How to deal with on-line negativity


Negativity(I thought twice before posting this article as my fear is it might offend someone I’ve interacted with recently. If you read this and have a sudden feeling of “Oh! He’s writing about me!” then please believe me – I’m not writing about you!)

It’s well documented that British actor Stephen Fry is a big user of the Social Networking site Twitter. Fry (aka @StephenFry) has almost 1 million followers on the site, and is the first name that the British Press and Media use when they are talking about Twitter.

With so many followers and members of the general public to interact with, Mr. Fry must get all manner of feedback – positive and negative. As a high profile figure, I’m sure he generally shrugs off the negative comments, but do they ever get to him? Fry is a sufferer of Bi-Polar Disorder, also known as Manic Depression, a condition where his mood can become ultra-negative very easily – so surely reading negative feedback affects him occasionally?

Negativity towards Stephen Fry

A couple of weeks ago, it did – a fellow Twitter user made a negative comment to the effect of he found Stephen Fry’s updates boring, and Mr. Fry reacted.

Storm in a teacup

The whole thing blew over within 24 hours, with the respective parties apologising – but not before the story had made news on the BBC News Web-Site, amongst other media outlets. A storm in a tea-cup perhaps, but one I followed with interest and in fact a genuine concern for both parties as I watched the story unfold on Twitter. Fry was obviously feeling low and overly sensitive (although this is debatable) and his detractor, who seems a good sort judging by his usual behaviour, probably never expected Fry to read his comments, let alone get a response, let alone become Public Enemy Number One as a result.

It’s obvious that the higher your profile is raised, and the more you share of yourself with people, the more likely you are to attract negative feedback. It’s seemingly unavoidable.

My experiences

I’ve been blogging for 5 years or more now, and using Social Networking sites for many years too. Whilst I’m no Stephen Fry in terms of profile – the visitor statistics for this blog reveal to me that it gets read by many hundreds of people each day, and there are probably around 300-500 people that I regularly communicate with via sites like Twitter and Facebook, both personally and professionally, each month.

Up until recently, I’ve been more than fortunate to not receive any real negative feedback whatsoever. In fact, the opposite is true. I regularly receive e-mails and messages that are really positive – thanking me for sharing my experiences, writing articles on the blog, asking my advice, or generally just being friendly. This is the stuff that brings a smile to my face and put a spring in my step without fail.

This year I’ve grown my company, rode out the recession, travelled a lot to some wonderful places, found a fabulous new Business Partner and team, spent time with amazing and talented people who I’ve learnt a lot from, and generally been very happy with my lot in life. I post about my experiences regularly on Social Networking sites, not to brag, but to share with my friends and colleagues because, well, this is my life and what else would I talk about, right?

How to deal with On-Line Negativity

However, recently I’ve noticed something. Whilst I’m hardly receiving hate mail, people are taking the time to leave comments and send e-mails that aren’t exactly positive. In fact, I’ve read a few of them and actually wondered why they’ve taken the time to write the comments at all. What response did they want from me, if any?

  • Perhaps (and most likely) is that I’m being over sensitive. I don’t deal with non-constructive criticism very well and know I need to work on my emotional toughness both personally and in business.
  • It could be that the medium of electronic communication isn’t conveying the senders intended message. Perhaps they didn’t intend on being so negative, it just came across that way.
  • It’s a strong possibility that people think I’m being arrogant or showing off. If somebody’s view of me is based on what they read about me on-line, they’ll probably get the impression I never do any “proper” work, that I spend all my time travelling and doing cool stuff with interesting people. The reality is, I just don’t tend to post the boring and negative stuff – who wants to read that stuff?!
  • It’s possible that the messages are meant teasingly. I’m famous for winding up friends and the people who are closest to me, so I probably (no, definitely!) need to realise when others are giving me a taste of my own medicine and winding me up in cyberspace as they do in real life!
But there’s another darker thought that lurks into my mind – that the people who send those negative messages do so because they are simply arseholes (or ass-holes, if you’re reading this from the United States…).

Dealing with Pessimists and Negative Thinkers

In “real life” I’ve come across folk who try to pull you down, never have a kind word, and are generally so self-absorbed that I’ve made sure to exclude them from my personal and professional life. Surround yourself with positive, successful people, you’ll be more positive and successful too. Life is too short to spend it with the moaners and the takers! I’m sure the same is true in the virtual world.

[tweet_box design=”default”]Surround yourself with positive, successful people and you’ll be more positive and successful too.[/tweet_box]

I’ve had this blog post in my head for a week or more now after I recently had my “Stephen Fry” moment. Some negative on-line feedback genuinely made me question whether I enjoyed my on-line life, and made me consider closing my Facebook account down, giving up Twitter and not writing any more blog posts.

I haven’t, of course, and realise that just like in “real life” I’ll need to build some personal strategies for dealing with negative people in the virtual world – but there are times when you wonder if it’s worth it or not!


I think the reality of this situation lies somewhere between the above points. I’m probably a bit too sensitive, that messages can be read wrong, that I’m a bit arrogant and that people are trying to take me down a peg or two, but at the same time, there are plenty of folk who like nothing better than to take a pop!

I’d be interested in hearing your views and thoughts. This, of course, opens me up for all sorts of personal abuse – but hopefully in amongst the slanging there will be some positive feedback! <grin>

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