Welcome to the Internet – a mystical place where everybody is better, smarter and more successful than you and it they like expressing it in illiterate comments just to show you how little they care about your opinion. The comment sections are full of all sorts of people – from those who like to channel their real-life frustrations through their verbal persona and project their own insecurities on other people, to the trolls who are no-lifers of epic proportions and the only reason they go online is to make someone mad as a means of receiving the attention their parents never graced them with. The Internet truly is a unique place.
If you own a blog, then you’ve probably seen a wide plethora of colorful comments and interesting characters. One might even argue the entire Internet is a stage – a hateful, abominable stage where people armed with anonymity show their true faces. Of course, many would argue that people’s online behavior is not who they really. To those of you who believe that – wake up! What you do when there are no repercussions and rules is what defines you. Just because it’s online doesn’t make it less real. So, anyway, as I was saying, if you own a blog, you’ve probably seen it all. Negative comments have a way of haunting you and it’s sometimes difficult to react. Do you remove the comment? Do you acknowledge it? Do you apologize? Do you mock the author? What do you do?
The “Revenge” Approach
I’m a frequent online reader and today, in one of the magazines I read, there was an article about the comments in another article. It’s interesting to see how negative comments have a spawned a whole new type of content – “revenge” content, where dumb and outright ridiculous comments would be quoted and broken down to show exactly how illogical, hypocritical or straight-out stupid they are. In this instance, the author of the article had removed the names of the commenters because he didn’t want to give them extra publicity. The article did exactly what I described – showed the comments and explained how stupid they were. This is what I call “the revenge approach”. Even though some of you might be tempted to use it, I wouldn’t really recommend it. It will only spawn a new wave of hatred and negativity. “The revenge approach” acknowledges that trolls and negative commenters have done their job- they’ve made you mad. You don’t want to give the satisfaction. Another example of this approach, perhaps a bit more explicitly and without hiding the names, would be GameSpot’s show “Feedbackula”. I don’t recommend this approach but it’s there should you need it.
The “Adult” Method
Trying to reason with trolls is usually a perfect example of a perpetual exercise in futility. However, you need to remember that the idea is not to reason with the troll, but to show your readers that you can handle yourself in an online environment. Don’t start a flame war and don’t apologize. Just rationally explain to the commenter why he is wrong and provide proof (if that’s the case). If he’s telling you that your content is bad, then you can ask him for some feedback. Make him describe your mistakes and give you a few tips on how to get better. If he does that, then you’re turning a negative comment into productive feedback. If he doesn’t, you demonstrate he doesn’t have a clue of what he’s talking about. Don’t try to really reason with them, but act like an adult. This is the best way to show your readers that: a) you don’t take fecal matter from anyone; b) that no troll can get you out of control; c) that you don’t think yourself beyond criticism. You need to also remember that sometimes people have a problem articulating themselves. What may seem like a mean-spirited commented might very well be an advice in disguise. Just handle the situation like an intelligent person and don’t give in to the anger.