11 April, 2011  |   13 Comments

How to heal when you've been hurt by the internet

Rain makes flowers

As life happens, I’ve been tending my wounded heart.

Part of the tending was realizing that this wounded heart of mine wasn’t healing — and was getting worse — the more time I spent on the internet.

To heal my heart, I needed to change my pattern for surfing and interacting on the internet. As there are patterns here I sought to reverse, I learned a little bit in the process.

I say it over and over again, but this method of communicating — this blogging — is so new, I don’t think we humans have developed proper psychological coping and response skills to having our thoughts and images judged and commented upon on such a giant scale.

There are 5 hints for and 10 ways to and SEO tips and things, but I haven’t yet seen a comprehensive list of right practices to save us from bruising our heart every time we hold our thumb up for a ride on this super highway.

We’re putting our feelings, beliefs and collective knowledge out there for society at large to comment on. When those comments are negative, we have some dealing to do.

So this week, before I head to Mom 2.0 with all the ladies I love and have yet to love, I wanted to address internet ouchies and how to heal.

Pneumatic DrillThe different ouches I address in upcoming posts includes:
Troll attack.
Disagreement.
Unsolicited advice.
Misinterpretation.
Feeling ignored.
Painful comparison.

If you share stories on the internet, and if you interact with this community of people who also share stories on the internet, I bet there was a wee fire of recognition in at least one of the six above.

So today, we’ll start with the easiest to deal with, the random troll attack. I say this is the easiest because it seems so random, such sniping, so personal that it requires the least amount of energy to brush off.

UR FAT.
UR UGLY.
uR Babbees ugly.

If you moderate your comments, you’re the only one to read these and it’s surprising how quick they sting.

You KNOW they’re wrong, they don’t know you, they just wanted to hurt you, you can LOGIC all around it, but that doesn’t take the emotional sting out of the verbal attack.

The worst critic is the one sittting up in your brain there, up behind your forehead. And to get a comment from a troll, much worse, one that has a DIRECT LINE to that critic behind your forehead can hurt worse than you expect.

Well, I do have a few pounds to lose.
And I’ve never been comfortable with my looks.
And maybe my baby IS ugly?

And I know I’ve only referred to the random troll, but what about the persistent troll? I have a friend pestered for YEARS with hate by one particular troll, just because she… she shared her stories on the internet?

Bananas.

Also! Clarification!
This is not civil disagreement — I have more to say about disagreement this week, but for today’s purposes, you weren’t trolled if someone disagreed with you. Here, I’m talking about a personal attack on your appearance or life choices. This attack is meant to wound and for which there is no logical reply other than, “No I’m not.”

That’s my definition of being trolled:
A personal attack on your appearance or life choices meant to wound for which there is no logical reply other than an eloquent, “Nuh UH.”

Spinning Top

These messages can bounce around in your head, eating up time you could be enjoying with friends or doing good work. And that’s what angers me most about them, these comments are eating away the good in your life.

(And you have much so much good in your life.)

We assume you delete troll-like comments.
We know not to give them the attention they want.
We know not to divert your community’s attention from the post at hand.
We know that’s all the troll wants.

So here are 3 coping strategies I have for getting the trolls out of your dreams and into your car — wait, that’s not it — for getting the trolls out of your head and out of your life.

Pretend they’re talking about a friend.

First, delete the comment. It’s vandalism under the bridge that is your blog. No comment is worth hate.

Then, pretend they were writing that about a dear friend. What would you have to say in their defense?

Now open a draft in your email and write that defense out for your friend.

Change the pronouns to I and me.
Read it through again, your defense of yourself.
Feel it.
Then delete the draft and get yourself something nice to drink.

Pity the fool

O, lamentation for a troll.

Oh, how sorry, that they left that comment at a time on a beautiful SATURDAY afternoon when they should have been out with friends.

Oh, how sorry that they don’t have the friends that can support more creative expression.

Oh, how sorry, all the ways their misspellings that they just put out there, reflecting poorly on them.

No one wants to be pitied.
To pity the troll is to take away the sting.

An alternate method – instead of pity – is to LOVE the fool.

Heap love on their heads. Love the troll. Pet its head, stroke its fur, it knows not what it says. It’s a little puppy who peed on the rug. It’s a helpless little hater, who doesn’t know where to put its energy.

There’s power in loving someone despite their hatred of you.

Power to move you up and out of the situation of feeling bad about yourself.

Draw it

my little monsterDrawing cartoons of people who have tried to hurt you is a surprisingly healing method for dealing with trolls. Draw the troll as a troll, or an awkward adolescent, or a monster with scales, or a Cookie Crisp kind of thief (of your time and attention). Then draw a mustache or color out the eyes or scribble a tiny wiener on them.

Then crinkle up your drawing and put it in the trash.

Now I’m lucky, over my 12 years on the internet I’ve only been trolled recently and not so personally. I’ve been lucky (knocks wood).

So I wonder, do YOU get trolled?
If so, how do YOU deal with personal attacks?
How many encouraging comments would it take to overcome the power of one snipe?


13 thoughts on “How to heal when you've been hurt by the internet

  1. 1
    Emily says:

    I love this. I feel like my feelings get hurt all the time and I try to brush it off but this is hard. So, this helped and it made me happy. xo

  2. 2
    Amy says:

    I tend to laugh at trolls. Honestly, the internet is an important thing to me and brings me a lot of joy, but the idea that people have the time/energy to go spew hatred on a stranger’s site tells me that they’re kind of sad in general. Considering the source makes it easier to take. I’m looking forward to reading more of your thoughts on this, lady!

  3. 3
    Sarah Brown says:

    I LOVE “pretend they’re talking about a friend,” especially “Then delete the draft and get yourself something nice to drink.” You are a wise woman, HJ. xoxo

  4. 4
    Angella says:

    I loved this, you lovely lady, you. I haven’t had many trolls either, but they sure do knock the wind out of you when they emerge from under their rocks.

  5. 5
    Danielle says:

    I’m sorry that you were hurt. But I’m not sorry that this unbelievably wise post came out of it. Three cheers to taking care of yourself, friend.

  6. 6
    Jane Gassner says:

    I’ve managed to avoid most trolls on my blogs. Maybe I’m not interesting enough! But I’m writing a weekly column for Patch and there is a troll hanging onto that who is driving me nuts. He slides in under the heading of Disagreement, but really he’s just an out and out troll. He ignores what I’m writing about to fasten onto one tiny corner of it that he can mock me about. Last week I wrote about sustainably-farmed meat and the troll wrote a diatribe about my stupidity claiming that I thought animals should be given sleeping pills before they’re slaughtered. As if. Yes, it drives me bananas because he’s highjacking my column for his own ends. I can’t do anything about it because I don’t have the ability to delete him. I must just sit and seethe.

    Okay, I feel better now. Thanks.

  7. 7
    Sara says:

    This was so helpful and written with such an open heart. Thank you, lovely lady. Looking forward to the next part!

  8. 8
    jiff says:

    This just pisses me off. trolls are hideous little undersexed unhappy cowardly losers with nothing better to do with their time and miserable existence than anonymously ridicule people out of sheer jealousy and personal unhappiness to make themselves feel a tick better about their own situation. Don’t for a second take to heart anything these pathetic little trolls say about you or your family! Constructive criticism is one thing – this is not it. And this is NOT about YOU – that’s the most important thing to remember. I think your babies are adorable, you are a hot mama, your creativity is inspiring and the way you manage to balance all of your multitude of projects, humbling. Keeping doing what you do, lady, just the way you do it!

  9. 9
    Helen Jane says:

    Aw, you guys are great. Thanks.
    Isn’t healing amazing?

    But ugh, Jane, I can’t imagine not being able to block or delete a troll. Ignoring takes a whole lot of energy too.

  10. 10

    print out the particularly nasty ones and burn them and while their ashes float skyward chant out loud – they are so jealous of me – who i am, all that i have and all i can do

  11. 11
    Caitlin says:

    Being new to the blogging world, I definitely appreciated this one. First time reading your site, but I will be back. Your writing is very enjoyable. Thanks for sharing this! Its always good to have a reminder that these ‘trolls’ are just mean people!

  12. 12

    […] to heal from the bad feelings that the internet can generate. Here are some of the posts so far: Troll attack. Disagreement. Painful […]

  13. 13

    […] to heal from the bad feelings that the internet can generate. Here are some of the posts so far: Troll attack. Disagreement. Painful […]

Hooray for replies!