How to deal with Creeps Online
Written by Rebecca Rijsdijk
So you worked on that one poem for weeks, and it is about a subject that is close to your heart. You press post and your palms are sweaty. And there it comes. The stink. It always comes first and is soon followed by that dreaded hairy internet beast: in walks that fucking troll. And they’re not the kind of troll you had as a kid, the ones with the ridiculous pink hair and the cute big eyes. Oh no, this troll is a different kind of beast. It’s insecure and entitled and its sole mission is to wreck your day (I write it, but I mean ‘his’ because according to a study from researchers at Brunel University London and Goldsmiths, University of London narcissism is at the heart of trolling, with male members are more likely to display than female members. Sorry boys, it’s not my opinion, it’s science).
Before we continue, just a quick reminder: just because you put your work out there doesn’t mean people have the right to stalk, bash or otherwise abuse you online (or offline for that matter). Unfortunately, this happens quite a lot though. The internet is a place where miserable people can be anonymous. They slip in with the lovers. And the more love and recognition you get, the more the haters will show up as well. Especially if you write about things that contradict their inflated. Be aware that it all is a desperate attempt to gain attention. And you are not there to give them attention. You are there to share your work and connect with kind people who know how to discuss differences of opinion in a healthy way.
Another quick reminder: people who are doing more than you don’t criticize you, it is always the people that do less. You know this, but even after you shut that troll down with the wittiest remark in the recent history of witty remarks, you still feel bad. You’re only human after all. And humans like to be liked.
So what can you do to bring your stress levels back to zero? We compiled a little list for you.
Remember who you are
You know who you are. That other person is making assumptions about someone they have never met. You are a badass who displays immense bravery and vulnerability by posting their words online. Not everyone has the guts to do that. Maybe the person who is trolling you would love to share their but is too afraid of being trolled.
Remember who they are
They are literally a stranger on the internet. You don’t owe them a thing; no response, none of your time, and most of all zero explanations. That said, it never hurts to show some empathy, and you are allowed to use a little sarcasm with this. The number of times I was called ‘rude’ after asking my trolls if they were ok, can’t be counted on two hands any more.
This also works well with misbehaving kids and dogs. All the troll/narcissist wants is your attention. Take the attention away and the troll might keep provoking you for another comment but then you just…
Block the hell out of them
You decide whom you interact with. Shut that shit down. Make sure you are dealing with a troll instead of a disgruntled reader though. If someone is pissed at you for sending them a coffee-stained version of your latest book, listen.
Trolls can cross community guidelines and when they do you can hold them accountable by reporting their profile.
Write about it
Turn your pain into power. Just make sure they don’t know it’s about them, or they will get the ultimate ego trip.
Use humour to deflect
We kind of use this in every difficult situation in life; like doing some stand up for your paramedics while they rush you to the hospital with a leaking vein in your head (true story bro). Humour works and as a bonus, it will make you look good too.
Build a loving community
When you use your social media to gather amazing people around you, those people will end up protecting you from the hateful shit that is out there. If they don’t, we are experienced troll hunters so send us a message, and we will show up with pitchforks and a whole lot of ‘kill them with kindness’ for you.
Don’t take anything personally
The troll’s behaviour has absolutely nothing to do with you or your work, and everything to do with some unresolved trauma or growing up in a patriarchal society. Wish them well in your head and move the fuck on. Be kind and remember that your reputation as a writer is more important than a response. Sometimes the best response is no response. Ok. Got to go. Atticus is in need of some trolling. Just kidding.