I sat in a session at a conference the other day. The panel of experienced speakers fielded questions from the audience on how to be a blogger. "How do you do this," they asked, "What do you do when..." they puzzled. It never fails that THE question comes up. This is the question that brings into visibility popular blogger hate sites, mean comments, and critics. "How," we always ask, "do you deal with mean comments and Trolls on your blog." I've always thought this is the wrong question. I don't think we should learn to deal with them. We should learn to deal with ourselves and the buttons in us these mean spirited commenters push. I won't begrudge anyone who feels they need to close comments, delete attacks, or altogether block folks. But I don't think figuring out how to have "thicker skin" or manage the discomfort is the right path.
St. Ambrose remarked that "no one heals himself by wounding another." These commenters know what they are doing. They aren't looking to learn, to grow, or to connect. At a point, you have to say to yourself they need that hate. They need all the dark and hate and mean to hold them in whatever place they are in to avoid whatever they are avoiding... and once you realize that, you realize that you have happened upon a person so deeply in need of your compassion---because they'd rather to exist in a space that rejects softening and kindness for daggers. That space has no water and very little light and is usually filled with voices that haunt. You and I know that place because we've been there at times, and in hard moments we'll find ourselves there as visitors... even just for moments.
So we should stop asking how we can protect ourselves from these interactions. We should lean into the discomfort and let those moments when someone calls you ugly or stupid or dumb in an anonymous comment inform the gravitas of your writing.
Why did it get to you? Is it because you do feel ugly? Write about it.
Why do you bristle at being called stupid. Is it because you adopted that belief as a child and it still informs some of your fear and self doubt? Write about it.
Let each dagger be a moment to reflect and write about your truth and your power.
Can we redeem the whole internet? Nah, dawg.... have you seen some of that bullshit? It would take a mighty big existential broom to handle that mess.
We can redeem our own URL spaces. We can learn to not be afraid of the voices of the haters...even the voices of the haters in our own heads.