Creating your art, putting your work out there and committing to showing up is essential for entrepreneurs building their personal brand and business empire. Gone are the days of CEOs hiding in their corner offices and leaders of growing brands being faceless and invisible on Google. The fame comes with fortune but also with a downside: online trolls.
Whitney Johns, creator of Find Your Fit with Whit, knows the process of creating a successful personal brand and the pain of being trolled on social media. Starting out in bodybuilding and as a former WBFF pro, Johns has been under the spotlight on many occasions, both physically and online. Having first not handled the pressure of showing up on stage and on social media, and her mental health suffering as a result, Johns turned the setbacks into a force for good. Now with an audience of over a million customers and supporters, Johns shares the tools that helped her turn her own life around, runs comprehensive coaching courses and creates supplements to help her clients rediscover their energy and confidence.
From first-hand experience of unprovoked troll accounts, here are Johns’s five ways to deal with online trolls, so they don’t dampen your sparkle or hinder your impact.
“Before you begin working each day, know what you’re doing to do,” advised Johns. Without a clear plan, it’s too easy to log onto social media and get sucked into a vortex of comments. “Especially as your brand grows, you will have more people to respond to and it can feel overwhelming.” Consider using a second phone or logging out of social media all together unless you’re using it intentionally.
Instead of flitting back and forth, batch your tasks. “I have ADD and which makes my time management and focus a major thorn in my side,” said Johns. Don’t let the internet steal your productivity, especially not negative comments. A final tip from Johns is to “give your logins to an assistant.” Have someone you trust manage your accounts so you can get on with doing what you do best.
Don’t feed them
“Do not engage with trolls,” warned Johns. “You cannot win.” People using the internet to antagonise other people are not happy people in themselves, so engaging in discussions with them is not worth your time. Singer James Blunt famously responded to Twitter trolls in a funny way, but that approach doesn’t work for everyone.
“It’s better to not fan the flames,” said Johns. “Because they will die down on their own.” People will get bored and move on when you don’t engage in their attacks. Don’t be afraid to block and report people so they can’t engage further, but remember you do not owe anyone a response. “If you can, set up a process that an assistant manages, so you can keep trolls out of your headspace.”
Remember your purpose
Your course or book might have hundreds of positive reviews, but chances are you will focus on that one negative one. It’s human nature to fixate on what’s bad, and respond by hiding or getting upset, but it need not be the case. “Hiding away or reacting badly stops you reaching the people who need you,” said Johns.
Instead, remember your purpose. Remember who you’re here to serve and who your work makes a huge difference for. Think of the great feedback and positive reviews you’ve received. Dig through your emails for the messages from people who are so happy you exist. When you’re on your mission, not everyone will back you, and that’s okay. Rather than trying to win the approval of everyone, be happy that not everyone will like what you’re creating and that’s okay.
Having your mission in mind will help you get perspective. As will remembering that, “negativity directed at you is not a reflection of you.” It’s a reflection of the troll. “Don’t internalize comments, don’t lose any sleep, remember that sad, miserable trolls exist and it’s not your concern.”
Getting perspective requires zooming out and remembering that this will pass. In five years, you likely won’t even remember it happened, so don’t waste energy on it now. “If something is really getting to you, think about why,” said Johns. If the comments of a stranger are getting under your skin, it might be a sign that it’s time to get perspective or do some journaling and work out what’s wrong. The strongest people don’t require others to point out their shortcomings, they work on them before anyone else can notice.
See the funny side
“If you think about it, being on the receiving end of online hate is funny,” said Johns. Someone you don’t even know is going out of their way to be unkind. They have lost all sense of perspective and humanity and directed their anger at you. How bizarre.
Instead of reacting in anger or pity, log right off and chat to a friend instead. “Talk to them about how you’re feeling, laugh together and let them remind you of your qualities.” It’s okay to want some reassurance, especially if comments directed at you have brought you down. As well as seeing the funny side, see the opportunity for growth. Ask, “how can I not let this affect my mindset, should it happen again?” Dig into the feelings and make yourself bulletproof, so you can barrel forward with your work no matter who is criticizing from afar.
There are plenty of critics and hardly any artists. Don’t let the presence of critics put you off creating your masterpieces and sharing them with the world. Block, report and get some distance. See online trolls for the sad nuisance they are, rather than believing their words or letting them get to you in any way.