Social media shows things at face value. We never fully see the thought process behind a tweet, the set up behind an Instagram or even the intended tone of direct messages. The format is easy, and leaves us able to connect immediately with others, but anyone using it is left open to misinterpretation
We frequently see friends, influencers and small business share posts about jealous haters, but so rarely see the context behind those words. Beneath the comments of well wishers supporting the poster and crying for them to “name and shame” could be someone who had a valid criticism and is now being hounded by abuse, not the faceless hater being alluded to. It’s at this point that social media becomes not only a popularity contest, but a test of who’s friends are happiest to send cruel messages to strangers, in the name of justice and support.
Keep it One on One
It’s very tempting to gather up all your friends and ask them to pile on your ‘hater’, but this only does more harm than good. Taking a “I have more friends than you approach” immediately ruins whichever dynamic you and your ‘hater’ have – whether they were just desperate for a reaction or someone who was simply sharing a point of view you disagreed with. You either walk away having given the ‘hater’ what they wanted or tipping the scales firmly towards you being the bad guy.
A benefit to keeping conversation one on one is that you have complete control over things that are being said on your side of the dispute. It could be that you’re refraining from sending insults (even if you’re internally screaming at them!) but your defensive cousin is going all in on their own DM, criticising their appearance, intelligence and anything else that comes to mind!
I’m of the opinion that other people getting involved in a social media firestorm causes nothing but trouble, and avoid encouraging any communication towards someone that’s been causing me bother. On the rare occasions this has happened, I’m behind the scenes asking the person to stop as the end result is never worth it. By all means, have a rant to your nearest and dearest, but if you’re not confident they won’t join in the fray, be vague and avoid mentioning any names.
Are They Jealous?
Jealousy is an emotion that is often brought up during disputes, a throwback to playground squabbles when your mum bigs you up to instil confidence. The assumption is that our ‘haters’ are jealous of anything we do, and hope to bring us down rather than try and better themselves.
In some cases, this is certainly true. We see this when influencers are put under the microscope – in exchange for thousands of followers, special corners of the internet pop up for strangers to criticise even the most mundane of choices and analyse how this make them an awful person. However, if your hater is being up front and DMing you about an action you’ve done that’s caused them harm or upset, it’s more likely that you simply have a differing opinion or you are genuinely in the wrong. Ask yourself, what is it that you think your hater is jealous of? If you know in your heart that you’ve done something wrong, then perhaps they’re not jealous, and merely trying to stand up for themselves, or bring some negative behaviour to your attention.
Avoid Mentioning Mental Health
Speaking as someone who has suffered with GAD and Clinical Depression for the past decade, all too often mental health is used as a weapon in arguments. There is a small portion of people who wear their mental health on their sleeve and have it ready to use against victims, while anyone who’s preferred to keep their own struggles under wraps risks appearing insincere if they mention it in response.
There is no mental health condition that excuses bad behaviour or bullying, and having an anxiety disorder doesn’t allow you to be unchallenged when you do something wrong. If your mental health is seriously being affected by the dispute, tell the other party privately and inform them you’re walking away from the argument for your own wellbeing. Publicly posting about the dispute and mentioning your mental health condition is a way of manipulating your peers into taking sides on a private discussion, and generally encourages people to fetch their metaphorical pitchforks. Though this might sound like a great idea, ask yourself if this is a kind thing to do to the other person (who may be suffering from their own demons, outside of your knowledge).
Social media users share hashtags about kindness and support, while these same hashtags are being used to squash criticism, or even reasonable requests when a user is causing harm. An open dialogue about mental health has been a long time coming, and it’s refreshing to be able to discuss our conditions with less a fear of judgement as before. However, caring about mental health goes beyond your immediate friends.
My Friend Has Haters
A great example of everything I’ve explained here happened last year, when the blogosphere discovered a particular blogger had been plagiarising blog posts word for word. Naturally, people were outraged and there was little this “blogger” could do to convince anyone she was in the right – the evidence was clear and indefensible. Instead of apologising, excuses were made, and the blogger’s family joined Twitter to defend her, and send abuse to the people she had copied from.
If you choose to mindlessly rally around a friend you see as being in need of defence, you’re in danger of becoming little more than a high school bully. If you are relying on their account, it’s unlikely you are seeing the full story and could be getting involved on the wrong “side”. Instead, be a sympathetic ear to your friend, gently call them out on their mistake (if appropriate) and distract them with a social activity like drinks or a day out.
As much as we shouldn’t try and drag our friends into our drama, we need to avoid wading into drama and business that isn’t ours. The more people who join an argument, the messier it gets and it’s important that we recognise when a) it’s not our fight, b) our friends aren’t the “goody”, and c) diffusion is the best approach.
We are all the heroes in our own stories, but you may well be the antagonist in someone else’s. Very rarely do our “haters” actively hate us, and we shouldn’t use this label to excuse poor behaviour or escape criticism. Despite this sound advice, all reason can (and often will) go out the window when we find ourselves in the throes of online arguments. To be the bigger person is to avoid causing harm, and acting in a civil, passive manner, which so often we forget.
Next time you encounter someone you perceive as a “hater”, stop and think – do they have a valid criticism, or are they just looking for a reaction? In either scenario an argument won’t be what makes you feel better, and can often leave you firmly in the wrong.