Dealing with Trolls in Online Support Communities

Online

Online support communities like MHA’s Inspire can be a safe space for people with mental health conditions to share information and provide comfort to each other.

And a lot of people have found strength in sharing their stories on social media, like with #mentalillnessfeelslike

Most people find an overwhelmingly positive response when they share. But occasionally, a troll comes along and ruins it for everyone.

Trolls used to be limited to fairy tales, but not anymore. Internet trolls are people who bully others online because they enjoy it. It might be because the troll is a young kid who thinks it’s “funny” to say mean things to people. It might be because that person is lonely and angry and wants to make others miserable.

Either way, it’s not fun. You might get a private message from someone telling you to “go kill yourself” or telling you to “get over your problems.” They might even try to post this publicly. Sometimes bullies go far enough to post about you on a blog or Twitter even when they aren’t responding to you, and you find it on your own. Here’s what you can do about this.

  • Report them. Almost every online site has a way for you to contact moderators or administrators. Take advantage of this. If someone is doing this to you, there’s a good chance they’re doing this to other people too.
  • Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t respond or engage with somebody who’s doing something like this. They’re trying to get a rise out of you.
  • Block them. Most sites have an ability to prevent a user from sending you a message.
  • Resist the urge to strike back. It can be fun to briefly entertain thoughts of getting somebody back on social media, especially if you know some embarrassing secret about them… but you may regret that later.
  • Pity them. Turn it on its head for a moment—think how lonely and sad someone must be to do this kind of thing for fun.
  • Turn off the computer and walk away. Go do something fun. Don’t let the bully’s thoughts go to your head.
  • Check in with your support network. Even though you know the person sending the messages is a jerk, it’s normal to feel hurt by what they said. If somebody says something mean to or about you, don’t be afraid to ask for support or validation.

Just remember, if a troll’s bullying has affected the way you feel about yourself, it’s okay to get help. It’s not a sign that your skin isn’t “thick enough,” or that you “need to get over it on your own.” It’s time to reach out to someone you trust, and recognize that you could be feeling the effects of PTSD or another mental health condition.

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