We’ve all been there. You share a plant-based recipe, and someone attacks you over an ingredient. You do something nice for a person or organization, and someone ascribes ulterior motives to your good deed. You state a political fact, and someone states the opposite is true. You post a link to a Meatless Monday program as a gateway to veganism, and someone declares you’re in bed with the animal agriculture industry.
You pause, nod your head in disbelief, and ask yourself, What’s wrong with these people?
That’s just it. When people engage in abnormal and destructive behavior, there is something wrong with them. This approach isn’t how healthy-minded people act, and trying to rationalize with irrational people is an exercise in futility. Your time would be better spent turning the runway lights on for Amelia Earhart.
You may never figure out what makes people so deficient in the most elementary etiquette without subpoenaing their medical records. In the absence of a subpoena, here are four tips for dealing with unbalanced people on social media:
There are 7.3 billion people in the world. How much time are you going to spend on a few people who have repeatedly demonstrated they don’t get your message, don’t want to get it, and want to fight about it? Find people interested in listening to and sharing your message. Welcome opposing points of view, but set limits.
What happens after you block unhinged people? A healthy person couldn’t care less and moves on. But, unbalanced people aren’t healthy. Don’t expect a normal reaction. They usually become further unglued. They will claim that you’re saying things about them that you aren’t saying, contact you via other avenues, and spread falsehoods about you. Most commonly, in a tantrum that would make Veruca Salt proud and having failed their middle school chapter test on the U.S. Constitution, they will feverishly search for an audience to exclaim that you violated their right to free speech. Take the high road. In most cases, these individuals have no audience.
2) Keep Perspective
One of the most effective ways to rise above the fray is to keep your life in perspective. The people hounding you over trivial matters don’t matter. Watch the unforgettable Frontline episode Escaping ISIS. When you see what these children endure, it may remind you of your good fortune. Perspective is a grounding and rejuvenating force. Surround yourself with friends and family, consider all that is good in your life and your potential to improve the world, and forge ahead.
In a few days, you’ll forget it happened. Personal attacks are pesky but forgettable. Why do you get upset when someone unleashes a torrent of anger on you? You know the comments are false, but you feel like you need to prove it. You don’t. Will a few people who don’t know you believe it’s true? Maybe. But it won’t matter. Most won’t believe it. Most won’t even see it because it’s unlikely a person with so much negative energy has any audience.
4) Focus on Your Purpose
Define the meaning of your life. Stay focused on tasks that help you fulfill your purpose. Does spending time on a bully help you achieve your goals? Look forward. Keep doing what you find meaningful. Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. You don’t want to spend your limited time trying to reason with irrational people. You’re needed elsewhere.
In summary, block, keep perspective, forget, and focus on your life’s purpose, so you’re prepared to cope with unhealthy-minded people. You’re also welcome to use the comments section of this article as a safe forum to share your experiences and receive support if you’re the victim of cyberbullying.
18 thoughts on “How to Handle Unhinged People on Social Media”
Really well stated and well reasoned, Andrew. Great job.
Sherry L. Schlueter
Executive Director, South Florida Wildlife Center
Thank you Sherry. It’s great to hear from you. You’re an outstanding example of a leader who takes the high road and stays focused on rescuing animals and teaching people how to show compassion for them.
People who block people on Facebook should be killed and if you don’t agree, you should be killed too!
Ok, just kidding! 🙂 This is an excellent post with excellent advice, Andrew. It’s ironic, but if I was on Facebook I’d share it there.
I highly recommend taking a Facebook break every so often. I deactivated my account about 2 years ago specifically because I was so tired of and fed up with all the drama there. I thought I’d just take a break for a month or so, but I have yet to go back.
Take a break from Facebook every once in awhile, even if only for a day or two. The world won’t stop spinning and you might be pleasantly surprised at how nice it is to be away from all the drama there.
p.s. I try to also keep in mind that for whatever reason, people will say things and be as nasty as last week’s garbage left out in the hot sun when they are online, but they would never dare to behave that way or say those things if they were face to face with the person.
Very true Christine! Very true, indeed. Nice hearing from you.
People have “social media bravery” which gives them this false license to bully and berate and have tantrums. Since in the physical world they wouldn’t get away with that behavior, they use social media as their opportunity to act that way. keep up the good work and don’t let those people take 1% of your positive energy. No room for energy vampires!!!
Sage advice Monica. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with everyone.
I belong to a local email blog/newsletter that involves the surrounding neighborhoods. Complaining, bullying, nuttiness comes out even in that simple forum!
What I really have trouble with, are all the graphic “informative” pictures and descriptions of horrific animal abuse here and abroad on FB. On one hand if I scroll past and try to block out the images I feel like a coward. On the other hand if I truly entertain what is happening out there I sink into total despair. I do my little bit by eating vegetarian and contributing to some charities ie: 100+Abandoned Everglades Dogs, PCRM, Wildlife Center, Grey2K. It seems trivial though when I see others who make it their life’s mission to crusade for the vulnerable.
You raise several interesting points. Thank you for your candor.
You don’t have to be someone else. People have different ways of advocating and advocate with varying degrees of passion. The fact that you’re doing something is meaningful. It’s up to you, and you alone, if you would like to take additional steps to help animals.
I hope you find this article useful regarding the viewing of graphic images:
It was nice hearing from you!
Hi Christine from another Christine… 🙂
I completely agree with Andrew..the fact that you are actually just doing something is very meaningful.
One of my favorite quotes is actually from a Little Richard song which goes, “A little bit of something beats a whole lotta nothing.” Not that what you are doing is a “little bit”…just to be able to face what is happening without turning away takes more courage than many people. So many others out there do know what is going on, but they choose to ignore it. By choosing to simply acknowledge the truth, you have already shown A LOT of courage. You have gone even further than most by eating vegetarian and contributing to those wonderful charities…that’s nothing to scoff at!
And I can completely relate myself to where you wrote, “On one hand if I scroll past and try to block out the images I feel like a coward. On the other hand if I truly entertain what is happening out there I sink into total despair.”
I used to feel it was my duty somehow to watch all the undercover videos and pictures that came my way. I felt I needed to bear witness for these horribly abused animals. I now realize that once you have gathered enough information to be educated, it can actually become very detrimental to your health, both mental and physical, to continue viewing disturbing images if they no longer add anything new to what you already know.
When this happens, people set themselves up for burnout, compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. I found out about these things only after I started to experience them and I didn’t understand what was going on. I now understand that it’s wise to monitor how much graphic information you take in, especially if it doesn’t add anything to what you already know.
You may be interested in and I highly recommend In Defense of Animals (IDA) Sustainable Activism Campaign. They offer free webinars, blog posts, a toll-free hotline and free email support, and they also have a YouTube channel featuring recordings of their webinars and short ~1 minute “Sustainable Activism Tips”.
An example you may want to check out is this recording from a webinar called “Despair Repair”:
Anger, sadness, and despair often go hand in hand with awareness of the state of the world. This session will look at ways to turn the emotions into healthy positive action. With a few simple tools, you will be able to remain a strong positive voice for all beings and the planet we call home.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to write so much! Thank you for all that you are doing, Christine! 🙂
Thank you so much. I will check out the links after work today.
You’re very welcome, Christine. If you’d like any more info on the topics I touched on, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I know of many other books, websites, etc., that have helped me through the hard parts of activism work that I’d be happy to share with you.
And sorry I’ve taken up so much space in the comments, Andrew. I forget that sometimes the actual video will be posted when I include a YouTube link. More derp points for me! 😛
This is very informative as well. Thank you.
Fabulous advice – shared!
Much appreciated Roy. I’m glad you found it useful.
This situation is more of a challenge when the “crazy-maker” is a family member. It’s not as easy to unfriend, block them or call them out. Sometimes you just have to consider the source and move forward.
Very true! You will need a different set of coping skills for that one!
If people want respectful discourse, I’m up for reciprocating. But if someone comes at me with immediate and obviously angry, trolling, baiting, argumentative statements, I just don’t invest the time or the energy. I understand though how some will try their very best to engage and inform those who are obviously up to no good. As it’s always been said, “don’t feed the trolls.” But some think, well, behind that faceless wall of internet anonymity, they’re still a human being too. But the cold, hard fact is some so-called humans just want to fuck with you, and that’s it. They’re not there to be educated, informed, enlightened, make friends, etc. When you recognize this, it’s easier to assess and disconnect, when it’s appropriate.