I want to talk about something that I would normally avoid discussing because I don’t like to write about things that make me or others feel negative, but I’ve processed this issue enough to write about it from a place of encouragement rather than ranting.
As a writer/blogger, I’ve experienced my fair share of online attacks against my character from people who wouldn’t know me from Adam if they passed me on the street. Most attacks have come when I’ve been featured on the Huffington Post or Scary Mommy, but I’ve gotten the nastiest, most hurtful attacks here on my own site. You don’t have to be a published online figure to relate to what I’m going to talk about; you can find people attacking one another everywhere on the internet, from mommy groups to political forums.
On the opposite side, I have partaken in attacking others. Usually it’s been in the form of making silent assumptions and judgements, discussing someone else with a friend, and my most embarrassing incident, which I’ll share below.
Experiencing it from both sides has taught me deep lessons I needed learn, which is why I wanted to write this post. I want to speak encouragement to those who have found themselves the target of online attacks, and I want to speak a reminder to all of us about what happens when we’re careless with our online actions.
For those attacked
You put yourself out there, not intending to upset anyone, and yet you will always offend someone. I swear I could write a poem about puppies and it would piss someone off somewhere out there in the world. Why?
Because there are people who aren’t fulfilled, who don’t feel loved, who aren’t happy, who were put down as children, whose spouse just left them, who don’t get paid what they’re worth at work, who want what you have, who don’t love themselves, and so on.
Hurt people hurt people
I was reading an article by Dale Partridge about this very subject, and he said “hurt people hurt people.” That resonated so much with me because that is exactly the underlying truth of the matter when people attack other people.
Imagine yourself having an amazing day: the weather is gorgeous, you just achieved something you’ve been working towards or a trip to somewhere exciting is in the works. Maybe you’ve been inspired with a new idea and you can’t wait to start it, everything is working out in your favor and you’re just on cloud nine. Think back to a day when you felt REALLY happy. When something incredible happened or you simply just had a beautiful day feeling the love all around you.
Now could you imagine going online and leaving a hateful comment on Facebook or on someone’s blog? Of course not. Who has time to be hateful when they’re surrounded by love? No one. It would ruin the “high”. You love everyone and everything when you’re on top of the world.
So when someone leaves a straight up hateful comment about you on your site or anywhere else, you have to remember that hurt people hurt people. They aren’t in a good place mentally, emotionally, and spiritually if they take time out of their day to try to hurt someone they don’t know. It doesn’t excuse their actions at all, but it’s important to remember so that we don’t take what they say to heart.
Know your worth
Most people struggle with fully loving themselves, especially women. You will do yourself the biggest solid ever if you make falling in love with yourself a priority. Not just on a surface level, but to love and accept who you are on a deep level. Accept and love all of your flaws, mistakes, and experiences…everything that has made you you. (My favorite book for falling in love with yourself is this one and the workbook that accompanies it.)
When you deeply love yourself and know your worth, attacks against your character affect you in such a different way. I’ve been attacked when I sought approval, and those attacks hurt me to my core. They made me doubt myself. And I’ve been attacked since I’ve made it a priority to love everything I am, and it just doesn’t rattle me the same because I have such a strong connection with myself. I even feel protective of myself like I would for a friend, thinking “Your loss jerk, you have no idea how awesome she is.”
Love yourself, know your worth, and keep your head held high. They don’t define your worth, you do.
Don’t give them the time of day
The best way to respond is to not respond at all. It’s hard not to, and I’ve responded many times in defense of myself, but in the end, you aren’t going to change their minds about you because it’s not about you, it’s about them.
Anything someone projects onto others is really just a projection of themselves. They aren’t happy, and you defending yourself isn’t going to fix their real issue. If you can, just move on (I have let loose on them before, and it was gratifying in a way to defend myself, but in the end I would’ve felt better showing them they aren’t even worth my time to respond to). Think of something that makes you so completely happy, like your children’s births, or your favorite vacation spot…anything that helps you remember the much bigger, more beautiful picture of life.
Delete their comment if it’s on your site and if it’s somewhere where you can’t control, block them or stay offline for a few days.
Don’t let a hateful person steal minutes from your life. It’s not worth it.
For those attacking
I have been on this side of the fence, and probably most of us have at some point. Even if we’ve never gone out of our way to leave hateful comments, we’ve thought them about someone, or we’ve discussed another person behind their back. Heck I even think clicking the “like” button during a Facebook argument is bad because it shows you approve of someone else being torn down.
My most shameful experience was when I got caught up in gossip about a fellow blogger. The very fact that I even spent time reading others negative opinions about this blogger proved to me that I wasn’t in a good place emotionally. And when I made my own comment and judgement against this person, I got called out, and it was the best thing that happened to me.
As me and this wonderful stranger were discussing, when we’re temporarily in this bad place in life where we stoop so low to judge or attack another person…we could be having a bad week or a bad day…that comment can have lasting effects for the person it was aimed at. Another person having to bear the effects of our emotional garbage just because we weren’t having a good day…
You are hurting an actual person
People are on the internet: actual, living, breathing, heart-beating human beings who have all the same feelings that you do, and they’re reading your comments about them. Just because we’re all online does not make it a free-for-all to say whatever we want nor does it make it easier to receive and handle insults any better than it would in person.
I know personally from reading comments about me online, the negative commenter is always so far off point it couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s the same for every single judgement we ever make of another person. Everyone is good at their core. Some people are disconnected from themselves and some are lost, but no one knows a person’s innermost struggles and desires, especially not internet strangers.
Just because a screen separates you from someone doesn’t mean your words about them aren’t causing them distress or pain.
Own your feelings
Not every single person on this planet can cater to you or your opinions. Not every single person agrees with everything you agree with, makes the same decisions, or feels the same way as you do. So if there is something that offends or hurts you, keep walking. Click the “x” button in the top of the screen if you’re online. Don’t keep reading.
We all have to take ownership for our feelings. No one is responsible for them except us. No one owes us anything. If someone makes you feel a certain way, you have to realize that you are allowing it and on a deeper, subconscious level you already feel a similar way in some aspect of your life, which is why you’re so offended in the first place.
When we’re feeling a certain way, we’ll attract everyone and everything in the world to our doorstep that will magnify that feeling. Every person around you is just a mirror of what you’re choosing to focus on. The feelings they evoke from you are clues to how you truly feel about yourself. And if something riles you up, focusing on it will only bring it closer to you. Focus on what makes you happy instead!
I recently set up my FB feed so that the only things that show up first are positive pages and inspiring people. I make sure to not follow anything that would put me in a bad mood. If there’s a person in my newsfeed that posts something that I find hurtful, I tell FB not to show me their posts anymore. If there’s someone who constantly posts negative, dreary things, I do the same to them. Know your triggers so you can avoid them. Life is soooo much better when you choose who to let into your bubble of reality.
What are your thoughts and personal experiences around this topic? My experience of judging another person online has been so deeply regrettable, but I know it happened because I needed to learn a very valuable lesson, which is that we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, especially when we’re online and we’re not seeing everyone’s true situations. It really is best to just say nothing at all if you don’t have anything kind to say.
We truly never know what battle someone else is facing and how our comment could have affected them.