As cliché as it may sound, it is very true. You will have to learn it the hard way to believe it. No matter if you are nice to everyone or employ democratic techniques to try to balance all the sides, you can never please everyone at the same time. It is something that you have to live with and get accustomed to. The only way you can avoid this is do nothing with your life (and even then, you will be getting comments about how lazy you are).
This is more evident online. Individuals and brands get criticized and bashed all the time. It is easier to criticize because most people don’t realize that at the other side of the screen, there is a living breathing human being that will be affected by their words. If it were an offline conversation, most people will tend to consider the consequences of their words more and try to be diplomatic in order not to hurt the individual they are criticizing. Possibly the most negative aspect of social media is that it eliminates the human aspect from communication and that’s what the online community needs to be aware of.
Negativity on the internet can take a lot of shapes and forms. Constructive criticism (without passive aggressiveness) should always be welcome to improve oneself or a brand. Anyone who does not accept such feedback is considered to be a whiny close-minded know-it-all. There is always room for improvement and people should be able to take this into consideration without getting upset.
Other forms of negativity can and will cause tensions between people. Many arise from simple misunderstandings or false judgments, especially online where the tone of a person or the context cannot always be inferred. In this case, I invite the different parties involved to engage in a constructive dialogue to straighten out the dilemma. It is really not that hard to drop the person an e-mail or a direct message to get on the same page.
The worst form of negativity is hatred and bullying and it seems this is very popular on the interwebs. From teenagers getting bullied using anonymous services like ask.fm (where it resulted in suicide on some occasions) to upfront bullying due to the green monster of jealousy or inability to have an open mind when differing opinions on a certain topic occur. I am not stranger to this type of negativity; at first I did not really know how to handle it. Believe me, it is not an easy thing to encounter unjustified abhorrence from a community that you are working so hard to improve while receiving no material gain whatsoever.
The obvious reaction is to fight back. But it is rarely the right move; it will only cause more virtual bloodshed. If you are representing a brand, there is only one approach that you can take to handle the issue gracefully. Try to communicate with the person and figure out the problem and try to fix it using professional communication and customer service tools. You always have to be the bigger person to preserve the image of your brand and gain the respect of your audience.
If it a personal attack, you can always try being the bigger person. I have recently published an open letter to the Lebanese online community to try and mend fences and fix misunderstandings which worked with a few people. But that’s not the only option. As a person, you do not have to put up with the hatred and the bullying, especially that it will get to you at some point and you will explode (and it will not be pretty). It is very plausible and highly advisable at this point to make use of the BLOCK button which is conveniently present on all social networks. If you think that the negativity that you are receiving is unjustified and you are doing your best to right your wrongs but the other side is not cooperating, you do not have to take it. Not reading and ignoring is your best solution. Of course, you can always try yoga as a stress-reliever, but I’m starting to doubt how effective it is to handle such situations.
To wrap things up, success will always attract the wrong crowd and sometimes it will get on your nerves. Pure jealousy on other people’s part can be medicated by simply including them or engaging them in your plans. Other times, it cannot be remedied, mostly because people criticize the faults of others before assessing their own. As long as you believe in what you are doing and are giving it your best, the opinions of jealous haters should not put you down, but rather only prove your success and incentivize you to advance. As Winston Churchill said: “You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life,” and that should be your motto.
This piece was originally published as the editorial for the New Year issue of Cloud 961 magazine, which you can download for free here: http://bit.ly/cloud961-7.
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