How do you cope with toxic comments?

toxic comments

How soul destroying is it to discover a series of toxic comments in your comments queue.

It seems so unnecessary. Why are some readers so twisted they think it's OK to be nasty? What do they gain from doing this?

This is particularly horrible for new bloggers, who have yet to grow thick skins. Or for anyone using social media where opinions fly about like paper planes.

However, this is a subject that needs to be confronted, and explained:

What constitutes as a toxic comment?

People react to negativity in many ways. It depends how you have been brought up and what environment you are used to. Some may react badly to any kind of disagreement, whereas others may even thrive on it.

Unless the comment consists of excessively spiteful words, whose main function is to undermine and destroy the post's author, how toxic is it really? Critical exchange or differing opinions, however horribly expressed, can easily achieve their desired effect first time around.

I have been lucky to not experience many trolls, or perhaps I just haven't recognised them! Whether you perceive a negative comment as toxic is a state of mind. Or perhaps merely an optimistic attitude versus someone with a low esteem of themselves.

What affect do these comments have?

However you react to toxic comments does depend on emotions. If you're having a really good day, they may not seem so bad. You feel you could cope with anything, so sod anybody who wants to nasty.

But if you respond badly to criticism or anyone finding error with your content, the effect could be catastrophic. Anger too is destructive, which doesn't help anyone and is probably what the troll wanted to achieve.

Getting one or two now and gain is something that is easily coped with, but a torrent would be something else, and requires drastic measures to stop it. There are blocks you can put in place to prevent certain commenters access to your blog. I'm not sure such barriers are possible on social media though...

Why do people write toxic comments?

Most trolls suffer from jealousy, poor self-esteem, and intensely hate anyone who comes across with a stronger personality or even dares to express a different opinion to them.

There are people who particularly enjoy finding an opposing point of view which they can counteract with vitriol. If anyone is having a bad time, they love making it worse by finding fault with absolutely everything.

This is to cover up their own unfortunate little lives. Since they find it hard to integrate in real society, they hide behind their laptops to spread as much ill humour as they can.

How to override the nastiness

Rather than wallowing in the effect toxic comments are having on you, it's worth stepping over to the other side to consider why the person wrote them in the first place.

Are they having a bad day themselves? Have they (maybe even purposely) misunderstood the major point of your post? Maybe you are being a bit too sensitive to criticism and have blown it out of proportion? Are they perhaps just jealous?

It's not worth getting dragged down with their negativity, or rise to the anger they are trying to instil in you. If you believe in what you write about, use that as a leverage to keep your head up out of the mire.

Look for anything positive to help you

Even though this is poor consolation, at least you know some people are reading your content. They may not seem to be the right kind, but it means at least you aren't 'talking' into a void.

Analyse the criticism you receive. Could they have a point? Are they merely highlighting any errors you have made? Could you have explained your position better, or made your opinion a little clearer?

Just because these toxic comments haven't been expressed very well (or even appallingly), doesn't mean you have to take everything to heart.

What can you learn from this?

If you are going to succeed in writing for the blogosphere or social media, you need to develop a thicker skin. You will also need to understand your audience better so you write what they want to read.

If someone does submit a toxic comment, learn to recognise it quickly and delete it before it affects you too much. It's not worth agonising over negativity. It will only destroy any creative juices you may have, which could be helpful to your readers.

And if you can bear it, park the comment and return to it later in the cold light of day. What can you glean from behind the horribleness? Is there a hidden message you missed the first time around? Could you improve your writing as a result?

How to avoid toxic comments in the future

First, are you sharing your content in the right places? There are some platforms that harbour such people who are prone to providing toxic comments. Find ones that are more accommodating and contain your preferred audience.

What subjects are you writing about? If you are purposely controversial, you are going to attract opposition. If your content is topical, it could draw a lot of attention. Sometimes being popular or a post going viral will result in toxic comments that will hurt or do you harm.

Adapt your writing style to something that is more acceptable. Avoid being confusing, clever or too cryptic to increase accessibility to more like-minded people. Use the same words that your ideal readers would use to get them on your side.

Let me know what you think

If you have been badly affected by toxic comments, let us know how you coped and pass on any tips you think might be helpful.

This is a vast subject, with countless points of view. Some may think I'm lucky not to have experienced too much negative comments in the past, others may think being oblivious to them is not a good thing.

Whatever you think, please let us know in the comment box below. We would love to read your contributions...

Alice Elliott
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