[Editor: Firstly I gotta admit that the reason behind this article is personal. I feel that in my little corner of the internet, that there has been a general uptick in the amount of online negativity and toxic behaviour. Maybe due to a global pandemic or maybe something else entirely? But I wanted to learn more about it and specifically how to deal with it. So I asked the following question to a few artist, who have a large online audience …]
While 99% of comments are positive and feedback is generally uplifting and useful. Sometimes, one negative comment just seems to stick. Human nature being what it is, we often only remember the negative criticism.
So what strategies have you developed to deal with online toxicity and trolls?
As my channel grew, so grew the influx of ill-spirited comments. At some point the anxiety I got from these was so great, that I had to do something: I needed to turn them into art. So I started taking screen shots of the comments. Instead of getting a ‘fight or flight’ response every time a mean, sexist or fascist statement came in, I felt joy – it was like a game of shitty Pokemon. I asked other creators to join in – Red Means Recording, Noir et Blanc Vie and Simon the Magpie also collected and then read their hate comments on video. I created a tape loop collage out of the collected hate and destroyed that slowly over time, using sandpaper and knives applied to the magnetic tape loop. Hate Loops, which you can find as a video on my channel, was truly cathartic. Ever since then I feel the freedom to react in whatever way I want to with trolling or simply hateful replies – laugh, sticky, repost to Twitter or simply ban.
Aldo Is Taken
I’m in a « choose love » kind of mindset where I try to refrain from typing that sick comeback line I’ve been mentally working on for 20 minutes. I often feel the urge to justify myself or to attack the Hater, because I know this will provide some instant satisfaction, but ultimately it can only lead to more toxic interactions, so I take a deep breath and I keep on scrolling. Sometimes I will even heart the comment, that’s how hard I’m choosing love. Once I have completed this cycle I’m usually alright and ready to get emotionally destroyed by the next comment <3
One thing I try to do is think about why the person wrote what they did. I imagine most of the time, they are projecting some other issue or feeling onto you. That helps me not take the words to heart so much. I’m a sensitive person and don’t really think I have a thick skin, so I find approaching these things from an empathetic or humorous perspective alleviates some of the negative feelings that I might initially feel.
The more extreme the comment, usually the less offensive it actually is, as it heads into absurdity. For the worst, sometimes leaving the comment for others to see and judge, is its own punishment to the person who wrote it. I suppose it’s the ones that play on your own fears and doubts that stick in your mind. But I really have learned from valid negative feedback, even though it hurt to hear, as it has unquestionably helped me improve things. Unjustified praise can make you complacent, and sometimes the negative person has a point, or part of one. But also, you have to acknowledge the universal truth that not EVERYONE will love everything you do all of the time, and so take comfort in that receiving negativity (along with the positives) means that your videos are being found, and watched. “Let the dogs bark, Sancho, for it means we are moving forward.”
One further thought – YouTube’s recommendation algorithm favours videos with high engagement, which includes comments. The reality, both sadly and happily, is that negative comments and ensuing arguments and discussions help your video rank higher. This of course leads to creators who may wish to create negative videos in order to stir up comments, and get views. It’s no different to any other medium in that regard, the choice of how to respond to controversy (namely, whether or not to encourage it) is yours. Either way, it will help you.
[Editor: This article will be updated whenever new answers find their way to my inbox… Also if you, dear reader, happen to have a way of dealing with internet trolls, then please leave a comment below]