Since the lockdown, I've had many conversations with young people (on Insta lives, podcasts, talks, etc), and one of the most asked questions, unsurprisingly, has been: How does one tackle the toxicity/hate when putting out an opinion online?

Here's what I tell them:
1/ First, we should recognise that not everyone responding to what we have posted is being 'hateful'. Some are just disagreeing or giving feedback (constructive or otherwise).

If you have a public profile, there are people who will disagree with you, and that's okay.
2/ Often, we call those who disagree with us 'trolls', but I feel we should be wary of reducing people (who aren't abusive) to labels.

Sometimes, a comment may only be about what you said (an argument) and not about who you are (an attack). It's important we know the difference.
3/ In my opinion, hate is when someone, over a period of time, is targeting you with toxic comments, or is being abusive.

When that happens, it has 100% to do with who they are & what they are going through, than to do with you. So either ignore/disengage, or block/restrict.
4/ You can, of course, choose to respond/clap back/shut them down, but I believe that if a person is saying something with the intent of being hateful, they enjoy the attention you give them, by responding. And it empowers them & others like them: that they got through to you.
5/ There's another option (and I lead with it), though it is counter-intuitive: empathy. If you respond kindly to the person being unkind:
1. It throws them off, if they were doing it for attention
2. It helps them, if they were unkind only because they're going through something
6/ Note:
a) the onus of empathy does not *have* to lie on you, but I do feel the empathetic should not reserve their empathy only for the ones who are already kind :)

b) Women get disproportionate amount of hate/abuse than men do, so it is completely valid if you block/disengage
7/ I also want to mention how vocabulary plays a part in discourse: sometimes, what someone responds to us is measured by the few words they have to express themselves, vs the many words we may have to express ourselves.

Not everyone has the words we do, let's acknowledge that.
8/ Finally, when we put out an opinion: I believe it's important to know that we don't know *everything*. We are all just learning and it's okay if someone points out where we went wrong.

Sometimes, the people who disagree with us may really know more: let's be open to learning!
9/ I must add here: this is all, obviously, my opinion. You should find out what works best for your mental health, because few arguments online are worth the mental toll they may take.

Prioritise your mental health over all else online: empathy should begin with ourselves! :)
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