themselves and become further entrenched in their own singular viewpoint. The vitriolic often defy logic in their thinking, and hold strong ground, and they’ll do all they can to resort to dirty tactics including rumour spreading, ad hominem attacks (and other logical fallacies) and inflammatory remarks. If you engage with these people, you may find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations.
Remember, misery loves company. The vitriolic may gain courage from others being that way and group together, they may create online ‘kangaroo court’ type groups and seek out the support of like-minded others.
If you are giving brave opinions with your output, if you court controversy at all, if you are expressing a particular viewpoint, then be aware that it may attract dissenting perspectives from people who will not discuss facts or who may not be capable of alternative perspectives.
You can avoid this only by setting your limits with regards to how far you go in your own expression and distancing yourself from such behaviour if and when necessary. Whatever happens, don’t get sucked into an negative emotional spiral with knee-jerk responses that simply fan the flames for the vitriolic troll.
2. Evaluate and Pick Your Battles:
Social media trolls can be very strong-handed and expressive, so it’s better to analyse the situation first. Before blocking or counter arguing, think if this is a discussion worth having. Figure out if the troll is successfully hijacking the conversation or not. Are they making the communication about something irrelevant to your own points?
You don’t want to cease all constructive feedback, heck it’s also important to increase legitimate user engagement. Some negative comments may have valid points to learn from and grow as a result of. If the comments are vitriolic, personal and laced with logical fallacy, then when evaluated correctly, you know not to engage with it.
Trolls and those who spew vitriol do it because they want your attention; they feed on you becoming upset. As is becoming a popular online mantra; never feed the trolls. Do not feed them with an argument, they will be ready to fire back. This energises them, validates them and gets them into overdrive. You don’t want that and you don’t need that. You want to spend your energy on worthwhile communication that will serve others, create love, harmony and betterment in the world. Lead by example. Step away from arguments that cannot be won and which can potentially elongate for days and become filled with bitterness that serves no-one at all.
Reply to positive and constructive posts in a timely manner. It’s a good practice to appreciate where a comment is making a valid point. Debate with those making valid contributions, even if they are opposed to your own stance. Lead by example and communicate maturely, respectfully and in a way that shows the world who you really are. Plus, the comments you reply to will determine which parts of the conversation thrive and grow and which parts will ultimately wither and die.
3. Bring Out Best In People:
If a legitimate complaint is discernible even in an overly hostile comment, try responding to that complaint as if it was respectful and constructive. Ask questions, ideally objective, Socratic questions, free of emotive rhetoric. Instead, react in kindness and interact with the person privately via email or some other non-public medium. Think in terms of ‘love more, fear less.’ On occasion, this may pacify the troll and potentially permit you both to seek an effective solution.
Patience can also be a virtue in the open environment of social media. The most important thing is not to sink down to the level of the antagonist. You have everything to lose and nothing to gain other than the fleeting satisfaction of unloading your own anger. Think of the longer term gain to be had from attempting to resolve things effectively and sleep well knowing that you were a good person. This is a challenge and won’t always help you endure the feelings created by an unreasonable individual, but will serve you better in the long-run.
4. Block or Ban, When Appropriate:
Banning someone from an online community, from commenting on your blog, or from your social media channels should only be a final resort. It is a permanent action, unless your policies include periodic reviews and possible reinstatement for exiled members. Before hastily reaching for the block button, take a moment to consider the user’s motivations. If they could be having a bad day and do not have a history of breaking the rules, is it worth giving them the benefit of the doubt?
I have a very good friend who asks very reasonable questions in objective fashion, but often those incapable of debating effectively with him, or those who take offence at having their own stance healthily questioned simply ban him, or throw him out rather than debating effectively. They’d rather surround themselves with sycophants in a climate of repressed development.
It’s important to understand the context as to whether this is someone legitimately asking questions that conflict with your own beliefs, or trolls who are just having a laugh, or if it’s a personal attack on an individual. It makes it easier to see how to deal with potential problems when you assess comments objectively, free of your own stance and when you are not feeling emotive about the topic.
For example, someone who threatens you physically, professionally or in any other way is someone incapable of debating in adult fashion and therefore it will make the entire place better for others if they are blocked. For every one you block, you’re probably making your social space better for countless other people.
5. Get on With Your Life:
The single best way to deal with vitriol? Get on and lead a happy, fulfilled, loving life.
Trolls hate that. The vitriolic cannot stand that. They cannot stand you being happy and untouched by them.
It is easy to understand that the troll, the person with the vitriol – they are the one with the problem, it’s not you. Today, politicians, sports stars, actors, journalists and other celebrities are often targets for abuse. Focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, let go of what’s happened so that you can move on. Be bigger and better. Be untouched.
Identify some positive and supportive individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight when you need it. Sometimes you can’t see a solution but other people can because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation. Take time for self-care and reach out in ways that the troll cannot influence, enjoy the people who love and support you. Always remind yourself that the troll is just a troll, not a reflection of you. Their punishment is that they have to live with themselves, with all that hate, anger, unkindness and unpleasantness, when they could be living life very differently altogether.
Also bear in mind that though things may seem painful to you at the time and those feelings may persist, other people are rarely interested for long. The old adage ‘today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper’ rings true here. Let go, lead your life well and happily and it is soon gone and extinguished.
6. Learn from Others:
Go and google people who have been on the receiving end of continued campaigns of hate and vitriol online. Look at how they overcame it and how they prevailed in the end. See how they did what was right for them and their own circumstances.
7. Be Awesome:
That is, as you strive to do good, serve the world, love more, be productive, and enjoy being alive, that all overrides any vitriol anyone can throw your way and people will know who you truly are. You become untouchable from the ill-intentioned vitriol of others, it’ll just roll off if you are ever exposed to it.
The Bottom Line:
The sad truth is that some people define themselves by being unpleasant, some people seem to only be able to vent unpleasantness and the really sad truth is that with our social media and inter-connectivity being so vast today, social-media trolls and vitriolic people are pretty much inevitable, especially if you ever buck populist views, or express opinions that divide your audience. Therefore, preparing for it will ensure that their impact, and emotional response, is kept to a minimum – which is good for you personally and professionally. Hopefully, as the involvement of the internet into our daily lives continues to expand, we’ll get better at dealing with negativity. The main thing is: Don’t let someone else live rent-free in your head.
Have some of themes here resonated with you? Then have a read of these pages:
1. Do you need help or support in a particular area of your life?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
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A very timely article for me. I recently questioned a leading hypnotherapy trainer about an article he wrote and tweeted about regarding regression. In contrast to some leading academics who have been very helpful in answering questions, this gentleman has not replied. I confess myself being tempted to get snarky and would have been quite wrong to be so. Instead I shall follow up with a friendly email – which is far more appropriate especially as I am interested to know his answer.
So thank you! Can I claim this as cpd?
Creator of the Awaken the Troll Within program
Hahaha, yes, count it as CPD!!
Richard, I can’t imagine you ever being anything other than utterly polite and courteous and as long as you were so with your line of enquiry, I am certain you’ll have nothing to worry about.
Best wishes to you, Adam.