How-to-handle-trolls-freelance-writer

The Day the Internet Turned on Me: Or, How to Handle Online Trolls and Backlash

 

Those of you who know me personally—or even those of you who follow my Twitter—know I don’t consider myself to be a Serious Journalist.

On a daily basis, I write about things like furniture and cats and fashion trends—nothing even remotely controversial. So it’s always weird when, all of a sudden, I’m facing backlash for something I’ve written.

I’m not a complete stranger to it, as I used to cover the Kardashians on a regularly basis and there’s nothing people love more than hating on the rich and famous. However, I definitely wasn’t expecting the internet to turn on me last week when I wrote an article about…. wait for it…. board games.

Board Game Backlash

Yeah, you read that right.

See, I was blissfully unaware that there’s such a thing called “tabletop culture”—think gamer culture, but for board games. These people take their games seriously, and they were pretty offended at my article called The 14 Most Popular Board Games of 2018.

Here are some of my favorite comments:

 

Overall, I read through more than 200 comments, and my initial reaction was:

run-away

In all seriousness, I was pretty upset.

I worked hard on the article and was really excited to share my (apparently inferior) love of board games with a wider audience. I definitely wasn’t expecting to be called lazy and bad at my job.

But ya know what? It happens.

The internet is an opinionated place, and sometimes you’re going to piss people off. To turn my lemons into lemonade, I figure I’d use this opportunity to share my tips on how to deal with online trolls and respond to backlash regarding your work.

Let Your Editors Guide You

The first thing I did when I got wind of the backlash was run to my editor. While I wrote the article, her company had published it, and I strongly believe it’s important to consult with the publication before determining how to respond (if at all).

My editor is an angel sent from heaven, and she promptly reassured me that it was fine. We worked together to update the article; we clarified our “research methods” for the list and crafted responses to some of the more pointed comments.

Bottom line? You’re not in this alone (most of the time, anyway)! Don’t be afraid to seek advice on how to handle the situation.

Try to See Where the Mob Is Coming From

It’s kind of weird for me to suggest that you look back at the mob chasing you and try to see it from their point of view, but a little empathy can go a long way.

how-to-handle-backlash-freelance-writerI don’t consider myself a fanatic about much, but I’m pretty into makeup lately. Using this passion as my basis, I thought about it this way: If I saw an article called “The Most Popular Makeup of 2018” and it filled with drugstore brands, how would I feel?

To be honest, I probably would have had a similar reaction—something to the tune of, “Sure, ok, maybe if you’re 12.” Now, I’m not saying I would write mean comments. That’s not my style, but I do get the general train of thought here.

Just putting things in perspective and seeing where these haters were coming from helped me to take their criticism less personally.

Relax Before You React

When I first saw the hundreds of Facebook comments going in on my writing skills, my first reaction was “LEMME AT ‘EM.” However, I have a firm policy that I don’t react when I’m angry. Not in work, not in relationships, not in life.

It was definitely the right call.

After an hour or so, I had cooled down and, frankly, cared a lot less about what these strangers thought of my work. I have plenty of amazing clients who think I’m a kickass writer—what do these internet trolls know?

Don’t throw fuel on the hate fire.

The lesson here? Give yourself a cooling off period before you respond to criticism. Otherwise, you’ll just be throwing gasoline on the hate fire.

Laugh About It

Self-deprecating humor is kind of my thing, so it was a safe bet that I was going to make a joke out of the whole situation.

I posted the article to my Facebook, explaining that this Hot Take on a Divisive Topic was causing Controversy, and then I laughed it up with my friends. It felt good.

Again, I cared less about what random strangers thought about my taste in board games. My friends and I have spent hours playing some of the very board games on my list, and that’s what really counts to me.

Find the Silver Lining

If nothing else, look at bright side: Controversial pieces get a lot of traffic. People want to know what all the fuss is about, so they read the article—it all goes back to the Hate Read mentality.

I’m willing to bet this was on of my top-performing pieces on the site, if only because all those angry tabletoppers wanted to read it and yell at me. At the end of the day, more views and more shares are a good thing for me, so I’ll log that as a win.

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