Negativity on Social Media ~ Ignore or Engage?

How to own your own storyline

I’m a big fan of all that’s good with social media. It allows for collaboration, which we all know leads to innovation. But we’ve all seen the dark side of social media too. When negativity catches hold, it’s like a plague that can kill confidence, relationships and even whole communities. One negative comment on Twitter, a Facebook page or in a blog post and the poison erupts, tainting all who come within spitting distance.

wit, wisdom and a thick skinBefore social media, as a print journalist, comments (positive or critical) took a lot longer to reach me. When they did, much of their energy had dissipated. They were days or weeks old and the choice to use them or not was mine – privately. As a blogger, the feedback is public and immediate – which can be a blessing and a burden.

I’ve been blogging since 2006 and while I’d like to think I’ve grown a callous over the part of my brain (and heart) that reacts emotionally to negativity on my blog or in social media, it’s more of a wish than a reality. Here’s a glimpse of my internal reaction to a negative comment…

  • What the? He missed the point. Why didn’t he read it more carefully before jumping to that stupid conclusion? I hope he gets a flat tire today.
  • I can’t believe he said THAT about ME! Why does he think I’m such a bad person? Maybe he’s trying to be helpful but does he have to be so hurtful?
  • Grabbing a Snickers bar and re-reading…Um…now that I think about it… he’s got some valid points. It still hurts and he didn’t have to get so personal but there’s some truth here.

Most commenters don’t understand the compliment sandwich

don't be afraid of commentsWhen I comment on another writer’s post or enter a discussion on social media, I’m mindful of starting with something positive before offering my critique. It’s a skill I learned as an editor and manager. If we want someone to truly hear our arguments, we need to start with encouragement.

Not everyone takes the time to couch their comments in positivity before posting them though – and that’s okay. If I’m angry with a product or service, I’m not going to begin by complimenting the swishy design of their new logo. And as a blogger producing content, it’s your job to find the nugget of gold when someone rains on your parade. If you don’t take the time to listen to the critiques, you’re the one who loses.

But not all critiques are created equal and it can be hard to sort the constructive criticism from the mean, hurtful comments that help no one. So how do you own your own storyline when dealing negative comments on a blog? Try these tips:

  1. Be logical. Try putting aside your emotional reaction and read it with an eye for constructive criticism. Easier said than done sometimes…
  2. Be critical. Do you know the commenter? Does s/he have an agenda? Are they using your blog as a platform to elevate themselves (and drag you down)?
  3. Give yourself permission to delete. If the comment does not help you or your readers, delete it. This is your home, you make the rules.
  4. Economize your response. If you choose to keep a negative comment, the fewer words in your response the better. Every word in your response may be like throwing gas on an open flame.
  5. Start with thank you. Say thank you for sharing an opinion, a possibility or pointing out flaws in the piece.
  6. Stop apologizing. Save your apologies for when you’ve done something wrong to hurt another person.
  7. Be a leader. Good leaders are visionaries but they also possess the ability to be coached. Think of your commenters as coaches and be willing to learn from them.
  8. Stop hoping, whining, wishing, dreaming and over-thinking. Read the comment and take action and move on. Done.

take the personal out of the commentI recently heard Sarah Prevette speak and if you don’t know her, she’s brilliant, confident and she’s suffered some crazy failure and incredible success this year. She stood on stage and admitted that she reads ALL comments and blogs written about her – and the negative ones hurt – a lot.

I recently asked my community on social media how they deal with negativity. I’ll think you’ll enjoy the responses.

@LHMaintenance ~ Ignore them. I honestly think if their criticism has merit, can be taken offline to discuss rationally. If they only want 2 grandstand don’t. Negative attention. Like with kids, don’t give them the attention they seek.

@momma23monkeys ~ Actually did get sucked into a FB argument w/ crazy old man once. couldn’t ignore that. I think of trolls as strangers. Did get into debate on friends FB page w/one of her friends-who I didn’t know.

@JennAnnis ~ I always try to take the high road. Sometimes I will rebuff with a joke but usually I end up having to ignore and block. when BB retweeted my tweet about my Z10 I got a crash course in troll 101! fans of other platforms who hadn’t even seen one yet. By being patient I convinced some of them to try it. I answered anyone who replied to that tweet (over 360 ppl) providing they weren’t swearing at me.

@DaveFleet ~ Characterize the behavior – it’s probably context dependent. I also think there’s a difference between overreacting or lashing out and ‘trolling’

@Jasondyk ~ I take the @lizstrauss approach and just say “thank you”

Jason also shared this link: You have a listening problem.

So what’s your opinion? How do you deal with negativity online? Ignore or engage? Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn and let’s continue the conversation.

I confirm the subscription of this blog to the Paperblog service under the username JRosien

16 Responses to “Negativity on Social Media ~ Ignore or Engage?”

  1. Nancy Kenney says:

    This is good advice. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Julia Rosien says:

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read, Nancy. It’s such a huge issue and this post really only touches the tip of it – but I’m glad it helped!

  2. Shannon Markle says:

    Great blog! Thank you. This is one to print and staple above your computer screen for reference and reminder!

  3. Gieselle A.B. Fest says:

    Thanks for the great advice!

  4. Excellent post!

    As a new blogger I welcome critique, but find negative comments – most often from “anonymous” – not only annoying, but wholly unproductive. For as much as I catch myself wanting to correct/explain/justify myself, I try to remember that people posting negativity for its own sake are not interested in dialogue – they simply want the combat. Negativity thrives on reaction. My solution has been to ignore or exclude those who demonstrate that they’re only there for the bloodsport.

    Again, wonderful post.


    • Julia Rosien says:

      Hi Daniel,
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a great comment. The anonymous posts are frustrating. Social media is about sharing and transparency and when someone hides behind their computer to spew negative garbage thinly veiled as “constructive criticism” it’s time to get real. If someone wants to engage in a discussion with me, I’m happy to engage – even if we don’t agree. I love debating opposing sides of an argument and relish the chance to defend my stance – and learn how others look at the world. But I won’t do it with someone not brave enough to share their real identity. That’s just disrespectful and doesn’t deserve the respect of my answer. My advice, Daniel, is to take what you can learn from the comment and delete it. When/if they’re ready to talk openly and honestly, that’s a different story. Keep blogging, Daniel and take those anonymous comments lightly – they’re not as important as the ones from “real” people.

  5. Kathryn says:

    What a great post! I think one of the things that can be helpful is deciding early on what you want your comment policy to be. Personally, I have decided that because I always want to encourage communication, I will not delete any comments as long as they aren’t racist, sexist, profane, etc. Deciding that early on meant that when I first got those rude comments here and there, I already had a plan in place. Love the idea of taking the value from a comment instead of just dismissing it outright too. 🙂

    • Julia Rosien says:

      Kathryn, I love that you have a comment policy – good for you for taking this seriously! When we step back from a comment and let the emotional stuff go, there’s huge learning opportunities to be found. No different than a restaurant receiving a negative review on TripAdvisor or Yelp – there’s usually something to be learned.
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts,

  6. SoberJulie says:

    I leave all comments on my blog and social media stream, I think that provides transparency. This doesn’t mean that I don’t take them to heart or feel shocked when reading them. What I often find difficult is finding the right words to response and yes pausing before typing is KEY for me.

    • Julia Rosien says:

      Hi Julie,
      Thanks for stopping by! I think you hit the proverbial nail on the head – finding the right words in your response. Gathering enough clarity for a thoughtful response is hard if your feelings are hurt but pausing is key… and maybe grabbing that Snickers bar too 🙂

  7. 1jdadam says:

    Important subject matter. Very honestly dealt with and your advice will serve many well. It breaks my heart when I see the “warfare” that can escalate on social media (I use only twitter currently), as it is self defeating for everyone involved, the casual reader perhaps the most. I state my limits clearly, name calling is unacceptable, at that point there is no conversation and the person is blocked. That is the consequence for being uncivil. The rest I pretty much won’t engage in too far if I get that there is a schism in mutual understanding or a misunderstanding I’m unable to clarify in 140 characters. I figure we’ll meet again on a better day!
    Thank you for addressing this material in such an adept manner!

  8. Steph Riggs says:

    If you are running small business then social media is the best place to get connected with your customers and other people and ask them about your brand. In this way, the negative opinions and comments will allow you to take helpful measures to improve your services. I think negativity on social media is the best thing to improve your business and make it according to the expectations of your customers.

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