How To Deal With Toxic People Online (And in Real Life)

I have been dealing with people’s crap for literally my entire life. When I was in elementary school (and middle school…and high school…) I was frequently bullied, had my car(s) vandalized, and generally just socially unaccepted for the most part.

As I got older and made it to college, I spread my wings a bit from my hometown and started to fall into more of a groove with people who shared similar interests as I did. Around the same time, I began to accumulate a bit of popularity on social media (back then, it was MySpace). I noticed that no matter how nice, or kind, or positive you are – there are always going to be people who try to tear you down.

If you clicked on this headline, you know what I’m talking about. Particularly during this tumultuous election year, many of you have probably experienced the combative nature of the general public for the first time. This nature typically presents itself under the shroud of the internet, behind a keyboard, and often times (especially on Twitter) under a completely anonymous username with a random profile photo.

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This is no accident. In fact, realizing this is the first step to understand how to deal with these people, and provides a valuable lesson. I have learned that 99% of bullies and internet trolls have one thing in common: They typically have very little going for them in life.

People who are happy and productive in life have no time nor reason to harass nor start arguments with others. They do not need to tear people down to make themselves feel better. The concept of ‘trolling’ people on the internet (or real life) is foreign to anyone who is happy and fulfilled.

Picture, if you will, following a hashtag on Twitter for hours on end, and responding with insults to everyone who uses that hashtag, regardless of what they say. Picture combing over YouTube videos and berating the people in the videos or arguing with other people in the comments. If either of these things feel like a colossal waste of time to you, then congratulations, you are a normal, rational human being.

So, how to best handle these rabid dogs of humanity? Thank them.

That’s right, thank them. Be kind. Be calm. Stay cool. Take a deep breath. Say “thanks so much for your input, hope you have a great day!” and then move the hell on.

Block them, if you have to. Ignore them, if you can. The key is to rise above them, don’t feed into their nonsense, and simply get on with your day.

For the reasons listed above, your response is fuel to their fire. They will not stop, they will not leave you alone, and only on a rare occasion will you be able to achieve some rational discourse with them – but in the end you’ve got to ask yourself, “what’s the point?” It is a complete and utter waste of time to argue back and forth with these people.

They simply have nothing better to do, and engaging them is exactly what they’re looking for. They’re filling a void in their life for however long you choose to stay in the conversation – and if it’s not you, then eventually they’re going to get someone else. 9 times out of 10 you can visit their profile (or consider their personality if it’s in real life), and you’ll notice that they pull the same exact routine with everyone around them. This isn’t a personal vendetta against you, it’s against the world.

You see, YOU are not the issue – their deep inner dissatisfaction with their lives is the issue, and they will spew their nonsense to anyone willing to listen. The only difference is whose blood pressure is going to be raised because of it. Yours, or someone else’s.

Believe me, nobody likes debating more than I do – I enjoy the challenge to stretch my intellectual legs (we all know they could use some stretching) and being able to twist the English language into sentences that at least sound convincing, but the most important thing is to decide where to best expound this energy. It is not on internet trolls.

You wouldn’t let someone walk into your house just to argue with them, so don’t let them invade your social media space to do it, either.

The block button is a beautiful thing.

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