The social web is a noisy and crowded place. If you throw content into it that does not have a distinct perspective, it’ll likely get swept away and have no impact.
- Do you think eating healthy is important? Someone out there thinks life’s too short and you should eat whatever you want.
- Do you think cats are cute? Someone out there thinks they are creepy as hell.
- Do you think it’s beautiful outside? Someone out there thinks it’s overcast and depressing.
Yes, some of the people you will bother, offend or annoy are people with whom you should engage in a dialogue about their feelings. Always respect the advice, feedback and criticism about your content that is delivered to you in a respectful way.
But, some of the other people you’ll hear from fall into the category of grumps, trolls and haters — people who are unpleasant for a whole host of factors, most of which have nothing to do with you. Their thinking stems from a different place, so your response to them needs to be different too.
1. Some people just want to dump their baggage on you.
There are some people who can find a dark cloud in every silver lining. There is nothing you can do to change that. (Nor should you. Their happiness is not your concern or your responsibility.)
When you post content online, people view it through a very focused, personalized and often highly skewed lens. If they are an unhappy person, that lens will be unhappy no matter what content.
Give yourself some distance from those people by using some of the suggestions shared by Vi Hart in this video.
2. Some people don’t remember that you are real.
The digital disconnect between what is “real” and what is “not” online can make it challenging for your audience to put you and your content into context.
They likely have been taught that people “in the media” are celebrities whose job is to contribute to their happiness and entertainment. Since you are a publisher and promoter online, that puts you into the same category as Kim Kardashian or Honey Boo Boo.
When people rail about Kim Kardashian online, they’re not expecting that Kim will actually read it, much less tweet them back and say, “Hey, I’m so sorry you find me shallow. I’ll start shopping at Walmart so I seem more approachable.”
They may not be expecting a measured, logical response from you either.
3. Some people are not in your target audience.
While perspective on your work can be helpful, not all arguments with your audience are worth your time and effort.
If you’ve done your homework, you produced and published content for a specific audience with a specific goal in mind. If a person who wants to argue with you about that content is not a member of that audience or will not, in any way, affect that goal, do not take their bait.
Before you get into it with someone, do your due diligence and read through their feeds, (if possible.) Read their bio. Read their blog. Evaluate if an in-depth discussion with this person is a good use of your time. If not, thank them for the feedback (if you like) and then move on.
4. Some people may not be mentally stable.
The web is a great tool for democratizing communication. Everyone can participate, share, publish and have an opinion. But that means everyone — including the people who are struggling with metal health issues.*
Sometimes these mental issues are clear (e.g. people tweeting that they are off their meds or posting on Facebook from the psych ward.**) Sometimes they are not.
Either way, it’s not something that is your responsibility to address (and especially not to resolve), unless your safety is being threatened or you fear for theirs.
Ultimately the best way to combat negativity to just keep creating, keep writing, keep saying things that mean something to someone.
As Hart says…
“I have no power over you that you don’t give me, and you have no power over me that I don’t give you. … Your greatest creation is yourself. Like any great work of art, creating a great self means putting in hard work, every day, for years.”
Remember, your job is not to make everyone happy.
Your job is to produce quality content that will stand out in the crowd.
Don’t let your voice be silenced simply because there is someone out there who doesn’t wish to hear it, (because there will always be someone who fits that bill.)
For every grump, troll or hater you will meet online, there will be a supportive, engaged super-fan just waiting for you to come along and rock their world.
*For an interesting perspective on this topic, check out “Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked,” by James Lasdun which details his five year ordeal of being cyber stalked by a former student.
**Yep. I’ve seen real-world examples of both of these.