9 Ways of Coping with Internet Trolls and Harassment
I wish I could share with you what’s been going on without giving attention and pleasure to these people. I wish I could give every detail behind what I’m about to share without antagonizing or feeding into the ongoing problem. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is the best direction to take this. Instead, I’m going to let this fuel me and allow me to create more positivity and love in this world. I know we’re not the first ones experiencing this and we won’t be the last.
For the last week Sensei Nick and I have been getting harassed by fake accounts on Instagram. So today I will be sharing with you 10 ways to cope with Internet Trolls. These coping mechanisms and skills are straight out of my Dialectical Behavioural Therapy toolbox and I’m actually beyond excited to share them with you today.
Disclaimer: I am not a therapist in any way, shape or form. I am a member and participant in this form of therapy.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
The following headings are 3 of the 4 different modules you go through when you enter into a DBT therapy program. This is a group program aimed at teaching skills to reduce, improve or change behaviours that you might find challenging or ineffective to live with. I personally think these skills are something many of us have internalized, but for some reason or another some of us haven’t and we have to work a little harder to learn them.
The Observe skill is meant to help you be a better witness to the things around you, but also the things inside of you. Observing your external and internal world as if you were a fly on the wall can be empowering. Often when we are mad, sad or scared we can easily get caught up in the reason behind these emotions, instead of diving into the presence of the emotions themselves. In my case, I am observing that I am carrying more anxious energy with me every day. I observe that my thoughts are suspicious of almost anyone. I observe that I feel hurt and confused. There is a sense of empowerment in being aware of my thoughts and feelings. When I am aware of them, they are less likely to influence my behaviour in negative ways. If I let my emotions take over I could get stuck in trying to hurt this person back and engaging in communication that will only make it worse.
I sort of did describe while I practiced the observation skill. Generally, when you are observing, you try to avoid putting labels, value or judgement on what you are observing. I described what I was feeling, thinking and even seeing. In this situation, I could say, “someone evil person is posting mean stuff on my Instagram account”. This holds a lot of assumptions and judgments that could perpetuate my anxiety and discomfort, or I can describe this situation as “I received comments on my instagram that made me feel hurt and uncomfortable”. Describe the facts, they can make the circumstances less big and scary in our brains. It is easier to accept the second line than it is the first line.
This skill is about how we practice mindfulness. The skill effectively refers to doing what’s effective in a situation rather than acting on emotional urges. For example, the first thing I wanted to do was message this person and tell them how horrible they are. First, this could just provoke further harassment and attacks. It would make me feel even more uncomfortable with myself as I would be disappointed with how I acted later on. Finally, it would sink me to their level. I don’t attack people. I don’t try to hurt people intentionally. Doing so would compromise my values and sense of self. The most effective thing for me to do is to turn to my skills, my therapy and my true self for guidance.
Distress Tolerance Skills
I struggled with this skill for a long time. I saw distracting as self indulgence and unproductive. The truth is, it can be. There will come a time where distracting will outlive its usefulness and result in or be an unhealthy behaviour. However, sometimes our emotions are just too high and we reach a breakdown point. We can lose the ability to think and act effectively, we can lose touch with our mindfulness skills and we can even end up in crisis. This is when distracting skills will be useful. My favourite distract methods are melting my brain with silly youtube videos, painting, playing with my plethora of pets and anything to do with going outside. These things that bring you even the tiniest bit of happiness or relaxation are the things you should be ready to do when you hit a breakdown point. When I first got these messages I was too upset to think rationally, I actually missed a work commitment that made me feel even worse and I found myself in a space where I needed to do nothing but get my mind off of it for a little while.
- Self Soothing
Self soothing can be anything that brings you comfort, relief or relaxation in any way. We tend to focus on the 5 senses when self soothing. For sight, relocate to a place you find visually appealing or beautiful, look at pictures, maybe even close your eyes and picture being in your favourite place. For sound, play your favourite music, listen to some nature sounds on youtube, or call your favourite person just to hear their voice. For smell, light a nice smelling candle, put on your favourite perfume, or go outside and smell the fresh air. For taste, make your favourite tea, make/order your favourite meal, or eat something INTENSE like spicy or sour candy. For touch, sit in a hot or cold bath, wrap up in your favourite blanket or wear your favourite soft clothes. Indulge all your senses in feel-good moments because you, as a human being, deserve to feel ok.
- Reality Acceptance
The main reality acceptance skill I used for letting go of the suffering I was experiencing as a result of my internet trolls is radical acceptance (create link to radical acceptance post). A quick troubleshoot on this one is that accepting something doesn’t mean you have to approve, enjoy or agree with whatever you’re accepting. Radically accepting a circumstance, action or reaction creates space for us to think more positively and begin problem solving. It’s a more effective way of being. Pain is inevitable, suffering doesn’t have to be. Non-acceptance perpetuates that suffering. This internet trolling is happening and it may feel like no one is on your side but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. No one should have to experience this. I am so sorry if you are. I know how you feel. So, how are you going to turn this into a positive for you? For me, it’s this blog post.
Emotion Regulation Skills
- Reduce Emotional Vulnerability – PLEASE
This acronym really is the foundation of our wellbeing. This is a reminder to PLEASE take care of yourself and reduce your emotional vulnerability by PL – treating physical illness, E – balanced eating, A – avoiding mood altering substances (yes that might mean coffee for you), S – balanced sleeping, and E – exercising! These are all things that when we ignore or let slide we can put ourselves in a more emotionally vulnerable position. I don’t know about you but I’m miserable when I’m sick, hungry or tired, coffee makes me so anxious I can’t leave my home, and without my exercise routine, I would be a ball of nervous energy all the time. This will set you up to better cope with the negativity coming from external sources.
- Build Mastery
Building Master if from the ABC acronym (comment down below if you want to know more about that one). Building mastery is a favourite skill of mine because it encourages us to participate in the activities that make us feel accomplished. Pick an activity that is challenging but you know you can accomplish or are good at. Demonstrating to ourselves that we are competent and that we do have talents is a good antidote to the negative self talk your internet troll and the harassment may be triggering.
- Opposite Action
This has been the KEY to dealing with this situation for me. Opposite action involves identifying the urges you may be feeling and acting oppositely. So when this first began my action urge was to attack back. I wanted to ruin this person’s self esteem. I wanted them to feel as upset as they’re trying to make me. Then, I used all of the skills leading up to this one in my post and realized how useless that would be. The opposite of spreading hate, is spreading love. So that is what I am trying to do. Internet troll, if you are reading this, i’m sure you are, I want you to repeat after me: “I am loved. I am strong. I am worthy.”
Putting it all together
These skills can be hard when we aren’t on an emotional rollercoaster let alone when we are. This is a hot and yucky situation that unfortunately can’t always be avoided in this world of digital media. I would know, social media is literally my job. I know this can be a lot of information to digest in one sitting or one reading of a blog post, so I encourage you to take it slow. Practice one of these skills each day or each week. Slowly incorporate them into your life. I’ve been at it for 6 months and I expect this to be a lifelong journey. The more skills I can incorporate into my life, the more empowered I feel over my thoughts, actions and reactions. I hope this can serve just one person and if you want to hear more about how I incorporate DBT skills into my life drop a comment down below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.