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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.