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>


  • sharon2009-11-13 19:23:05

    Ric you have spent many hours trying to drum into my head (with all the grief and negativity that has been aimed at me this year) to not let the negative people get me down and you know how hard I have struggled with doing that. Negativity has been a way of life for me for so long that it has become hard to accept praise and positivity, but with your help i am getting there! So as many people often say 'listen to your own advise'!! we are all better off when we remove sources of negativity from our lives :)

  • Richard2009-11-13 15:42:05

    Vaughan, Chris, Rob & Andy - huge thanks for your positive comments, really appreciated.I'll be blogging for a while yet to come - thanks for the support! :-)

  • Vaughan2009-11-13 10:30:57

    Richard - to bend a well known axiom - those that can "do", those that can't "teach", those that can't teach just snipe and have digs at those that can. You can, and you do. Just keep on at it and ignore the dementors who will suck the life out of anyone who gives them the chance.

  • Chris2009-11-13 00:35:02

    Rich, Well what can I say mate, I agree with both Andy and Rob. I think we all get negative comments about us all the time (some of us more than others :-) ... You just have to take it in your stride and remember that (as you said above) some people are just arseholes and have nothing better to do that put people down. Those kinds of people sicken me. You are seriously one of the best people I know in the industry and have come to respect you so much of the last year or so that I have got to know you, and you really have helped me so much in my business, in more ways that you would imagine. Most people aspire to be Bill Gates or someone famous.. I aspire to be Richard Tubb and that really is the truth. I for one, and I know many others enjoy reading your blogs, Twitter and Facebook posts and you always bring inspiration to many people through these blogs. So please, please don’t stop . Life would not be the same without our daily dose of tubblog. Well done on this blog and the others you have done and keep them coming.

  • Rob2009-11-12 21:06:15

    I wholly agree with Andy, another great posting Rich. The thing about negative feedback is that it is not always meant 'personnally' in so much as it is meant at the person however as humans we tend to take things personnally regardless of intention. I have always felt that there are really two types of people in the world; Those who are good at what they do and have nothing to prove, and there are those that can only look good by making others look bad. I am sure we can all think of people that fall in to both categories.You, like others, go around and wear your 'heart on your sleeve' by being very open and sharing with others around you which is fantastic and to be quite honest is unusal. That action though does leave you open to criticism which can be both constructive and unconstructive but also unfounded and ill-deserved.Whenever critism is received it should be treated on an individual basis and weighed up on it's own merits. From personal experience I can testify that the way that you conduct yourself both online and offline is an example of how to work with others. The amount of time that you have given to me without looking at 'whats in it for me' is refreshing to say the least and has been work-life changing.With regard to the many 'jollies' that you take, on the face of it that is what they are. However, in reality that is not the case. When you travel long distances to conferences, seminars etc people see that you're off for a 'jolly' at the companies expense when in reality it is a long trip involving airport lounges, plane meals (urgh), hotel rooms. Then you have the 'networking' side where you have to look your best and be overly happy from dawn until dust as this is business; no-one wants to do business with someone that is miserable or complaining. Then when the conference is all done and you can sigh with relief it may be a quick wander around the locale before you catch the plane/training/bus back home again. It IS work, just a different kind of work but much more intense as you don't go home in the middle.Listen to those close to you as they are the one's that have your best interests at heart. Do keep up the great work, for the greater community and for yourself :-)

  • Andy2009-11-12 19:53:26

    I think this is an excellent post Richard. You and many of the people we both know are amazing at what they do. We battle through the bad times with a smile and look for the next challenge.I recently interviewed someone for a position in my company and they seemed so unsure of themselves it was uncomfortable yet they showed me their past work and I was impressed. Now I didn't take them on purely because there was a better candidate more suited to my company, but had another position been open I would have. I think they have been put down so many times for one reason or another they have lost faith in themselves and that is wrong.on the other side of the fence is humour, or sometimes intended humour not taken the right way. I'm saying this because when someone finds something funny they tend to hang on to it and continue with it even though the recipient may not find it the same way. I am a culprit of this as are many others and if I thought it offended anyone I would hope they told me straight away because I would immediately stop.I will also say that the things you have achieved are extremely good and you deserve all the praise you can get so if ever you are feeling down remember you are way ahead of many others in a lot of the things you do. There are many people including myself who want to work with you, want to party with you and if there was an event you could benefit from they would want you there.My post isn't just aimed at you either. Anyone feeling bullied, down, sore or incapable needs to think about the things they can do that others can't and you'll see you are much better at some things than anyone else. We all have skills, we all have dreams, together it's time we combined our personal efforts and felt good about ourselves and others.well done mate, on this blog, on this post and on everything you have done for you and for others just by posting this.

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