How to Deal with Internet Criticism, and the Higher Purpose of Online Discussions

I received an email from an anonymous person who harshly criticized my marketing methods.

Parts of the email had relevant points, and I will be responding in an upcoming post.

In this post, however, let’s first talk about how to deal with internet criticism, and how to critique others productively… 
How to deal with internet criticism / trolls

There’s productive criticism that benefits both parties and moves humanity forward… and then there’s trolling. 

Trolling, usually done anonymously, is criticizing someone in a mean-spirited or callous way. It can be found in abundance on comments/replies on Twitter and Youtube, and other websites where it’s easy to be anonymous. It’s less likely on Facebook since FB tends to quickly delete anonymous/fake profiles, but it still happens because trolling doesn’t have to be anonymous. Amazingly, some people are fine with being publicly mean-spirited!

If you encounter a troll’s comment, simply delete it and ban them from your channel/page. Why? Because they’re not trying to help, or have a discussion. They are simply offloading their negativity, even if they try to sound smart or better than you.

Mean-spirited or callous comments tend to discourage other potential commenters from adding their voice. So do the right thing for everyone and delete/ban those trolls as soon as you see them. 

Remember that the reason they spew negativity is that they are themselves are suffering, and that's unfortunately how they cope with their mental state. It's not a cry for help: it's a blind lashing out. (You'll discover this if you try to respond caringly... the trolls will either ignore or attack you back.)

So there’s no need to respond to the trolls. Let’s not feed negativity by giving it attention.

On the other hand, if you get criticism that is genuinely trying to provide a different point of view in a respectful (and hopefully caring) way, then it’s good to publicly respond with thanks. You don’t have to go head-to-head with them to change their mind, but you can still graciously thank them for being willing to share a different opinion. 

And, you may learn something, too.

You might also want to comment on their tone: if respectful, thank them for that. If their tone is not caring or respectful, you might mention that next time you'd appreciate if they could voice their disagreement in a more respectful way, because you felt attacked by their comment, and this is your page and you have the right to moderate it.

What’s the higher purpose of online discussion?

We want to explore and understand the Truth together. Truth (with a capital T) is facts about reality that is provable. If some issue doesn’t currently have proveability (spirituality, religion, etc.), there’s no ability to reach consensus based on investigation, and therefore, there is no point in trying to discuss “Truth” in such matters… it is simply opinion, and it’s fine to let people have different opinions.

Whether you’re trying to find Truth, or simply exploring different opinions, I believe (my opinion) that there is a higher purpose that encompasses both types of online discussion: the personal growth of each person involved. 

No matter if we are “wrong” or “right”, when we express what we currently understand and believe, we are practicing our skill of communicating. We are discovering and strengthening our authentic voice.

The world would be better if more people felt authentically confident to express their perspective.

And we need to help each other do this, by providing safety and encouragement.

Therefore, besides practicing our own voice, we also need to do it with as much kindness and humility as we can. It is up to each person to provide the nurturing environment for their discussion partners to practice using their voice and sharing their honest views too.

By adhering to the prime principle of nurturing personal growth in ourselves and in others, we are essentially dedicating ourselves to love.

Loving is the opposite of trolling.

Among most people, Love will elicit reciprocity, so we will know that our love has been received when our discussion partners thank us and then speak up confidently to share their honest viewpoints.

Even if they don’t invite us to also share, let us love ourselves enough to practice using our voice, in a kind way, and then inviting others to do the same.

We may even reach more of the Truth together, because as the old saying goes, “People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.”

In summary: there is a difference in heart between trolling and criticism. Ban the trolls. Love the critics.