Negative People – Dealing with Online Negativity

If you participate in any online community including message boards, blogs, or Yahoo! Answers, you have likely encountered a fair number of negative people. Negative people will often inundate you with negative posts or bad comments.

Visit the Yahoo! Financial message boards, and you will see that the bulk of postings are content free and negative.

Other online communities, such as Facebook and Hubpages are much better, but negative people still abound.

Why are there so many nasty people online?

What do they gain from their online negativity? And how do we deal with these negative people?

Why So Many Negative People?

1. It is easier to spread online negativity.

It is easier to pull down than to build up” ~~[Latin Proverb]

Criticizing and destroying someone else’s ideas take very little thought, whereas building upon an idea and making it better takes creativity and a fair chunk of time.

Still though, one can just say nothing.

So why be negative?

  • Some people like hearing themselves talk.
  • Some people feel better about themselves when they put others down.
  • Some people think it is witty or clever to use sarcasm.
  • Some people feel emotionally rejected when their praise is ignored, so it is safer to criticize.
  • Some people are having a bad day, so they lash out at others.
  • Some people want to cause fear, sadness, or embarassment in others because it makes them rich or powerful. (e.g. short sellers, politicians).
  • Some people don’t know they are being negative.

2. It is easier to believe in the negative.

It is human nature to skip over or disbelieve the praise, and hold on to the criticism.

Negative online comments affects us more so we respond more quickly and more frequently to it, and we also remember it for much longer.

Because negative comments often get the most responses, some people are negative just to be heard.

3. It is easier to assume the worst.

Online comments do not usually have the best written, most well thought out prose. Many are quickly written, while the author is multi-tasking on other computer tasks. As a result, online comments often get misconstrued negatively.

When there is lack of clarity …

it is human nature to assume the worst.

4. It is easier to resist change.

Accepting new ideas is difficult.

When a new thought is suggested, our reflex is to shoot it down. In fact, that is what we are taught to do in our education system. “Critical thought” has been so warped in our society that many understand it as being critical of others; rather than thinking critically inside our heads.

We can exercise critical thought without expressing our thoughts critically.

Dealing with Negative People Tip 1

Dalai Lama

You cannot fight fire with fire.

Our reflex is to respond negatively to something negative. Often, this just makes things worse and very quickly escalates into a flame war. In the end, nothing is learned and everybody walks away unhappy.

The best way to fight negative people is through positive communication. Reward comments that you like, and ignore or delete comments that are negative and content free.

Sometimes, it may be necessary to respond to a negative comment that has good content. In such cases, be as unemotional as possible, and make your arguments with just the facts. If you are able to phrase things positively then so much the better.

Use humor and common ground to dispel negative feelings. Criticism, and insults push people away from your way of thinking; while information, positive language, and humor, may bring them closer.

Many people respect the Dalai Lama and go to him for advice. The Dalai Lama is a very intelligent man who has many insightful things to say; but the key reason so many people flock to him is because he elevates their spirit. He doesn’t use critical or judgemental language, and he has great empathy for others.

When you use positive reinforcement, everybody learns something, and nobody walks away unhappy.

Dealing with Negative People Tip 2

Do not give negative people power over you.

Because we participate in a community, our self-image, is to some extent, dependent on what others say about us. The trick, of course, is to control how much it matters.

To lessen the impact of negative rhetoric:

  • Try to analyze negative comments purely from an informational standpoint. Filter out all the negative language and consider just the bald arguments. In fact, an automatic online tool that is able to filter out negative language would be a very useful tool indeed.
  • Catch yourself if you start to feel any negative emotions and remind yourself not to take it personally. If you cannot do that, take a break and do something else that is positive, interactive, and interesting. For example, I will go and play with my dogs and give them a tummy rub.
  • When you have made all the progress that you can in a discussion, leave it and move on. Sometimes people may just have to agree to disagree and leave it at that.

Remember that you will never be happy if you are always worried about what others say about you. There is no reason to give such power over to anyone, especially not online negative people.

Sometimes, online negativity is generated by what people say about themselves. There are many, especially in online communities, who sing their own praises and trumpet out their achievements.

Perhaps they are happy, perhaps they need a confidence boost, or perhaps they are just looking for attention. Whatever the case, such comments may incite envy or jealousy. Block such negative energy by taking a break and reciting the following quote:

Envy consists in seeing things never in themselves, but only in their relations. If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon, but Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander, and Alexander, I daresay, envied Hercules, who never existed.” ~~[Bertrand Russell]

Dealing with Negative People Tip 3

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

To build a fun community that you would like to be in, you must show by example.

If enough people show good manners and courteous conduct, others will follow. New users who insist on spreading online negativity will ultimately be driven out because he/she will just be ignored.

It is no fun to provoke and not get a reaction.

Dealing with Negative People Tip 4

Speak up.

If you are really bothered by someone in a community, let them know that their language is a bit extreme and politely ask them to turn it down a few notches.

Frequently, people may not be aware that their comments can be interpreted in a negative way. When told, they will usually apologize and/or be more careful with future comments. If you continue to feel harassed by a user, do not be afraid to report him/her to the community moderators.

One bad apple should not be allowed to spoil it for everyone.

Dealing with Negative People Tip 5

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Join a variety of communities and see which ones you like best.

You may want to stay active in several communities so that you have multiple support groups. If you start feeling online negativity from one community, there are others you can visit. Being in multiple communities also help with spreading your work and ideas to a larger audience.

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  1. Dax says

    Really interesting article, and beyond on-line forums I find people can be very negative thru emails and text messages and I got up thinking does the electronic world bring out the negative like a nature/ nurture thing


  2. HHCD says

    What a terrific Article this is.
    For the past 12 months i’posted on 2 forums on a regular basis.99% of posters never stop moaning.I found it was getting to me! I’ve given up with the mishogs after i read this great hub.

  3. Tyjos says

    Excellent Article, I myself am on the “Break Period” after dealing with considerable negativity in online forums for the past couple years.
    I’ve had more than my fair share of encounters with negative people,especially those who try to infect you with it.
    Really hate those places where they give you public lashings just for how you are, where those who can get away with the real bad stuff get off free from any consequences. Those places and most of the net is avoided now since at least this time I’m recovering from overexposure too it now.
    Been thinking so much better now since leaving those places, one place was so bad it churned my stomach to say the least but that was prob due to my negative mindset from encountering a place [Avoid large fandom sites,especially for ones that are full of the unhappy folk]
    But a very interesting Article.

    • Aya Hajime says

      Thanks Tyjos.

      “I’ve had more than my fair share of encounters with negative people,especially those who try to infect you with it.”

      Yeah, misery loves company. As you say, much better to just avoid the unhappy folk.
      HubPages is actually one of the better online communities that I have joined.

  4. MarloByDesign says

    What nice Hub. I wrote a Hub on ‘Ending a relationship with a negative person’, but never thought of your comment “Catch yourself if you start to feel any negative emotions and remind yourself not to take it personally” – what great advice. Excellent Hub! I rated it ‘awesome’.

  5. dawny22 says

    Negative peoples opinions are poison, always try to be positive in your attitudes. search online for 100 ways to motivate yourself and share it with others.
    Great blog
    Kind regards

  6. Holly says

    I use to belong to a social networking blog called Yahoo 360.It’s closed now but when I first started I developed online friendships with witty funny sarcastic people that were pretty much one of the drama crowds,at first it was fun and like a looser who was blocked and had no real healthy social life I sat at my P.C and spent hours interacting with them,flaming the uncool people and getting involved in the drama like a 40 something looser who was feeling elated because unlike hight school the cool group had accepted her,only in cyber space,over time other people who interacted and were fighting with other drama groups started flaming me and sometimes I’d respond.In the end it got so bad I had my compter hacked by another woman I had a argument with.
    It goit so bad on Yahoo 360 I’m glad it was shut down,people were creating fake insulting pages of eachother ect…. hacking eachothers compters and turning on eachother. It was like cyber gangs or high school in space!
    In the end I followed some of them over to facebook but came to grips with the fact they’re troble and my real information couldn’t be trusted with them.
    It’s been a few years now bt I look back in embarrassment on how I got caught up in that at my age. I take responsibility for being involved in that. I learned alot and that I had no life at the time.LOL

    • Aya Hajime says

      You bring up many good points. It is often very tempting to join the “cool people” club for many reasons. When I was in high school I joined out of fear. If I didn’t join, I would be the one that they ganged up on.

      Like you, I finally got really sick of the nasty people running the club and left. I am so glad I did it. Nasty groups like that only bring everybody down including its own members. Once people decide not to participate, the nasty people lose all of their power and usually leave.

      I don’t know if the nasty girl that ran things derived any satisfaction from it – if so, she must have had some serious personal issues.

      This is a very interesting topic – and as you point out, it is a social situation that can happen at any age.

  7. Aya Hajime says

    [Am I dead, yet?] – Thanks for visiting and thanks for your very positive words about my art. I really enjoy drawing because it is yet another way to refocus my head away from the negative.

    [countrywomen] – I very much agree with you. I think it takes a lot more effort to cut through the muck with negative people, so there are only so many you can support. Life is definitely too short to spend it worrying about negative people.

    [quicksand] – “You would be a valuable participant in that show. But … bring your dogs along. I may need them!”
    LOL quicksand. I don’t think my kung-fu is high level enough. I could rent out my dogs for attack support, but they really are much better at giving licks – so they would be pretty useless too :)

    [marinealways] – “In somes cases, the emotions will write rather than logic.”
    Very true. One of the really good lessons I learned from the Forums early on is not to take heated words spoken in the moment too personally.

  8. Am I dead, yet? says

    Well stated and so true, so true. negativity has altered my way of life. it is so much easier to tune a negative individual out online. Such beauty in your artwork…great hub, I definitely enjoyed my visit.

  9. countrywomen says

    I voted for sometimes. Since those who are closest to me I tend to value there opinion a lot. But sometimes even a stranger by making insensitive comments about my family tends to be equally hurting. I guess as they say “misery loves company”. Sometimes those who are negative may not have a very positive life personally and try to reflect it on others. Touch wood I have been blessed with wonderful family/friends, good colleagues and now a loving husband.  I guess I always feel blessed to count the joys and look at the positives I possess rather than worrying about somethings I don’t have. Thumbs up for an excellent hub.

    • Aya Hajime says

      countrywomen – Always good to see you.
      I think there are some people who are just naturally more negative than others. My mom for example, is a bit like that :)
      I think I inherited some of it from her so I always try to be very aware of whether I am thinking or expressing myself negatively. I think doing so may hurt others and ultimately end up hurting my own quality of life even more.
      However, I also think that there are people who are very self centered and do not really care how they treat others. There was this one guy at work who was like that – a lot of ego and really into resource competition.
      Whatever the reasons it can wear you down because you have to endure their company almost every day, and it can be difficult to stay positive in the face of such careless dickishness :)

    • countrywomen says

      I agree there would be some people who are self centered and for some of them they can never have gaps in there understanding. And to fill there gaps they may even resort to stereotypes or generalizations. I have sometimes faced such folks. But I tend to look at the positives from each such experience. There is only so much I can do to build a relationship and beyond it if a person isn’t keen on having a good relationship with me then I let it go. After all life is too short to wonder about the few I may have left behind compared to the many that are waiting to get on board with me 😀

  10. Mighty Mom says

    This is spot on. Although I’d say the ratio of good apples to bad apples here on HP is probably 5:1 or maybe more, the negativists really stand out, don’t they? I sometimes see a hub or forum thread that looks really interesting, but one glance through the vitriolic comments and I just go away quietly to somewhere else.
    Besides the obvious trolls among us, I think there is a type of hubber who just likes to spar. Debating is a sport, and being able to engage in it profciently takes talent. There are not very many people that fall into this category, but a few.
    One final comment and then I’ll shut up. What’s neat about HP is the willingness of others to jump in and support someone who’s being attacked. I’ve seen some very eloquently written put-down comments from some otherwise calm, cool and generally positive hubbers in defense of other hubbers. Now THAT’S a COMMUNITY!

    • Aya Hajime says

      “Debating is a sport, and being able to engage in it proficiently takes talent”

      I agree. However, debating intellectually is very different from personal and mean spirited attacks. There were many people that loved engaging in debates in college – some were able to keep it civil by just debating the points, others would resort to personal attacks. It is often difficult to keep personal ego out of intellectual debates.

      “What’s neat about HP is the willingness of others to jump in and support someone who’s being attacked”

      That is certainly true some of the time, although new members do get ganged up on sometimes.
      In general I think HP is a pretty friendly place compared to many other online communities, but sometimes the Forums is really like a soap opera :)

  11. James A Watkins says

    This is just a load of crap!!!
    I’m just kidding!  I loved it.  You speak the truth and you speak it well.  I just wanted to mess with you because I am mischievous!

  12. quicksand says

    I read this article from top to bottom, and the comments too. However I have nothing to add.
    What? Did I hear you breathe a sigh of relief?

    • Aya Hajime says

      lol – you have nothing to add because you are awed by brilliance or disgusted by stupidity? Big difference – same end result 😉

    • quicksand says

      I am awed by the brilliance!
      However a little bit of negativity is needed sometime. This is purely to curb euphoria caused by sheer optimism.
      By the way, why don’t you visit the atheists’ forum sometime? Bring your dogs along please!

    • marinealways24 says

      I agree that negativity must be had with positivity also for balance. If we were all thinking positive, we would all be thinking alike. If we were all thinking alike, someone wouldn’t be thinking.

    • James A Watkins says

      i saw some graffiti once that said, “Life is but a contradiction.”
      And below it, somebody painted, “No it’s not.”

    • Aya Hajime says

      “If we were all thinking positive, we would all be thinking alike. If we were all thinking alike, someone wouldn’t be thinking.”

      Very well said. I certainly think that differences in opinions should be voiced and topics should be analyzed critically. But there are different ways to voice opinions – and some ways are better than others :)

    • marinealways24 says

      ” But there are different ways to voice opinions – and some ways are better than others :)
      Agreed. I refer to this as tact. I think a lot of people like myself in the past have spoken from emotions rather than logic. In somes cases, the emotions will write rather than logic.

    • Aya Hajime says

      “However a little bit of negativity is needed sometime. This is purely to curb euphoria caused by sheer optimism”

      Hahaha – I like that. Greenspan’s term for this is “irrational exuberance”.

      “By the way, why don’t you visit the atheists’ forum sometime? Bring your dogs along please!”

      LOL – The few times I have dropped in I got sucked into just *one* thread, and spent pretty much the whole day reading all of the few hundred posts.
      It is dangerous – too much like a soap opera or a reality show :)

    • quicksand says

      “It is dangerous – too much like a soap opera or a reality show”
      Cool, you have analysed it pretty well. You would be a valuable participant in that show. But … bring your dogs along. I may need them!

  13. droj says

    “We can exercise critical thought without expressing our thoughts critically”. I like that. But what I like most about this hub is that it is universally applicable; this stuff applies to any type of communication, not just *online* interactions. As I was reading, I was thinking mostly about interactions and discussions at work where people often butt heads. This frame of mind would be helpful there.

    • Aya Hajime says

      “I was thinking mostly about interactions and discussions at work where people often butt heads”

      Yikes – office politics – I hate that more than anything in the world. Probably even more that plagiarisers :) Have had some not so great experiences with office politics – and some of those people you really can’t avoid.
      The advantage of online interactions is that you have time to go away and regroup. Much harder to do that in face-to-face.
      Still you are right that many of the same techniques can be used – just harder to implement.

  14. Nancy's Niche says

    Good article—The thing to remember is this, no one can make you feel bad about yourself or your ideas without your help…

    • Aya Hajime says

      “no one can make you feel bad about yourself or your ideas without your help…”

      That is very true. Still, sometimes it is tough not to ‘help’ them :) It is really too easy to believe in the bad stuff. However, knowing is the first step :)

  15. fortunerep says

    So many people as myself love online forums and such. The negativity is uncalled for but where you have people you have opinions and then comes controversey. Some are just plain childish. They jump to the forums especially the Religion Forum and that is where most of it is. There is no polite way to say back off or write a hub you are hurting my feelings, example: the other day I posted a thread about locating my uncle after writing a hub about him. He is the only person on my fathers side of the family that I have spoken to at all, I was elated and I opened up a thread stating, “How do I know if it was really my uncle” thinking maybe someone out there would be able to tell me how to track his comment, for he commented on my hub about him. The first person that answered my thread said “ask your uncle” I replied that his smirky remark was uncalled for and then proceeded to get slammed because apparently I should have known this. I was sooooo happy and I allowed one person i don’t even know to ruin my day. I am about to the point where I don’t belong on forums, just write, comment on others and mind my own business. If you are here to find friends they are far and few in my opinion. But that’s bing negative isn’t it?

    • Aya Hajime says

      Sorry to hear about your bad experiences. I had a few unpleasant experiences as well when I first joined HubPages.

      “just write, comment on others and mind my own business”

      Actually that is what I usually do. The Forums can be a major time sink – even if you discount all the other aspects. Sometimes I get hooked on a thread and spend the whole day reading it – lol.
      However, I have also gotten a lot of useful information from the Forums, so I try to look in whenever I have the chance. But nowadays I fight the temptation of getting sucked into the more controversial discussions.
      Don’t give up on the HubPages community. There are very many cool and interesting people. I really enjoy many of the people here and just avoid the ones that bring me down :) HubPages is actually one of the best online communities I have participated in.
      Good luck with your uncle!

  16. Randy says

    This was a very proactive read :) I think I’m too sensitive to negativity and conflict, it poisons me. I have to remove myself or I get sick. I’ve gotten to the point that I’m flat out afraid of the forums. I’m like a little sponge, so I need to hang out where the water is clean. Thanks for sharing your lovely thoughts.

    • Aya Hajime says

      “I think I’m too sensitive to negativity and conflict”

      Yeah I am the same way. I think I have gotten a lot better wrt. to HubPages tho. I realized that for some, it is just their natural way of talking and they talk like that to everyone – even their friends :) So nowadays I just chalk it up to ‘communication style’.
      Still, I will stay away from the people who are really unhappy, and are just there to attack others. They are mostly there to vent or get attention so ignoring them works out well I think.

  17. RooBee says

    Great one! You make so many good points that I can’t pick just one to praise. Excellent stuff, and very well written as usual. I miss having a dog, too! :)

    • Aya Hajime says

      Hello my favorite owl! Thanks for dropping by. From what I have seen in the Forums you are already more of an expert in dealing with negativity than I am :) Glad you joined HubPages! – you are a very positive force.

  18. Brenda Scully says

    I agree whole heartedly with everything you said, wish I had a dog…. Lovely hub look forward to reading more…..

    • Aya Hajime says

      Hi Brenda – thanks for dropping by. Yeah dogs are really great to have. My dog can be very challenging sometimes but he is also extremely funny. Still – I sometimes wish he would dial down his naughty side :)

  19. rchicaferro says

    This needed saying and you said it in your usual concise manner – – sometimes I think that positive people are doing something other then bashing someone or something on line – – – positive people are out walking their dogs!! :)

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