Brick-and-mortar entrepreneurs deal with pranksters or unsavory customers who might toss rotten eggs at their storefront windows or demand free food after allegations of “bad” service. But these in-real-life interactions are usually few and far between. For content creators, dealing with these online trolls can be never-ending. The internet is always open – and it’s easier than ever for bad actors to find like-minded troublemakers eager to clog chats and DMs and spam posts with bigoted and other incendiary comments.
As explained in our earlier story on online trolls, harassers, and abusers, not every creator will respond in the same way. And that’s just fine. “Your very existence is disrupting for these people,” Kelli Dunlap, a clinical psychologist, game designer, and community manager for Take This, a games-focused mental health nonprofit. “If you’ve got the clap back in you, go for it. But it’s often enough just to exist and persist in these spaces.”Content creators' very existence is disrupting for trolls and harassers, says @KelliNDunlap, clinical psychologist and @TakeThisOrg community manager. #ContentEntrepreneur #SocialMedia Click To Tweet
So we checked in with seven content entrepreneurs to find out what they do when they run up against some hate.
Molly Stillman of Still Being Molly: Adopt a block-and-delete online troll strategy
Molly, the ethical fashion and lifestyle blogger behind Still Being Molly, hasn’t had horrible experiences with trolls. The majority of her community is “extremely kind and generous,” she says. When haters do slide in, they often attack her faith, personal beliefs, and appearance.
“I would be lying if I said that it doesn’t bother me,” she shares. “Over the years, I’ve learned how to better deal with them and to remember that what these people say about me actually says a whole lot more about them than it does me.”
Replying to the trolls never helped. Now she has a block-and-delete strategy. “I wouldn’t allow someone to come in my house and just start saying awful things to me,” she says. “I would ask that person to leave. Same goes for an online platform. It’s my space, and I do not want negativity or hate to infiltrate it, so I kick them out by blocking and deleting.”I wouldn't allow someone to come into my house and say awful things to me. Same goes for my online space, says @StillBeingMolly. #ContentEntrepreneur #CreatorEconomy. Click To Tweet
Twitcher BarefootTasha: Picture them as actual trolls
The online trolls targeting Twitcher BarefootTasha have told her to die because she’s Black or make fun of her appearance or dress. Sometimes, she addresses them head-on by making fun of them, as she did in this video responding to a commenter who called her and other female gamers a derogatory name.
She recently partnered with Color of Change to end hate speech on Twitch, promoting this open letter asking the platform to do better with other streamers, including VantanArt. “In my mind, I picture online trolls as actual trolls, maybe in a basement or an attic, rambling about things that don’t matter while life passes them by,” she shares. “They’re usually sad and pathetic, and no one wants to be their friend … Most times, I make a joke out of them or gauge a funny response out of them, so my community and I all laugh together about the things they say instead of letting it dampen the mood of the stream.”@BarefootTasha_p partnered w/ @ColorOfChange to promote an open letter asking @Twitch to end hate speech on the platform. #ContentEntrepreneur #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet
Twitcher VantanArt: Arm your community with confidence
When VantanArt encounters an online troll, it’s usually someone attacking his looks, his assumed sexuality, or his Blackness. Most are racially motivated.
“As a content creator and firstly human, I think it’s super important to know yourself and your value,” he shares. “When you understand your strengths, your weaknesses, and what makes you you, people can’t use them against you negatively.
“It’s also important to know that not everyone is going to love and accept you. It’s your job to arm your peace and your community with confidence. You’ve got to be a certain amount of miserable to attack others online unprovoked. Trolls are like mosquitoes; they’re attracted to the brightest of lights. Slap the bug, thank them for the engagement, and keep it moving.”Trolls are like mosquitoes. They're attracted to the brightest of lights. Slap that bug, thank them for the engagement, and keep it moving, advises Twitcher @VantanArt. #Streaming #CreatorEonomy Click To Tweet
Alisha Ether aka Leesh Capeesh: Use humor if you must acknowledge the trolls
Among the platforms where Leesh Capeesh lives, Twitch brings the most online trolls, she says. Usually, they’ll say some variation of the n-word because she has that word and thousands of other variations blocked. Or they’ll talk about her weight or appearance. “Just people out looking for quick attention or trying to get under my skin in some way, which never works,” she says.
Often, the best response is no response at all. She just bans them from the stream immediately and acts like nothing’s happened. But, sometimes, she’ll turn it into a joke, making an example out of the individual.Often the best response to trolls is no response at all. @Leesh_Capeesh just bans them from her stream and acts like nothing's happened. #ContentEntrepreneur #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet
“One time, I couldn’t think of the word for a camera effect for the life of me and someone in chat goes, ‘It’s called night vision, but pop off,’ all smug like, and I banned them, of course, after telling them off,” she shares. You can see how she responded on her TikTok.
“But now, whenever I can’t remember the name of something and chat tells me or if I eventually remember it, I go, ‘It’s called night vision, but pop off,’” she says. “We have a lot of running inside jokes and sayings in my community that actually came from trolls.”
Instagrammer and TikToker Brynta Ponn: Turn trolls’ comments into entertainment
Brynta Ponn, a body positivity content creator, deals with a lot of fatphobia and racism on her pages. “You’re an easy target on the internet these days when you’re a fat person, but even more so as a fat POC (person of color),” she says.
“People have a lot to say when it comes to us existing happily in our bodies. It’s unfortunate that the internet seems to have given people this sense of entitlement to comment on whatever they want in a negative way just because they get to hide behind a computer screen.”It's unfortunate the internet gives people a sense of entitlement to comment on whatever they want in a negative way because they can hide behind a computer screen, says @BryntaPonn. #OnlineBusiness #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet
When trolls reveal themselves, she usually just blocks them. But, sometimes, she highlights them, as she did in this TikTok post showing the comments or in this video where she addresses people making negative comments in “her house.”
“I just don’t have the energy to contribute to those negative conversations,” she says. “However, I do love turning that negativity into something more productive and entertaining like a TikTok video or photo … We deserve to take up space no matter what we look like. Because our looks are not the most important thing about us.”
Instagrammer and TikToker Corey Rae: Keep the trolls’ comments to show the hate to your community
Most trolls target Corey Rae, an activist, storyteller, and the world’s first openly transgender prom queen on her TikTok, not on Instagram. “Most of them are conservative and are very against the transgender liberation movement and don’t support the community whatsoever,” she says of the TikTok trolls. Most of the time, she just ignores them. If the comments are truly harmful, she’ll block them.
“Sometimes I’ll tease the trolls with humorous responses, and, on very rare occasions, I’ll debate them if I think it could truly help,” she says. “If not for them, then for anyone else seeing the comment thread. Other than that, I leave the comments on my page … to show that there is still a ton of hate toward me and my community.”#Instagrammer and #TikToker #CoreyRae keeps trolls' comments on their page so others can see the hate toward them and the community. #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet
But she doesn’t let them get under her skin. “At this point in my life, I’ve been through too much and have heard every insult possible, and I’ve grown to not be offended because the only opinion of me that matters is my own,” she says.
Instagrammer Heather Kirk: Show a zero-tolerance approach
Heather Kirk started doing hair and makeup for celebrity events and eventually transformed her Instagram account to a mommy #RealStagram where she shares everything from body insecurities to favorite baby foods. Usually, the online trolls are strangers to her page who find her content through Reels “or the occasional anonymous burner account – who I assume is run by some girl whose boyfriend I probably stole in fourth grade,” Heather says.
“For me, it’s all about remembering that these people don’t truly know you, and ultimately, it’s pretty sad that they’re choosing to use their time to bring others down,” she shares. “You have to just stay positive and focus on the larger group of people who love you.”
But she also thinks like trolls should be held accountable for their actions. And she’s confronted them (without using their name) in posts such as this response to a woman who tried to shame Heather with unflattering photos. “I don’t have a single reservation about posting their messages or comments to my story,” she says. “I want people to be aware that I have zero tolerance for bullying behind a keyboard. And honestly, if you’re comfortable saying those things to someone, it speaks volumes about you as a person.”It's pretty sad that trolls use their time to bring down others. Creators should stay positive and focus on the larger group of people who love you, says #Instagrammer #HeatherKirk. #Advice #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet
About the author
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall is a longtime journalist, freelance writer, and founding editor of two popular parenting websites in North Carolina. She frequently writes about parenting, aging, education, business management, and interesting people doing remarkable things.