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WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC LANGUAGE AND EXAMPLES OF AGGRESSIVE COMMENTS I'VE RECEIVED FROM READERS.
Keep the Tail Wagging® is a personal blog where I share what I'm learning as I raise five dogs (I started with two dogs). I don't call myself an expert, I don't pretend to be a veterinarian or a nutritionist, and I don't offer consultations. I share my experience and if someone asks me a question that I can't answer, I respond with a proud “I don't know.”
I started this blog over eight years ago when we only had Rodrigo and Sydney. Over the years, I've documented what I've learned about raising dogs on this website. I blog because it's fun. I blog about dogs because I love dogs. And despite how long I've had dogs or this blog, there is still so much more to learn. Including how to deal with assholes who have nothing better to do than send nasty messages.
The Negative Comments I Usually Receive
Most of the negative comments I receive are from people who think my blog sucks. And I've learned not to take these comments personally. I'm not everyone's cup of tea – I'm my own cup of tea, so I made a t-shirt – LOL. When I'm doing research for my dogs it can be frustrating because the Internet is a compilation of a massive amount of information and sometimes it feels like most of the information is false or someone's opinion – and I'm contributing to this hot mess of data. When I come across an article that doesn't work for me, then I click away and continue my search. It has never occurred to me to send a message to the blogger (or leave a comment) shaming them for not answering my question or telling them that I don't plan to read their blog anymore.
I just move on.
Although the above email is harsh, there are two positive takeaways. For a period of time, this person thought I was at the level of Dr. Karen Becker, Rodney Habib, and Dr. Jean Dodds. Wow! It's always fun to take a compliment from a not so positive message. Second, this feedback put into words something that I've been struggling with for a while – do I still want to be a content creator in the pet space? The short answer is “Yes,” but instead of battling kibble brands, bickering about balanced diets, and being a contestant in a popularity contest, I just want to celebrate raising healthy dogs.
I'm not trying to be Dr. Becker, Dr. Dodds, or Rodney Habib. I'm just Kimberly, your friendly neighborhood crazy dog mom.
Other messages I get usually challenge my right to share information. People want to know about my qualifications. As if raising five dogs and feeding them a raw food diet doesn't qualify me to share my experiences with others. Whenever I get these messages/comments, I'm tempted to ignore them because I don't understand why it matters. I'm not diagnosing illnesses, I'm sharing stories about my life with my dogs and what I'm learning on this journey. The only qualifications I need are dogs, the ability to make observations, and the willingness to learn and share.
Social Media Turns People into Assholes
When I get nasty emails, messages, or comments, the unemotional side of me recognizes that people are assholes. There's no getting around it, we all know it, and each of us has had an asshole moment of our own. And, thanks to my role as a content creator, I get to engage with assholes all the time. So, let's talk about the unemotional response to harsh feedback:
- Haters gonna hate.
- Don't let strangers steal your joy.
- The person can't even spell, so why take their words to heart?
- Shake it off.
- Hurt people hurt people.
- They're just jealous.
- Everyone else loves you, this is just one person.
And, finally, the message that goes through my head is “obviously the person hit upon the truth if this upsets you; maybe it's time for you to think about why this is triggering you.” Whenever I have a reaction to someone's words, I have to think about why I care. The answer is “because I'm a human being.” It sucks when people talk shit about you or throw shade your way. And when you're a person who lives with anxiety and depression, it can take a little longer to shake this shit off.
But, on my good days, the negativity just cracks me up because – really – do they not have a job or hobby or something better to do with their time than harass me about how I feed my dogs?
Should You Respond to Nasty Comments?
I hear from people who want to start a blog, vlog, or Facebook page to share their experience raising dogs and feeding a diet of fresh food. The one thing that holds everyone back is fear of being trolled on social media. So, this is where I'm going to be blunt because, frankly, I'm tired of tiptoeing around this topic. There are assholes everywhere and if you're worried that you're going to encounter an asshole, then you shouldn't start a blog, you should shut down your social media channels, quit your job, move to the country and become a recluse. There is no getting around assholes either online or in real life. So, should you respond to the nasty comments?
What Mood Space Are You In?
When I get a nasty comment, my mood determines how I deal with the comment. If I'm feeling anxious and stressed, then negative comments should be ignored. Sadly, I don't always follow this guideline, but in 2020, I'm going to do a better job of taking some time to check my emotional meter before I consider responding. If I'm not in a good place, then it's a good time to take a break from social media and blogging – which includes responding to comments and emails.
The reason I try to avoid engaging when I'm feeling stressed is that the discussion rarely goes well. In fact, it usually gets worse. I lack patience, I may start reading things into the comment, and I may be tempted to jump down into the muck with the person and trade insults, which only serves to make me look bad.
When to Respond and When to Ban
Social media has given us a wonderful gift. We can block and ban people we don't want to engage with and then it's over. In the past, I was hesitant to do this because (1) I was always convinced that I could explain my POV and they'd come around and (2) I was worried about what others would think if I banned/blocked someone. Now I just don't give a damn.
Think about it, if someone is creating drama and stirring up negativity and no one is learning anything from the engagement – then why put your followers through that? Yeah, it can be entertaining to watch someone spin out of control as they throw a cyber-tantrum, but I'd prefer not to give them the platform for that nonsense. They can take that drama to their own platform and whine all they want.
Ban and then Block
Therefore, if the comment doesn't move the discussion forward and the person is just insulting me and others because, heaven forbid, they're exposed to an alternate point of view or experience, then I just ban or block the person. None of the social media platforms informs them that they've been banned or blocked (they need a third-party app for that) and they go away. Trust me, people who do this will eventually get bored and find someone else to hassle.
When I ban someone from my Facebook page, for example, I follow these steps:
- I open up their personal profile in a new tab.
- I then ban them from my page (in the first tab) either through the settings or from a comment.
- And then I block them from their personal profile.
When I can't tell if the person is being a jerk, then I respond politely until the conversation goes dark and then I block them. For instance, I love peanuts and I give my dogs fresh made peanut butter. Many people disagree with peanuts because they feel that they're toxic. A discussion started this way and eventually went to “you obviously don't care about your dogs and…” BLOCK! Once someone starts to insult you, that discussion isn't salvageable – they can spew their hate elsewhere.
Are You In the Mood for Some Fun?
And then there are people who leave the door wide open and it's just too good of an opportunity that you can't stop yourself from having fun. I had a woman yell at me for days for monetizing my blog. Every time she sent me a message, I replied respectfully as if I was speaking to an old friend and then I sent her inspirational quotes, articles about women supporting women, and I even asked her to reciprocate. After a few days of this, I'm positive that she thought I was a loon and she never contacted me again.
That was fun.
How to Shake Off Nasty Comments
There are days when I get a nasty comment and I delete it and move on, never giving it a second thought. And there are days when a nasty comment digs its claws in deep and I can't let it go, constantly thinking of what I should have said. Over the years, I've learned how to reduce the time I spend obsessing over the negativity of strangers. Here are some ways to shake off nasty comments.
1 – Take an Hour (or More) Break
Walking away from a comment allows me to cool down and organize my thoughts. When I return to my computer, I may realize that I don't care about the comment. Or, I may have an intelligent and useful response. Taking a break keeps me from responding through erratic, hurt emotions.
2 – Read the Comment a Few Times (Thoroughly)
It's important to read the comment a few times and make sure you understand what the person is trying to say. You may read it a few times and realize that you misunderstood. This gives you an opportunity to respond with a request for clarification. People are usually commenting on a smartphone or other smaller device and words can be missed or spelled incorrectly changing the intention behind their comment. Get some clarity. If the person is being an asshat, then reading the comment a few times will put you in a better position to respond intelligently if that's the path you take. Personally, I feel excellent when I rise above the negativity and craft a good response.
3 – Walk the Dogs, Work Out, or Goth
The best way to shake off the negativity of social media is to get physical. I will start my elliptical angry with the plan to power through 45 minutes of angry stepping. Ten minutes in at level three, I'm no longer thinking about whatever pissed me off. I'll grab a book or turn on Netflix and just disappear into a new world, stepping away. When I'm finished, I don't immediately recall that I was angry or what pissed me off. I just go about my day. The same happens when I walk my dogs. At first, whatever pissed me off is all that I can think about, but when I'm walking two or three dogs, my focus is swiftly directed to them as I guide them along the trail, watch for things that the puppy might pick up, and keep an eye out for cyclists and other dog walkers.
Fitness is a great distraction.
4 – Use Your Imagination
A fun way to shake off a nasty comment is to invent a scenario where someone says these things to you in a different venue. I like to imagine if someone knocked on our door and then told me off. It cracks me up because I would never tolerate that, Johan would wonder what the hell is going on, and my neighbor would probably come over thinking we were having trouble.
Years ago we had our second garage sale. The first one went very well. The second one sucked. A woman came and was walking around and then she turned to me and said: “I have no interest in buying someone's old, broken, trashy junk so I'll just leave.” Normally I would watch her walk away and laugh later. Who SAYS that to someone? But this was a long day to snarky people so I asked her to point to the things that were broken. She couldn't. I then told her that I didn't know who raised her, but decent people don't come to someone's home and say nasty things like this and if she didn't get off my property I'd drag her off. I wouldn't have dragged her off, but it felt good to say it. And the look on her face was priceless.
So when I get a nasty comment, I imagine saying something outlandish and the look on their face. It makes me laugh every time and then I just let it go.
5 – Laugh with a Friend
And, finally, some comments are so heinous that it's fun to share them with friends and laugh at the audacity of people's comments. And if you can't laugh at the comments, then having a friend remind you that they don't matter is sometimes exactly what you need. Just try not to be that friend that only calls when someone was mean to you on Facebook. No one likes that friend.
Why Are People So Damn Nasty?
I have often asked myself why people are so nasty and I have a few theories.
- People are having a shitty day and it feels good to vent out their anger and frustration on others. It's easier to do it to people online because you never have to deal with them again unlike friends, family members, or coworkers.
- Something we say or do triggers their rage. We're not responsible for what triggers others, but that doesn't mean that we won't sometimes find ourselves on the other end of their meltdown.
- People never learned how to debate. I can't tell you the number of people who start a comment with “you're wrong” and wonder why I'm not interested in reading a list of all the things that are wrong about me.
- Drama is addictive. I'm convinced that something is released in our brain when we're participating in drama or witnessing it. It's the same thing that makes me giddy when I'm watching one of my reality TV shows. It's fun.
- Sometimes I wonder if I serve as a mirror for some people. Sometimes I wonder if they're not talking about me, they're talking about themselves.
- And some people are so passionate about their beliefs that they take any comment that questions their thoughts as an invitation to attack, like this individual who insulted me for days because she thought I attacked her about feeding a vegan diet to dogs. In this case, I found that giving her information from a holistic veterinarian would stop the emails, but I had to block her because her attacks became worse than what you see below.
Are Bloggers in Danger?
I'd be remiss if I didn't broach the subject of danger. As a woman, what if a troll decided to track me down and take out their anger? This is a concern that I have, which is why I take screenshots of discussions and save them in a folder. This doesn't take up a ton of my time because I don't deal with these types of comments daily, just when a status update or blog post rubs someone the wrong way. For the most part, my content isn't triggering.
The below exchange, for example, concerned me. The individually first contacted me on Facebook. He regularly beat his dog and wanted tips on how to make his dog not be afraid of him. I explained that I'm not a proponent of physically attacking a dog and recommended dog training. This started a series of nasty messages that I quickly stopped by banning the person from my page, so he sent me the below email. I kept screen captures of it all, tracked down where he lived based on his profile and sent everything to the local law enforcement.
I don't know what happened afterward, but I hope that the police knocked on his door and checked on his dog and I hope he will think twice about hurting his dog in the future.
Cyberbullying is a felony in Washington state. It may sound silly to contact the police because someone is being mean to you on Facebook, but if the comments are increasingly aggressive, then I have no problem getting law enforcement involved. I'm more concerned about my dogs' safety than my own because someone who threatens violence isn't all there and they may hurt my dogs to hurt me.
Trolling is an Unhappy Part of Social Media
Unfortunately, when we put ourselves out there, people are going to disagree with us and some of those people don't have the maturity to disagree respectfully. We see this all the time – just look at the political posts. Although the experiences I shared in this post are intense, these are comments that I've received over the past couple of years. I'm not dealing with these types of comments regularly and most of the people vanish when you block them or show them that you won't back down.
The reason I don't offer consultations, meal formulation services, or talk about dogs in general is because when people accuse me of telling people how to feed raw, I can always come back with “no, I tell people how I feed raw to MY dogs.” As long as I keep things about my dogs, then the comments are quickly diffused. There are some people who try to drag things out to get some type of rise out of me, I just block them and move on.
If you are reading this and it's scaring you away from sharing your experience, I'm sorry. I want you to know that it takes years to attract this type of attention. These people don't just want to attack me, they want to attack me on a forum where they're seen. Because I have a large following, I'm a target. By the time you get a large following, I hope the social media platforms will put apps in place that automatically block and ban trolls because reasonable people are tired of this behavior.
Today, I have a thicker skin and supportive group of friends and followers, so it's harder for the trolls to get to my heart. I think that if we, as a community, worked harder to support each other by promoting the positive and ignoring the negative, we could reduce the number of negative people who are trying to drag others down. This would allow us to focus on helping each other learn how to raise healthier pets.
It's Not ALL Bad – It's Mostly GOOD
I want to wrap this up to say that I get so many amazing comments and messages from readers and followers. It's astounding how supportive our community is and I don't want anyone to think that being a blogger means mounds of negative comments. It doesn't. I'm writing this post because, for some reason, we can get 100 positive comments and then that one negative comment tears us down because, deep down, many of us don't think we're worthy and we think some of these assholes may have a point.
They don't. Don't let them get to you. Let's support each other so that they don't get us down and destroy our community.
One day, I was searching for inspiration on how to deal with trolls and came across this TEDx Talk and it helped a lot.
More Blogging Tips
- Challenging the Raw Feeding Trolls
- Moving Past the ‘Death of Raw Feeding'
- Join the Raw Feeding Open House #BlogHop
- So You Want to Be a Pet Blogger
- 7 Comments I Don't Allow on My Blog