Introverts Dealing with Internet Hate

I recently had a conversation with a professor about being an introvert on the Internet.  It has been my experience, observing both myself and others, that introverts can be just as silly, crazy, and excitable as extroverts.  The main difference is the comfort level that is required for this zany side to come out.  Extroverts who gain energy from being around people can get crazy fast.  Introverts, whose energy is drained by being around people, need to feel comfortable and safe before showing anyone their interior world.

The Internet changed all of this.  Suddenly introverts could share their thoughts, jokes, and silliness from the comfort of their bedroom.  They got the intimacy of conversation without the fear attached to actually being around new people.  Of course, this is largely a facade, but it is a really great one.  It’s the reason I have blogged almost every day for ten years.  Unfortunately, the Internet is not actually a safe place. 

This is where we circle back to that conversation with my professor.  He asked how, as an introvert, I dealt with backlash and criticism on the Internet.  Because it takes so much trust to share ourselves, introverts often are more sensitive than others when criticized (helpfully or hatefully).  I thought for a moment, then rattled off these three self-care tactics.  Thinking about them later, I think my response was wiser than I realized.  So for those who share themselves on the Internet, whether fellow introverts or not, here are three ways to take care of yourself after dealing with Internet hate.

  1. Let your feelings be hurt.  The fastest way to get over hurt is to feel it so that it can go through you.  Shoving negative feelings into a back corner of your heart means they stay there, ready to come back to the surface when you least expect it.  Ignoring a hurtful comment may be more productive temporarily, but for long term emotional health, it is important to sit in the pain for a little while.  This gives you the opportunity to study the pain, to wonder at why it hurts you so specifically.  Let yourself cry, or eat chocolate, or frown at the computer screen.
  2. Reframe the negative comment as something positive.  Inevitably, the comments that hurt the most are the ones that respond to something you care deeply about.  The more of yourself you share, the more painful it is to hear that someone disagrees or thinks you’re stupid for saying/doing/thinking that thing.  But after I’ve let my feelings be hurt, I consider the possibility that such a negative response probably means something important is happening.  High levels of emotion–positive or negative–often signal the fact that you’ve hit upon a touchy subject.  If you’re getting Internet hate, it probably means you are saying something meaningful and contributing to a conversation that needs to take place.  So good for you!  The fact that someone is being rude probably means you are doing something worthwhile.
  3. Call a friend who will remind you how amazing and necessary your work is.  Once you’ve felt bad but reframed the situation, make the good feelings stick by asking a trusted friend to encourage you.  Share the negative comment and how it made you feel (which you’ll know how to describe because you sat with it for awhile).  Let your friend be your righteously angry defender.  If they don’t automatically give you the emotional support that you need, ask them for encouragement.  Tell them you need to be reminded why you are sharing yourself on the Internet.  Hopefully you have one or two good friends who will list your awesome traits until you cry from joy and gratitude.

Your sensitive heart has gotten through Internet hate!  I hear that it gets easier over time, which honestly kind of saddens me.  If being hurt gets easier, then it means your heart is getting harder.  If you want to keep a soft and vulnerable heart, practice these three self-care tactics.  And keep being creative, putting yourself out there for the entertainment and inspiration of others!

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