SOS! Posts: Quick tips for getting through creative crisis.
Before we begin talking about the most wretched hive of scum and villainy on the internet, let me say something. Trolling is not just a gender or a minority issue. Anyone who puts themselves or their art out on the internet can be trolled. And probably will be. Although there is a big stereotype behind trolls being overweight white guys in their mom’s basement, and attacks targeting more women and minorities, this is not the entire world of hate and trolling on the internet. Unfortunately, we’re all vulnerable.
You’re going about your business on the internet — maybe promoting your new Kickstarter, maybe saying something political, or maybe just posting a picture of a work in progress. Someone comes out of nowhere and starts saying nasty shit to you. Your first response is to jump to your own defense. Maybe you try to explain, maybe you attack right back. Suddenly your heart is racing and your day is ruined and all you can feel is hatred for this person you probably don’t even know. If you’re lucky, it just ends there. In some cases, the hate can spread into the physical world and have real consequences.
So when a troll attacks, what should you do?
- If you don’t have haters, you’re doing it wrong. First take a deep breath. Resist the urge to react immediately. Know that people saying dumb and/or mean shit to you is the tax you pay for being on the internet. I wish it wasn’t so, and some very large companies are working on ways to police trolls, but for right now, it’s a fact of online life. Actually, in a peverse way, it probably means you’re doing something right. It might be that your work is getting known enough to make people jealous. It might be that you’ve been showing a genuine side of yourself and your thoughts in posts, thus showing some vulnerable sides to you. These are good things, but they raise your profile online and make you a target, so you need to be prepared mentally for people to try to take you down a notch.
- Dislike < Hate < Trolling. We’re artists, and we’re sensitive. Especially about our work. So every negative comment can feel like a dagger in the heart, but there really is a difference between simple dislike, hate, and a troll. People are allowed to dislike what you do. As long as they’re being respectful about it, it is probably good to see those comments. Although they sting, you might be able to see some actual place for improvement. Or they might be completely unhelpful comments. It’s your art, it’s up to you to decide. Hate, however, is not respectful. It is not useful. It is very often personal. And no, you don’t have to listen to it. There is nothing there but someone trying to lash out at you and drag you down. Trolling, however, is more sinister. You might think you are having a conversation at first. You might think you are explaining yourself. But soon you’ll realize the troll is just fucking with you. They’re not there to understand. They’re there to exhaust you and tie up your energy and waste it. Here’s some tactics they use.
- Don’t feed the trolls. As I said, the trolls are there to waste your energy. Don’t get sucked in! They feed off you getting upset and angry, so don’t give them the satisfaction of showing it. The moment you recognize you are being trolled, make it a game in your head. You are going to win by driving them nuts, by denying them their nice tasty emotional lunch. You are going to be cool and collected (or at least seem that way online) and you are going to disengage as quickly as possible.
- Your social media is not a court of law. Remember, you don’t owe anyone their day in court. These people are coming into your social media sphere and taking you on. You can delete comments, block people, and really deny them the fun they want. While I don’t recommend we block everyone that disagrees with us — echo chambers are unhealthy for everyone, especially artists — we should block people immediately the moment they start acting disrespectful and spouting hate. Life is too short to deal with that. Save your energy for your art.
- Trolling can pass into the real world. Luckily most trolls are not that motivated. If you don’t give them a tasty emotional snack, they’ll move on to another target. But sometimes trolling can pass into the real world, and that’s terrifying. Doxing, stalking, swatting, and other tactics are horrifying and can ruin lives. If you feel you are in any danger of this happening, please check out these great resources. In fact, I suggest you do so in advance of any trolling, so you already know you’ve done what you can to keep your accounts and identity safe.