Dealing With Hate in the Age of Online Trolls as a woman

Riley Blue

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“Why does your voice fumble when you speak? Is it a medical problem?”

“You’re a nobody, a wannabe.”

“Your books are flops.”

“You post a lot. You must be narcissistic.”

“You’re not a real writer.”

These are not dialogues from a movie about bullying. These are copied from actual messages and comments I have received on my posts on Quora, Instagram, YouTube, and, of late, even Medium.

Wikipedia defines an internet troll as-

a person who intentionally upsets people on the Internet by posting inflammatory and digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses and normalizing tangential discussion, either for the troll’s amusement or a specific gain.

This article is about my share of trolls and how I deal with the negativity.

The Unending River of Hate

“You are screaming for attention.”

“Learn writing before calling yourself a writer.”

“Every word written by you sounds like it’s copied from somewhere else.”

I have received messages and comments such as these, and so many other versions of hate, of negative feedback, of strangers on the internet telling me I am not a good writer, that my voice is unclear, that my posts are not useful, and so forth.

I face such toxic criticism almost daily, and, though I try to stay strong, sometimes, all this negativity gets to my head.

The shield of anonymity

I’ll be honest — it beats me how a person can be so cruel as to post hate on a work created with so much passion

It probably is due to the debilitating power of the internet: it hands every user an equal footing to voice their opinion. With the shield of anonymity protecting them, such people feel they have the right to say just about anything they wish to, without worrying about the consequences their harsh words might leave on the minds and hearts of the creators.

Is it them, or is it me?

At first, I used to think there was something wrong with me. Whenever I received a comment telling me the article I wrote or the video I made was trash, I used to delete it immediately, spending hours trying to figure out why it was terrible and how I could make it better.

Over time, I have realised that such mindless hate should only be dealt with in one way: ignore and move on.

If there is nothing constructive in the criticism, one shouldn’t spend time or energy pondering over them.

There is a quote attributed to the Buddha that sums it up perfectly:

“Don’t respond to rudeness. When people are rude to you, they reveal who they are, not who you are. Don’t take it personally. Be silent.”

Being A Woman on the Internet

A few days back, the #ChallengeAccepted tag was trending on Instagram where a woman had to post a black-and-white image of herself. Originating initially in Turkey to stand in solidarity with the women who lost their lives to the rising menace of female infanticide in the recent years, this challenge has evolved in countries like India as a way to empower women because the world tries to bring them down whenever they do something for themselves.

In my version of the challenge, I wanted to show my followers the real picture, the level of hate I have to deal with on a daily basis.

This is my message to everyone reading this, especially the women — when you expose your work on a public platform, people will try to say you’re BAD, that you’re a wannabe, that you’re narcissistic. But, don’t let that stop you from being who you want to be, from posting how you wish to, and how often.

Let your social media be your crutch, your canvas where you express yourself.

Whenever I get a hateful comment, I try to ignore it. But today, I looked for them and brought the most recent ones in one place so you can see and maybe derive some hope from them. After all, sharing publicly about the hate you receive takes away from the troll the power to hurt you.

Remember this: no matter how perfect you try to be, the world will hurl hate at you. You are the only one who can shower love.

Be who you are. That’s the least you owe to yourself.

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