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10 Strategies to Deal With Hate Comments on Social Media

Influencers and mental health experts discuss ways to cope with online hate.

Key points

  • Don't let negative comments take you by surprise without a plan.
  • Strategies to deal with online hate include self-awareness about how negativity affects you.
  • Decide whether answering a hateful comment is right for you.
rawpixel / Freepik
Source: rawpixel / Freepik

Social media is a rollercoaster of likes and hate. But the cruel criticism and vicious commentary can stick with us the most. Because of the negativity bias, hate stands out more than positive comments, impacting our psychological health.

In the book An Influencer’s World: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Social Media Influencers and Creators, which I co-authored, we asked social-media influencers and mental-health professionals the most effective ways to cope with online hate comments. Here’s what they said.

1. Keep Negative Comments From Stealthily Getting Under Your Skin. A lot of people try to ignore the impact that negative comments are having on them. Rather than suppressing what’s going on inside, take a week or two to focus on what you are thinking and feeling after reading negative comments. Do you feel a slight mood shift? Are you a little more irritable with others? Do you feel less good about yourself that day? Is the negativity impacting you more than you thought? Getting insight into it will allow you to act with intention.

2. Don’t Let Negative Comments Take You by Surprise Without a Plan. It’s important to have a strategy in place so that you don’t have to think about dealing with negative comments while in the eye of the storm.

What are the things that ground and calm you? Whether breathing exercises, walking, or talking to a friend, it’s about being mindful of your actions when dealing with hate and not reacting impulsively from a place of intense emotion.

3. Process and Move On. Ashley Iaconetti Haibon, aka Ashley I from The Bachelor franchise, says she tries not to carry the hate with her. She vents to the people closest to her but then lets it go.

4. Understand Where the Hate Is Coming From. Mary Fitzgerald of Netflix’s Selling Sunset reminds herself that emotions such as insecurity, jealousy, and fear, underlie the hate and that, most often, the haters are projecting their own emotions onto others.

5. Don’t Lose Sight of the End Game. TV personality and influencer Joey Zauzig says he copes by stepping back, looking in the mirror, and remembering who he is, where he came from, and what he’s trying to accomplish through social media.

6. Decide Whether Answering the Hate Is Right for You. A frequent question that gets asked is whether to respond or not. Some argue that you never should because it only serves to reinforce the behavior, allowing the person at the other end of the hate to get what they want—attention and interaction. However, others argue that it’s a nuanced and personal decision.

Psychologist and co-founder of Black Mental Wellness Dana L. Cunningham says responding to arguments is obviously not a good idea for someone who’s prone to getting into arguments, but for someone else, it could be helpful to respond to get closure or perhaps even provide information and resources. The ultimate question she says you should ask yourself is, “How much energy do I have to invest in this?”

7. Take a Break From Reading the Comments. If you feel you might be easily triggered that day, take a break from the comments. Unfortunately, not reading the comments is easier said than done, particularly for influencers who are required to engage with their audience. They also need to find out what content is working and what isn’t through constructive feedback.

Some influencers try to get around this by having someone else sort through their comments for them if they are not in the right frame of mind to handle the negativity at that time.

Another strategy some employ is only reading comments within an hour or so of posting. The thought is that comments that appear right away are mostly from their audience, but as the post reaches people outside their followers, the likelihood of hate comments rises, such as when a post goes viral.

8. Haters Are Your Motivators. For some people, such as many athletes, hate drives them to push themselves and do better. This, however, is a slippery slope. Be careful that all your achievements aren’t built on a foundation of negativity.

9. Stop Trending Hate With Positive Comments. Hate begets hate on social media. When people see hate comments piling up, they feel more justified to jump on the train, and this may be reinforced by getting likes on their hate comments. Use positive comments to derail the negativity and stop the hate in its tracks.

When hate is trending, it may seem counterintuitive, but some experts suggest keeping direct messages open to the public. They argue that it’s better to have negative comments hidden in a DM rather than posted for everyone to see, which could generate more hate.

10. Keep a List of Positive Comments. To help counteract the negativity bias, start keeping a list of all the positive comments you receive. Compiling and storing the list, whether on a device or on paper, will steer your focus toward the good, inspiring stuff. Refer to this list when a negative comment gets you down.

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