In this digital age, you can make friends in other countries without even meeting anyone in person. In the same way, you can also make enemies. If you’ve ever been to the comments section in any viral Facebook post, you’d probably have noticed at least one naysayer or keyboard warrior in even the most positive of posts (including cat videos).
Social media and online platforms were designed for bonding, but as with many well-intentioned tools, people can abuse them just as easily. With so many of us online in one way or another on a daily basis, it’s safe to say that we’ve all encountered examples of people casting a hateful comment our way.
So how do we tackle these toxic online sprouts? Here are eight things to remind yourself when it happens.
Don’t become the same monster
It’s a fine line between explaining ourselves and returning the same kind of bullying hate that we initially accused others of. So sometimes, it’s best to just not even engage.
In the words of Australian therapist Kati Morton, “Don’t pet it!” In her YouTube video, she likens haters to unpredictable rabid dogs. “Even if you’re just trying to appease or defuse the situation, you don’t know what you’re going to get. And I find that if we try to talk back to them or argue back, we’re just giving them fuel to use to throw more hate back at us,” she adds.
And this can escalate our anger to the point where we start attacking them in ways that make us into haters ourselves. Don’t start.
We can’t change them, but we can change our reactions to them
Racing driver Mario Andretti was once asked in magazine interview on his tip for success. “Don’t look at the wall,” he said. “Your car goes where your eyes go.”
By reacting to the haters, it is easy to be distracted from your task at hand, and be steered into a crash. While it is tempting to put them in their place, we sometimes forget that by passing them by, it dissolves the effects of their barbs.
If there is no audience, then there is no show. Win that quiet victory.
Take time out for some reflection
Haters aside, we shouldn’t conjure a reason just to make ourselves feel better (“Oh they are just jealous of me”, “They hate me because I’m competition”). Take away tone and delivery, and focus on their point (if any) to self-examine if there’s room for self-growth and improvement. All said and done, we shouldn’t excuse the possibility of a real mistake or weakness from our part.
Discern critics from haters and use the constructive feedback to better yourself. If it’s true and if need be, apologise. A heartfelt realisation can have a very powerful effect of winning people over. Just make sure it’s sincere.
If it isn’t true, refer back to points 1 and 2.
It’s not about you
Most of the time, it really isn’t. The cause of discontent usually comes from the other’s unresolved issues.
The anonymity of the internet breeds invisible trolls, who gather online to express their insecurity and unhappiness upon another. It gives them attention which they can’t get in real life, and a misplaced sense of power, one won by fear and not respect.
Author and psychologist Bernard Golden, believes that participation in group hate can foster a sense of camaraderie that fills a void in one’s identity, and distracts them from the more challenging task of creating their own.
“Acts of hate are attempts to distract oneself from feelings such as helplessness, powerlessness, injustice, inadequacy and shame. Like much of anger, it is a reaction to and distraction from some form of inner pain. In this context, each moment of hate is a temporary reprieve from inner suffering.”
With this in mind, you might find it easier to be the bigger person and to graciously let things go.
Remember, there is no audience
We usually react negatively only because we feel that our “reputation” or “character” has come under question. The thing is, the haters are really just reacting to the screen and not so much of you as a person.
Furthermore, the good news is these attacks usually don’t carry weight to other readers, and don’t have a lasting impact on their view. If you conduct yourself well in the situation, you will always rise above people’s opinion of us.
Because compassion is the true context that heals, counter-intuitively, absorb their lashings and nullify it within ourselves, because it not only dissolves the energy, but starves out the source.
Engage in some breathwork
It’s scientific fact — breathing calms your brain. Remember the old advice to count to 10 before reacting in anger? That’s actually very sound, especially when coupled with some breathwork.
When things feel too much for you, do this: Breath in deep for four seconds, hold it for seven, then exhale slowly in eight seconds. Do this four times and be surprised at how different you feel about the situation. We guarantee you it will take the edge off.
You are not alone
Because of the targeted comments, it’s easy to feel that we are fighting the hate solo. But nothing can be further from the truth.
While the remark may be personal, we need to remember that this extension is only trying to demonise us with one example. It’s safe to say, no one’s perfect, but that we have many qualities that people enjoy as well. Just look towards your loved ones for comfort and they will remind you of your contributions, and remind you of your purpose and value. If you’re ever in a fix and need someone to talk to, there are plenty of organisations (like Samaritans of Singapore, to name one) that are always on hand to get you over the hump. The haters might be many, but love wins all.
You’re a winner
And if after all the above tips, you’re still feeling a little wounded, take pride in some unexpected motivation.
Nothing summarises it better than Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who has this to say about the behaviour of bullies: “Showing that they don’t care about me, or caring that I should know they don’t care about me, still denotes dependence… They show me respect precisely by showing me that they don’t respect me.”
In other words, you have the upper hand simply because these online bullies are paying attention to you and expending effort, just to show you that they don’t care. We say shrug it off, and smile.
Text: Morgan Awyong