Finding Treasures in the Dirt

How to stop online comments from derailing your mission

March 17, 2015

Just when I was beginning to consider a new topic, as luck had it, an opportunity arose—an opportunity that started out pretty negatively. I wrote a post recently that led to a few snarky comments. The first comment was minor, a grammatical error being noted. Yet the way in which it was addressed was just unpleasant enough to be agitating. Mercifully, the comment was not personally threatening, as I have seen experienced by other women. Instead, it was just enough to incite discussion on the topic of anonymity and online aggression.

So at first, I had my reaction. I felt attacked and vulnerable in a public forum. I felt done with writing.

Yet somewhere I had learned to seek out mentors and supportive colleagues for guidance. What I found was pure treasure. From a sociological listserv (which I highly recommend to anyone interested in gender or culture), I was met with an outpouring of support.

So for others who are unsure of whether to allow yourself to be heard, whether to share your experiences/thoughts/suggestions with the aim of creating positive change, here are a few suggestions and some encouragement I received:

  1. Don’t let it get it you down. You are doing good work, keep it up—when you rock the boat, people will react.

  2. It’s okay to not read the comments, as people are more highly critical and even outright aggressive behind the “mask” of anonymity (as suggested by Afshan Jafar’s post about anonymity online).

  3. It’s okay to not engage with those writing the comments. Often the negative/nasty comments are written to incite a reaction.

  4. As Eleanor Roosevelt said “grow skin as thick as a rhinoceros” (as suggested by Leta Hong Fincher, author of 'Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China', 2014)

Others have been bullied to stopping writing. I hope I don’t have to confront that and that others will also be relieved of threatening comments. But for now, when online bullying is under-addressed, I can look towards others who have persevered and thank them for their honesty and willingness to share their own experience, strength, and hope.


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