A Therapist Teaches You How To Handle The Social Media Haters
Finding your feet when you are under fire on social media can be challenging but it’s not impossible.
By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | November 6, 2022
For many of us, social media is a source of endless entertainment. But, as Twitter user Daisey Miller recently experienced, it can also be toxic.
Last week, Daisey's benign tweet about her coffee-and-chat-in-the-garden morning routine with her husband was met with a barrage of hostile tweets from people who felt she was rubbing her happiness in their faces.
What happened to Daisey is an instance of 'dragging' – an increasingly common cyberbullying trend where people are publicly humiliated on social media for expressing harmless thoughts and opinions.
I took a closer look at the backlash and identified three common themes that ran through the negative tweets:
- Attempted humor. Humorous content has a good chance of going viral on social media. Sarcasm, satire, and insults carry shock value, which can cause people to take notice. It seems that many of the tweets aimed at Daisey were a thinly veiled attempt at chasing clout.
- Main character syndrome. Most people who responded negatively seemed to make Daisey's tweet about themselves. Although not an official mental health diagnosis, social media validation reinforces some peoples' belief that the world revolves around them – that they are the main character. Such individuals are unable to appreciate other people's achievements and joys and try to put them down to regain their main-character status.
- Bitterness. Many of the negative responses spoke volumes about how these individuals felt about their own lives. They were quick to air their dirty laundry in an attempt to garner sympathy and support from fellow social media users.
All these themes reveal one crucial thing about being dragged on social media: it has very little to do with you. Reacting to your post simply happens to be a good opportunity for the haters to get recognition. Once your post is no longer trending, they will move on to the next big post to hate on.
With this in mind, here are three tips to help you stay strong in the face of online attacks.
#1. Don't engage with the haters
People who attempt to put you down online are doing so for reasons beyond your control. You will not be able to reason with an angry mob.
People make mean comments to get attention. Aiming hurtful comments at you on social media is 'safe' because they only see you as a social media handle. Often, they may just be virtue-signaling their way into their fifteen minutes of fame and unwilling to recognize that you are a real human being.
You express yourself online because that is how you feel at the time. There is no need to prove yourself with petty back-and-forths with people you don't know. This will just add fuel to the fire and cause more people to jump on the we-hate-you bandwagon.
While you may be tempted to ruminate on the loudest and meanest comments, don't let your negativity bias trip you up. There are several people on social media who will offer their support, kindness, and understanding. Focus on these comments.
#2. Don't delete your post
As a rule, don't post anything on social media that you wouldn't stand by in real life. Unless your post is illegal or in any way harmful to you or others, don't delete it just because you are being dragged online.
Doing so will not prevent further backlash as people may have taken screenshots of your tweet or post. Deleting your post will give them more fodder to troll you.
Also, stay true to your opinions. The dragging will pass as soon as the haters get bored, and people will respect you for being strong-willed. This could translate to more online connections with people who see eye to eye with you.
#3. Alert the authorities if your privacy, safety, or mental health is compromised
The line between the real world and the online world is blurring by the day. If you find yourself being doxed, which is when someone reveals your private information on the internet with malicious intent, take necessary actions against the perpetrators. Doxing is a cybercrime and must not be taken lightly.
Even if you are not doxed, being dragged can cause considerable emotional distress or anxiety. Speak to someone you trust, preferably a mental health practitioner. If required, report such behavior to the authorities.
Cyberbullying can have a lasting impact on your mental health and nobody deserves to be mercilessly bullied for expressing their innocuous views.
Social media can bring out the worst in people. This is due to a combination of the brain's reward system being hijacked by online validation and the perceived anonymity offered by social media platforms. Being dragged on social media is an unpleasant experience, but if you wise up about the psychology behind it, there are ways to combat the distress it can bring about.