how to respond to hateful comments online in 2020.
So what I want to talk about is this video. 👇
To switch things up from what I’ve been talking about for the last month or so on branding and social media marketing specifically, I recorded a video blogging about my experience at Burning Man (which was my first and only experience to date in 2019).
Sometimes, if you’re a subscriber of my channel, I’ll talk about a myriad of things like branding, well-being, and healing with plant medicine, so this wasn’t something unheard of or too absurd.
I highly recommend you watch this video if you’ve ever been curious about Burning Man or even if you have felt loneliness in your life (which I’m assuming you probably have if you’re a human being, without even knowing you).
Regardless, this is a video that is hinged on making sure you share certain things with certain tribes and communities.
Typically, when I share a video to a Facebook group or a community or a person, I either get positive feedback like "you should have more subscribers" or "this video definitely deserves more upvotes," which is very endearing and sweet, and I usually don’t get negative comments and I don’t attract or magnetize hateful vitriol.
However, I underestimated posting this video link in a Vancouver Burning Man Facebook Group (which is a regional community of Vancouver-based burners or people who annually go to Burning Man from Vancouver). In this community, (which I have friends within and I’ve relied on rides to Burning Man for) I generally appreciate the jokes and banter so I was shocked to find my video, in the first hour of posting it, to be the centerpiece of bullying and hateful rhetoric directed towards me personally.
Now, this was something that I could have anticipated.
My video was directed towards people who had never been to Burning Man before and it introduces them to the 10 Principles of Burning Man all explaining a sustainable and regenerative world of freedom, self-love and expression.
With that said, context is everything. I’m not sure if you know many people who are Burners or if you’ve gone to Burning Man yourself, but there has been a growing divide within it since the 30+ year inception or so of this event even taking place. There are the originals who’ve gone to Burning Man who consider themselves the misfits of society who live on the margins of civilization and the Millennials who flock to Burning Man in droves and wear their costumes, bring their social media, and generally make it more sensation-seeking than original event dwellers likely would want.
Anyways, now that I have explained that, I want to let you know that I didn’t actually take screenshots of the comments that were posted in this post of the video that I put on this Vancouver Burning Man Facebook group, but some of the comments mentioned feedback like, "frightening," "embarrassing," calling me "a sparkle pony," saying that I should be "ashamed" of myself, that I am "commodifying Burning Man by posting a video intentionally to raise my subscribers and view count" so that I can monetize my YouTube channel and down-voting my video.
I initially looked at these comments and my first thought was...
Where is the actual feedback?
Did people actually watch this video?
When I asked some people in the comments section for their constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement, some of the actual feedback I got was that "the music in the background was a little bit too loud to actually hear my voice accurately," that "it seemed as though [I] might have been looking away from the camera too many times," that "this video was likely intended for a community of people who have never been to Burning Man before," and that I "didn’t need to talk about sexuality."
At first, I thought, I am more than happy to make the appropriate videography edits to future videos so that the music isn’t as loud and that people can hear me more clearly, but I thought...
these hateful words and bullying rhetoric don’t seem like they match the innocence of my video's intention at all.
This is a really important part of receiving online bullying.
First of all, you don’t actually have to receive it and know that you do not need to take any of these comments personally.
With that said, online bullying is a really interesting phenomenon because you have to remember that on the Internet, anyone can feel like a gladiator.
After recently watching The Roman Empire on Netflix, I've learned a few things about gladiators, which is why I use the term. Gladiators are slaves, first of all, the lowest class, and actually would wear masks when they fight.
What is the mask of today where the slaves come to play on free forums and content? The Internet.
The anonymity of the Internet can secure people in their sharing so that they feel completely and 100% self-assured in their bullying and hateful words spewed online.
Now, these individuals weren’t exactly anonymous. I actually have the names of all of these individuals, whom I have never met before and will not share, and the reason why they probably still spoke even with their names and Facebook profiles visible is because of the effect known as a dogpiling on the Internet.
People dog-pile because individually, they are weak. They are insecure and misery loves company! It’s really interesting because socio-politically, terrorism is most effective in areas with populations of people who are incredibly low-resourced and weak because people will easily turn on each other and forget their humanity.
Weak people only feel strong when they gather in their misery and point out other people's flaws who are simply different and are not necessarily flawed. So online bullying is a dehumanization effect and this is something that I consciously knew was taking place.
Someone actually made a very crass joke about my mother, whom they don’t know and I think it was meant to be a complete joke, but they kept going on about it and so I told him that my mom actually passed away when I was 7 so that joke seemed a little bit inappropriate and their comment was, “you think you deserve a fucking apology? My mom died when she was giving birth to me and I held my dad in my arms while he was dying.”
I am assuming he said that to up the ante on how terrible his life is in comparison to mine and how he such a victim while throwing a pity party, but this got me to realize that I was in the midst of some seriously deprived individuals. These were not people who are my neighbors or my peers. These were clearly people who had been through some severe trauma growing up and incredible hardship that I couldn’t even fathom or imagine. Now, if you’ve seen earlier videos where I talk about my studying psychology like in my heroine's journey video, you’ll know that I have a deeply compassionate center within me and I am a heart-centered person so I immediately knew what this was and that this is something I am not meant to take personally.
Regardless, after about 24 hours, I knew that what was most important according to the spiritual teachers and lineages that I follow is to ultimately be compassionate and see bullying for what it is: a toxic spewing from toxic people.
Now, I am not here to rescue everybody that I come across, but I know that I am a compassionate person and I can easily access prayer and positive thinking to resolve conflict. So, I actually sent a message to a woman who said something especially slicing about how I should be "ashamed" of myself and that she "will not tolerate any more" of my branding which was actually a little bit funny and completely victimizing, but I sent her a message saying that I wished her health and compassion in her life and that when I met her, I had thought she was a very sweet and kind woman because I actually knew her from volunteering at Burning Man. Her message back to me was again calling me "embarrassing" and saying “don’t pray for me ever.”
I forgot to look at her tagline on Facebook and it was actually “feminist killjoy” so I probably should’ve looked at the tagline before sending her a sweet message because, well, at least she’s not false advertising.
One big takeaway from this is to remember your tribe.
If you also live life with an open heart and a compassionate nature, know that not everyone will like what you have to say.
Know that not everyone will support you and encourage you. Not everyone is capable of conjuring love like other people are. Your tribe is your tribe and going outside of your community can be courageous and hold lots of treasures, but just know that loving others comes with boundaries and to set boundaries with those who do not actually wish you the best, which you deserve to have.
The interesting thing about this whole episode was that this controversy actually had nothing to do with the actual content of this video! As I explained beforehand, a lot of these comments that actually commented on the content of this video were self-admitted comments saying that they "only watched six seconds of it" or they "couldn’t even watch the whole thing" or they "wouldn’t even watch the entire video!"
This is where a bully or even a terrorist really shows their cards. These are the markings of ignorance. When someone doesn’t even give you the respect to listen to what you have to say fully before interjecting and dismissing you, that’s something for you to know that they are not even interested in your full truth and their anger has nothing to do with you. You are simply a projection for their pain and their hate. You are simply a scapegoat for the anger and toxicity running through their veins that existed long before they even knew that you existed.
There’s actually a really beautiful quote about this phenomenon and this will likely help you understand, especially if you’re a political or history buff:
“As people seek out the social settings they prefer—as they choose the group that makes them feel the most comfortable—the nation grows more politically segregated—and the benefit that ought to come with having a variety of opinions is lost to the righteousness that is the special entitlement of homogeneous groups.
We all live with the results: balkanized communities whose inhabitants find other Americans to be culturally incomprehensible; a growing intolerance for political differences that have made national consensus impossible; and politics so polarized that Congress is stymied and elections are no longer just contests over policies, but bitter choices between ways of life.”
—Bill Bishop (2009, The Big Sort)
Now, an important thing to know about this whole event is that I actually went out for a bike ride a few hours after I noticed my views were going up and people were just getting angrier and angrier that I was getting more attention on this video. While I could’ve kept the post up, I really felt like I just wanted to be done with this sh*tshow quite frankly and I took down the post because, in the bigger scheme of things, this online bullying was not positively affecting the world and was certainly not bringing me much happiness and joy besides amusement and petty entertainment. BUT - I kept the video up.
In The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, the Second Agreement is "don’t take anything personally."
Something I learned in this experience is that people only trigger you and hurt you because you have a wound that they are simply sticking their finger in.
The hateful comments of online bullying wouldn’t puncture you if you didn’t have an existing wound before at all. So, that begs the question, what was my wound that I had to face as I was face-down, in the mud of despair in the aftermath of this dog piling?
Online and in-person bullying started for me when I was actually very young. Like I mentioned earlier, my mom passed away when I was 7 years old and it was very tragic for my family and community. At school, I was actually bullied verbally for losing my mother and, as misunderstood as kids themselves can be, some children I went to school with were hateful of me and let me know. What this online bullying really turned out to be for me was simply a repeating pattern of when I was bullied at 7 years old and I was reacting in the same way that I did before.. by crying, hyperventilating, and having painful and vengeful thoughts about every single person that commented.
I didn’t think that I would share this ever and I am actually so liberated in sharing this with you because I know that even if there’s just one single person who’s helped by what I’m sharing, I know that my work is totally complete. Now, I’m seeking to do the work on freeing myself from an imprisoning story of being bullied when I was younger and feeling absolutely betrayed by my peers and community.
I want you to know that if I can do this work, so can you.
If you are worried about putting yourself out there, keep going.
If you are shy about putting your message out there in the world, continue sharing.
If you’ve ever felt inspired by anyone, that means that you keep sharing. Keep shining.
Even if it’s something as innocent as a blog, you could be helping someone who desperately needs your help and even if they don’t change the world with what you share or even if you help change someone’s life who you wouldn’t think about, keep going.
Shine your light and radically express yourself.
Don’t let fear take you down.
Don’t let the worry of what other people think to tear you down.
If people who are hateful and toxic in their words try to hurt your feelings, then it’s almost a compliment for them to try to tear you down because you don’t want people like that in your corner or in your life anyways. You want people like that as far away from you as possible so that you can let the light shine in and let people who have your best intentions in your life.
I want to end this with a very powerful note of a man in Paris whose wife died by an act of terrorism at a concert hall. This man, named Antoine, posted a letter on his Facebook account, less than three days after his 35-year-old wife of 12 years, Helen, was brutally assassinated. His wife was one of 129 individuals murdered during a series of attacks in Paris.
Here is the full letter translated into English:
“Friday night, you took an exceptional life -- the love of my life, the mother of my son -- but you will not have my hatred I don't know who you are and I don't want to know, you are dead souls. If this God, for whom you kill blindly, made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife would have been one more wound in His heart.
So, no, I will not grant you the gift of my hatred. You're asking for it, but responding to hatred with anger is falling victim to the same ignorance that has made you what you are. You want me to be scared, to view my countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You lost.
I saw her this morning. Finally, after nights and days of waiting. She was just as beautiful as when she left on Friday night, just as beautiful as when I fell hopelessly in love over 12 years ago. Of course, I am devastated by this pain, I give you this little victory, but the pain will be short-lived. I know that she will be with us every day and that we will find ourselves again in this paradise of free love to which you have no access.
We are just two, my son and me, but we are stronger than all the armies in the world. I don't have any more time to devote to you, I have to join Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17-months-old. He will eat his meals as usual, and then we are going to play as usual, and for his whole life, this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either.”
Thank you for staying until the end and I hope that you are sincerely touched by this. Please let me know if it did in the comment section and how this impacted you.