Dealing With Nasty Comments Online: What You Can Do!

Posted: December 8, 2014

Every woman who shares her work on the internet knows how dealing with nasty comments online feels. Here are some ways to make your online experience less painful!

The people who produce original content and share them over the Internet are well aware of the power the comment sections hold. At the most basic level, they help to provide an effective engagement with the audience. Comments are a good way of receiving useful feedback about the posts, and ideas for improvement.They also help people engage in positive and healthy debates about certain issues of sociocultural and economic importance.

Unfortunately, nowadays, the comments sections have started looking very scary indeed! This is especially true for certain famous YouTubers, bloggers, writers, etc. They receive a lot of rude comments that are either made by people for trolling purposes or are intended to abuse, harass, or threaten the content producer  (For ease of understanding, I shall be using the terms content producer and content creator intermittently) .




A recent study that was supported by the National Science Foundation and is now in press at the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication has pointed out that such comments can often alter and manipulate a reader’s original impression about the content. In fact,they often end up polarizing readers and their viewpoints on the issue.

Trolling online: Why?

There are many research studies which try to deconstruct the phenomenon of trolling. Some researchers feel that most of these comments are harmless, and hold no personal meaning for the trolls. They basically write them for entertainment purposes. The element of fun and humour as well as the desire to embarrass others gives a sense of superiority to certain people. They usually  have sadistic tendencies which gets fuel from the anonymity that comes along with cyberspace. People who exhibit anti-social traits use the Internet to express themselves freely without having to face serious consequences that might affect their daily lives.

The element of fun and humour as well as the desire to embarrass others gives a sense of superiority to certain people.

Of course, some of these comments are anything but funny. They have some very serious gendered implications that simply cannot be overlooked. Women content creators face cyber-bullying and harassment on a regular basis which can interfere with their work, as well as cause huge emotional distress and anxiety. Rape threats, stalking, explicit sexual abuse in the comments sections are used to intimidate these women and silence their voices.

Since a lot of these women earn their main livelihoods from their work that is shared online, it makes one wonder if this is a new form of glass ceiling that is facing these female content creators. Of course, further research needs to be conducted in this field before we can come to any conclusion.

How to deal with nasty comments

A lot of people have come up with certain ingenious methods to avoid engaging with comments at all. They feel that it is a mere wastage of time. Even if majority of the comments are positive in nature, the content producers may fall into the trap of obsessively seeking audience validation and end up producing uninspiring work that basically placates the readers.

When weblogs and video logs were making an entry into the cyberspace (almost a decade ago), the comments section was used by the author to facilitate easy communication with the readers and/or viewers of the piece. Now, increased social media engagement has made other platforms available, so scrapping comments from websites should not feel like losing out a lot.

But we need to keep in mind that women are particularly vulnerable to cyber harassment and it may not be a bad idea to moderate one’s comments after all.

There are some women content creators who feel that removing the comments section might not be such a good idea. They believe that this is a gender-based issue and doing so would reflect their weak politics. Instead, they may opt for censoring comments. A lot of people feel that this sort of defeats the purpose of the comments section which was originally meant to be a democratic space for expressing authentic audience reactions. But we need to keep in mind that women are particularly vulnerable to cyber harassment and it may not be a bad idea to moderate one’s comments after all. Content creators may also have a  clear comments policy laid out where they can specify that they  hold exclusive rights to control how comments appear on their website or pages.

The best way is to be smart and not to engage personally with the unsavory comments. Choosing one’s  battles is very important on the Internet. There is absolutely no reason to respond to each and every comment. As a blog/website/YouTube channel owner, if something you read upsets you because it feels like a personal attack, take a few moments and calm down. Instead of having an intense emotional reaction to it, try to think rationally. The person who made the comment may mean nothing to you personally but the piece you produced and shared publicly does! So be proud of your work and respond calmly to the nasty comment if you have to.

Pic credit: Image of woman frustrated with working online via Shutterstock.

 

An engineer. Has worked in the IT industry for a while and then decided to

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