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Breaking into the fat activism and body positive online community as a blogger has been a whirlwind the past three months. One thing I’m struggling with is the amount of hateful messages I receive from readers. The internet trolls, if you will.
Usually, the haters’ messages slide off my back, because they tend to lack imagination and creativity. They jump back and forth between spouting nonsense about the state of my health (of which they have no legitimate information), and pointing out obvious and boring facts about my body. Something like, “You’re so fat. You look like a beached whale.”
Heads up assholes…I’m aware of my size. Most fat people know they’re fat. I’ve even chosen to write publicly about my fatness online. I talk about it frequently. You’re not being very creative.
It’s because of this tough skin I’ve built that makes it even harder to admit that sometimes, not often, but sometimes, the bullies break me. They finally get creative. They evolve. They get smarter and start picking up on my vulnerabilities and using them as ammunition.
I received one of these comments last week. And I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. It was a comment in response to my article How Fatphobia Impacted My Gender Identity, no doubt my most vulnerable piece yet.
I stared at the options below the comment. Approve. Reply. Trash.
I’m going to be honest with you, it’s still sitting in my pending comments. I haven’t decided what to do with it. I keep looking at it. Does this person truly despise my being? Do they really hate trans people that much? I know they hate fat people that much.
Here’s the thing, I’ve paid for many, many hours of therapy to sort out my gender identity. I’ve spent years wondering where I belong on the gender spectrum and if/how it relates to my fatness. That’s why I’m having a hard time letting go of this comment. And in result, it broke me.
I spent the following couple of weeks crawling out of my skin. I struggled to find comfortable clothing, out of the same clothes I wear every day. The dysphoria came back, which I hadn’t felt in a while. I wanted my chest to be smaller (nonexistent maybe?). I was hyper aware of every instance in which my body didn’t move the way I wanted it to. I magnified every moment I couldn’t fit comfortably somewhere. It chipped away at my self worth. It’s like the defenses I built along my body positive journey were demolished.
It wasn’t until I had a bit of a meltdown, crying in bed with my partner holding me, when I realized I needed to do some intentional self care to build those defenses back up. The next morning I took a nice long shower. I was mindful of and kind to my body. I moved slowly and with compassion. I ate foods that made me feel nourished. I got outside in the sunshine. I wrote out my feelings. I started this article.
So, how do I deal with internet trolls?
There are so many approaches to this kind of abuse. I guarantee you, I’ve rotated through them all. I wouldn’t suggest every type. Especially not the meltdown option, but sometimes those happen and that’s okay. I want folks to know that yes, I’m with you. This shit is so hard. It’s frustrating. It hurts. Here’s some options for how to deal with internet trolls.
1. Respond Nastily
“You’re an asshole with zero education, awareness, or critical thinking. Go fuck yourself.”
Not my proudest of moments. But I think we all get fed up from time to time. This works in the moment and can feel really good. Until they get you to say something truly awful. Remember, they want to get a rise out of you. This will probably create more dialogue. If you’re in the space for and want that kind of interaction – go off bby.
2. Passive Aggression
“At least I’m happy and not a complete wreck of a human! 🙂 🙂 🙂 :)”
Also not something I’m super proud of. I have definitely done this. I don’t want to be a person that contributes to the negativity. I don’t want to make people feel like shit, so I tend to steer clear of this option.
3. Compassion and Kindness
“I hope you find peace within yourself really soon, take care.”
Simple and concise. They tend not to respond after that. I’m sure they’re confused by it. But the compassion gets difficult to muster, especially when they so clearly wanted to inflict such harm to begin with. What makes them deserving of my compassion? I couldn’t tell ya. But if you think of it like you’re trying to be kind for yourself, because karma or whatever, choose this one. It feels good to be the bigger person sometimes.
4. Delete and Block
This requires the thickest skin, I think. You have to start reading the comment, see where it’s going, and decide in that moment that it isn’t worth your time. You can’t let your curiosity get to you. You have to decide that you value your mental health, self worth, and all the work you’re doing to be kind to yourself, more than this stranger’s nasty opinion of you. Delete. And then move on.
Move On? I Don’t Know Her.
The problem is when this kind of bullying sticks with you. Its so hard when you catch a glimpse of what they’re saying, and you can’t move on. The internet trolls are evolving. They’re personalizing their hatred. They’re putting in a lot more effort. And that’s what I don’t understand. What makes someone want to be so terrible to someone else?
I heard someone say this once and I think about it often now…happy people don’t try to tear down happy people. I wholeheartedly believe this. I want to keep believing that we as people are inherently good. Then, I keep thinking about how even in my most depressed and self loathing years, I never wanted to break someone the way these folks seem to want to break me. And they did, for a minute. I guess some of us are dealt a healthier dose of compassion than others.
How do you deal with internet trolls? Which response works best for you?
My advice? Delete. Let go. Don’t let them take up space in your head.
it hurt me, as a fat person, to read that comment. i’m sure if someone said something like that to me, it would stick with me. **tw: self injury** there was this one time where my best friend’s boyfriend called me something ~fat typical~ like a beached whale, honestly, i don’t even remember now, but i was feeling very vulnerable as a person and i wound up cutting. this was the only time i ever did that, but i just felt so ashamed for some reason. your advice on utilizing self-care is definitely something i do if i’m feeling weird/dysphoric/crappy about my body, and i thank you for the reminder. i also want to say i appreciate you putting yourself out there for people, like me, who have faced similar instances. i hope that writing about it helped you process it, and thank you for sharing it with us. <3
hi love <3 thank you so much for reading and supporting Comfy Fat. i'm so sorry you've dealt with similar experiences. definitely keep working on that self care, it is truly the most vital step!
An awesome post! I’m enjoying your blog very much. I’m a cis gender, straight woman – probably old enough to be your mother. Funny how on the surface we may seem very different but we are all so very much alike. You’re doing an amazing thing here. Keep on keeping on and try to ignore the noise from those who are letting hate run their lives.
thank you so much for reading and supporting Comfy Fat <3
“Delete. Let go” is generally my favored philosophy… though harder to put into practice than it should be. (I also learned it through academia rather than blogging? So it’s more of a “Disregard that peer review. Let go.”) I also try to remember I don’t actually know what’s going on in others’ heads to have led them to the point of being hostile.
that is very true! we don’t know whats going on in people’s lives. i try to keep that in mind too.
The only effective way to deal with trolls is to NOT respond at all, so yes, your final conclusion is right: let it go. They live from the feedback they get. Like a sadist, if the victim does not show signs of suffering, it gets boring and frustrating. I try to imagine trolls as creatures living in the dark, so they try to steal your shine to bring a little light into their sad world. So we rather have reason to feel sorry for their little existence. And then again – not 😉 We have a saying here in germany, I try to translate: what does it bother the proud oak tree, if a dirty boar rubbs its back against it 🙂
thats a great way of looking at it!
*hugs* I’m so sorry you went through such a horrific experience. The fact you can remain such a wonderful, kind person despite all this abuse speaks volumes of how beautiful your soul is. I really hope people leave you alone. Sending you all the healing vibes possible. ♥
That comment is an incredibly cruel and heartless thing to say. Delete it. It does nothing to serve you.
I’m so very sorry for the pain it has caused you. You have every right to feel so deeply about such an awful comment. But know this: No matter what anyone says or thinks about you, it does not negate your right to exist in this world and to live a life that makes you happy. I know that this is easy to say and not always easy to believe, but it helps me remind me of my person hood when I am hurt by hurtful comments.
You are a wonderful human being who is willing to be vunerable to the world in order to provide love and understanding. Your life has meaning and you deserve happiness. I am so very grateful you have chosen to live your life this way because it has personally helped me very much. I’m sorry that these painful things come with being so authentic and I hope in the future it gets easier.
Thank you so very much for being you. ♥️
I really wish i had a friend like you.
I really wish i had a friend.
I have to deal with hate everywhere i go..i’m a fat and really shy girl, even while playing online games with strangers i get bullied. I end up to be completely alone in the last few month. I wont get out of bed, i’m unable to move, i dont want to things that i loved.
I hope i can take your words as an advice. Thank you for doing this.
hi, i hope you’re doing ok. sorry it took me a few days to respond to this. hang in there friend, it will get better.
Wow, sorry you received such an ugly comment. I don’t know why some people choose to show the ugliest sides of themselves on the internet.
Honestly, when I read the comment, it comes off like the person really hates themself. It’s never about you.. it’s really about how they feel on the inside. Some people think that if they throw negativity at someone else, it will make them feel better. That’s a temporary, superficial way of going about it and very missguided.
Glad to read you’re practicing self care. It works!
DELETE DELETE DELETE! Please do not expand their message! Nobody needs to read that trash. Also, please consider reading Sally Kohn’s “The Opposite of Hate”. She shares how she deals with trolls and haters. It’s a good read. Hope you have a good day, and keep going with your work. You are making a positive difference. Thanks.
First of all, whales are ridiculous amazing and beautiful creatures. I adore whales. They are perfect, just perfect. So , if someone calls us “whale” as an insult, they are just dumies.
Second of all, that internet troll can kiss my big fat ass. All those years, I literally cannot understand one thing:why spend soooooooooooo much time, and soooooooooooooooo much energy (and sometimes creativity) to insult, hurt and deminimize other people rather than spend all this effort to educatate themselves, make peace with their inner self, solve their emotional and psychological problems, etc, etc. It is just pathetic. Some people just need to get a life and minding their own business….!!!!
Third, J, you are amazing. We all know that sometimes it is hard to deal with trolls, especially when they play mind games. But every time , some random troll tries to hurt you, you can just keep your mind busy , thinking of something simple and beautiful from your every day life. And if that doesn’t work, then it doesn’t hurt to “fight back” and give them the response they deserve. Get it out of your system.
I’ve never really understood why people take the time and trouble to be so hateful. My mother always said – if you’ve nothing nice to say, shut the f*** up.
hey gmorning. I have a spouse and he has a son from a previous relationship. the son is a young adult and is a troll! he is the first troll I ever met (that I know of). he likes saying mean things to people–for him it’s like a hobby, something he spends a lot of time on. he’s also into right-wing conspiracy theories and is on websites to interact with other people who are into that. he is a difficult person to be around for me! he has a hard life. he is diagnosed w autism and lives with his mom and step-dad and brother and two half-brothers. he’s tried to work and had difficulty with that. I think being a troll is the way he relates to people. also I think it makes him feel important. also he has a weird sense of humor and I think it engages that. anyway, I’m sorry the turkeys got you down. you are beautiful and good. thanks for helping the world.
The kinds of messages my fat friends and I receive, especially fat feminine folks, fat black and brown folks, and fat queer and trans folks, and fat disabled folks, are unimaginable and inexcusable. Death threats, verbal abuse, name calling, shaming, racism, sexism, transphobia, etc. They tend to include very specific attacks with the main goal of tearing a human being down and shitting on them. Those kinds of behaviors aren’t normal and they aren’t okay. They are abusive. They cause actual harm. Someone has to go very far out of their way to troll someone online and want to make them feel terrible about themselves. I KNOW people are capable of treating others much better than that, even if their lives are challenging and they face adversity. Like, I hear what you’re saying and I know you care for and love your spouse’s son. But I will never excuse trolling. There are far better ways to “relate to people.”
I just found your blog. I can’t even begin to tell you how seen it makes me feel! And I want you to read this comment that I’ve heard before that is similar to the one you related above; “Hurt people, hurt people.”
In other words, folks that are on a path to self understanding, and/or are focused on their own lives and where they’re going, don’t have the time or inclination to hurt other people. Whereas, people who are hurting, are more apt to spend time on trying to put down other people as a way to try to bring themselves up. It doesn’t work for them, btw. They will still feel like crap… Not engaging and blocking is, I think, the best option. Otherwise, part of me gets involved in their baggage. And that’s not what I want to spend my time and energy on.
Thank you for being you! You’ve added something to my life and others too if your comments are any indication. Namaste Laurie
thanks so much for your kind words! it means a lot to me. i agree that not investing your time and energy in people that are clearly working on their own baggage.