How to Deal with Criticism and Hate on Social Media
Today, most of us have cell phones and accounts on social media. They allow us to communicate and interact with extremely diverse people, which is fun and enriching. However, the Internet is a great window to the world. Moreover, by exposing ourselves publicly, we run the risk of receiving criticism and hate on this platform.
Indeed, posting photos, texts, or comments on social media leaves us open to hostile responses from others. This is confirmed in an investigation conducted by the Pew Research Center. But, the risks increase for those with public accounts or those who make social media their way of life or are influential in some way.
The problem is that there’s always a human being behind the screen. Although we may perceive that virtual interactions don’t have a great impact, in reality, they affect our well-being and mental health. So, how do we deal with this phenomenon? Find out here.
Criticism and hate on social media
Although they share some similar characteristics, criticism and hate aren’t the same. Criticism is a series of opinions, judgments, or assessments that an individual makes about another person or what they say.
These can be positive or negative reviews. They can be constructive (when they point out, respectfully, an aspect that can be improved) or destructive (when they don’t offer any suggestion for change or only seek to harm).
On the other hand, hate speech attacks, discriminates, or degrades the individual for who they are. It tends to feed on controversy and uses strategies such as sarcasm, mockery, and aggressiveness to spread harmful comments, without foundation or purpose. In addition, it tends to be carried out repeatedly and to be motivated by specific ideologies (Castaño-Pulgarín et al., 2021).
Both types of comments are offensive and hurtful. But, hate is more destructive.
What are its consequences?
The effects of criticism and hate on social media depend on different factors. For example, the types of comments, their frequency, and the personality of the recipient. They can cause significant damage to mental health.
A systematic review published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking claims that online bullying causes anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and even suicidal ideation.
It claims that receiving hostile or offensive messages may lead individuals to fear using their social media accounts, trigger feelings of anger and frustration, and significantly affect their self-esteem. Furthermore, when this hate is directed toward companies or personal brands, it’s likely to significantly influence consumer attitudes and lead to large losses (Kucuk, 2019).
How to deal with hate or criticism on social media
Nobody likes receiving criticism, even if it’s constructive. In fact, pride can make you doubt if such criticism is valid or acceptable. There are some guidelines that can help you to deal with these situations in a better way.
Analyze the comments
If you’re the kind of person who’s especially sensitive to criticism, you may make the mistake of overreacting to a comment. First, analyze it and figure out if it’s hate or simple constructive criticism. If it’s criticism, you may find elements of truth you can use to improve. Indeed, you may find the suggestion useful.
Recognize the haters
On the other hand, the comment may be really hostile and doesn’t seek to contribute anything other than create controversy or cause damage. At this point, you have to remember that other people’s actions speak volumes about themselves, but not about you.
Haters abound on social media. They’re dedicated to expressing contempt and undermining the positions of others. Paradoxically, anyone can be a potential victim, since the trigger for a hater’s behavior isn’t the other person but their own internal state.
In fact, it seems that haters share certain characteristics. For example, feelings of envy, frustration, and psychopathic traits (Sorokowski et al., 2020). Keeping this in mind will help you not to take such comments personally or believe they reflect your own worth.
What action you choose to take on these comments will depend on what makes you feel most comfortable. However, feel free to set as many boundaries as you need.
Deleting derogatory messages, blocking haters, and filtering those who comment on your posts, far from being cowardly, is a smart emotional self-care strategy. After all, at the end of the day, your only commitment is toward yourself and your well-being.
Remember that you have the right to report destructive criticism and hateful comments on social media to the authorities in your country. Indeed, the apparent anonymity provided by the Internet doesn’t give people carte blanche to demean or harass others. Their acts should have consequences.
Recognize and manage your emotions
Finally, another way of dealing with hate or criticism on social media involves managing your emotions. We all have different coping mechanisms. Some of us choose to suppress or deny what we feel and might try to appear strong or defend ourselves with the same aggressiveness. Others choose to avoid conflict and may even end up deleting their social media accounts.
But, the most appropriate path is to identify and accept how these comments make you feel (whether it’s sadness, anger, shame, or anxiety) and manage it appropriately. You might want to seek social support from someone close or express your discomfort via therapeutic writing.
Most importantly, don’t react immediately. Then, you won’t make mistakes that you later regret. An article published in Harvard Medicine claims that, when an individual is angry, the amygdala or emotional brain takes control of their behavior and deactivates the rational part. Consequently, they’re left at the mercy of their impulses.
Therefore, it’s preferable to take a few moments and breathe deeply before deciding what to do about those hurtful comments.
Protect yourself against criticism and hate on social media
If you have a presence on social media, you will, at some point or another, face criticism and hostile comments so be prepared. It’s natural for uncomfortable, painful, and unpleasant emotions to be aroused by these events. Allow yourself to experience them.
Above all, it’s important to reaffirm your self-esteem by detaching it from external opinions. Also, learn to set boundaries regarding the comments and actions of others. However, if this task is difficult for you and the hate you’re being subjected to online is significantly affecting your well-being and mental health, don’t hesitate to seek professional support.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Anderson, M. (2014). About 1 in 5 victims of online harassment say it happened in the comments section. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2014/11/20/about-1-in-5-victims-of-online-harassment-say-it-happened-in-the-comments-section/
- Castaño-Pulgarín, S. A., Suárez-Betancur, N., Tilano Vega, L. M., & Herrera López, H. M. (2021). Internet, social media and online hate speech. Systematic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 58, 101608. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/350658863_Internet_social_media_and_online_hate_speech_Systematic_review
- Dougherty, E. (s. f.). Anger Management. The Magazine of Harvard Medical School. https://magazine.hms.harvard.edu/articles/anger-management
- Kucuk, S. U. (2019). Consequences of brand hate. Brand Hate: Navigating Consumer Negativity in the Digital World, 87-101. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327976433_Consequences_of_Brand_Hate_Navigating_Consumer_Negativity_in_the_Digital_World
- Sorokowski, P., Kowal, M., Zdybek, P., & Oleszkiewicz, A. (2020). Are online haters psychopaths? Psychological predictors of online hating behavior. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 553. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00553/full
- Stevens, F., Nurse, J., & Arief, B. (2021). Cyber Stalking, Cyber Harassment, and Adult Mental Health: A Systematic Review. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 24(6). https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cyber.2020.0253