Web Culture

Dealing With Online Haters: The Right Way & The Wrong Way

Joel Lee 23-01-2015

Everyone has to fend off haters and critics at some point or another. While most of us see little more than “mild hate”, others have to deal with harsh attacks on a daily basis.


Either way, just know that you are not alone – and that it is possible to win.

Plenty of high-profile folks have had to deal with hate and criticism on the web. Thanks to the supposed anonymity of the Internet Can You Really Be Anonymous Online? We all have things we'd rather not tell the world about. I think it's time we clear up a few things about anonymity online -- and answer once and for all, whether it's really possible. Read More , common etiquette has died a gruesome death only to be replaced by vitriolic flame wars Worse Than Hitler: Why Do Flamewars Happen? Why are flamewars so common on today's web, and is it really a new phenomenon?  Read More and heartless trolls 5 Most Effective Ways To Deal With Arrogant Internet Trolls The Internet is without doubt a great invention. Unfortunately, no one so far has been able to develop and anti-troll device that will help to make it a more civilized place. You might have come... Read More . It’s impossible to avoid hate on the web altogether.

If you find yourself the victim of online hate, here’s what we can learn from those who have endured and survived — as well as those who failed and broke down.

Anne Hathaway

It all started in 2011, when Anne Hathaway hosted the Academy Awards Ceremony alongside James Franco. The duo’s lack of chemistry resulted in a ceremony so dull that it birthed an Internet-wide hatred for Hathaway — even though she wasn’t fully to blame.



Two years later, when she won an Oscar for her (wonderful) performance in Les Miserables, the hate train picked up speed. Why? For shallow reasons, of course. Some claimed that she “tries too hard” and that “she’s overly dramatic” while others lashed out at her for being “too ugly”, “too attractive”, and even “too stupid looking”.

Is it any wonder why these detractors were called “Hathahaters”? They were haters, plain and simple. But she didn’t let them take her down, as she explained to the New York Times:

Q. There was a strong, negative reaction after you won your Oscar. In a recent interview for Elle U.K., you said, “As with anything difficult, eventually its purpose revealed itself, and I found it ultimately very liberating.” What was its purpose?

A. Self-acceptance. If you’re not someone who has a natural and effortless love for yourself, it’s hard to let go of your desire to please other people, and that’s really not an ingredient for a happy life.

Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato may not be as prominent as some other pop stars who started off on the Disney Channel, but she’s certainly one of the more respectable ones. It’s particularly true when you consider what she went through, and how she shamelessly made her struggles public.



In 2010, Lovato came clean with regard to her eating disorder, her tendency to self-mutilate, as well as her dependency on alcohol and drugs. Unsurprisingly, this news kicked up a veritable crapstorm on Twitter so big that Lovato often found herself getting into arguments The Negative Impact Of Social Networking Sites On Society [Opinion] I have accounts on several social networking sites, and spend far too long on them writing my own updates and reading the updates of others. I enjoy doing so, being able to interact with friends,... Read More with haters.

In 2012, Lovato took a break from social media, stating that she “can’t please everyone” and that it was “for the best”. A year later, a report confirmed that she had been clean and sober 15 "Dry January" Tools To Keep You Alcohol Free There are tons of health crazes out there, but “Dry January” might be one of the healthiest ones yet. Keep your Dry January going strong, or quit drinking alcohol altogether with these tools. Read More for one year. Coincidence? I’m inclined to believe that getting away from the hate played a big role in her victory.

James Clear

James Clear is an entrepreneur 10 Inspirational Entrepreneurs To Follow On Twitter The Internet has peeled away much of the mystery. The personal magic of today’s business leaders remains, but we can easily unravel the strategies and business ideas that make them prosper. In fact, they are... Read More , writer The Life Of An Author According To Reddit Contrary to stereotype, the life of an author is more than just laptops and lattes. Some find success, others crash and burn, but there's always wisdom and advice to be gleaned. Read More , and travel photographer The Best Online Photography Courses for Beginners Are you searching for online photography classes to join? Then take your pick from these excellent lessons. Read More who receives hate mail on a monthly basis. If what the haters say is true, then he is a worthless human being who writes worthless articles on worthless topics.

Obviously, the haters are wrong.



As a writer myself, I can sympathize with him: every piece of hate mail, no matter how baseless the claims may be, hurts. But James is still doing what he does without even batting an eyelid, which means he’s learned how to deal with that kind of incessant hatred. Here’s his secret:

During an interview with SUCCESS magazine, [racing driver Mario Andretti] was asked for his number one tip for success in race car driving. He said, “Don’t look at the wall. Your car goes where your eyes go.”

Criticism and negativity from other people is like a wall. And if you focus on it, then you’ll run right into it. You’ll get blocked by negative emotions, anger, and self-doubt. Your mind will go where your attention is focused. Criticism and negativity don’t prevent you from reaching the finish line, but they can certainly distract you from it.

However, if you focus on the road in front of you and on moving forward, then you can safely speed past the walls and barriers that are nearby.


Walmart gets a lot of flak for its business model and shady practices, leading many to lambast the company for being greedy, unethical, and even inhumane. Groups ranging from labor unions to environmental organizations have criticized Walmart, but the most recent criticisms center on the company’s treatment of its workers.



The people who really hate Walmart routinely launch written attacks over social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp, and for a while Walmart chose to ignore all of that criticism regardless of whether the critics were right or not. But in 2013, the company decided to stand up for itself.

In response to angry words of venom, Walmart met their critics head on in a manner carefully woven with respect, positivity, and opportunities for reconciliation:

When you do get a negative review, the first thing you should do is take a breather. You don’t want to fly off the handle and do something to make yourself look bad. Especially if you think the customer complaint is false, your instinct is to react in the heat of the moment. But you’ll regret it.

Take some time and formulate a polite reply. Acknowledge the person who’s complaining and say you appreciate the input. Explain your side and add a human touch.

You may not be a business, but the spirit of this advice holds true. Fighting fire with fire will consume everyone involved in an unnecessary blaze of destruction.

What to Do About Online Haters

It takes a certain level of mental and emotional fortitude to withstand any kind of hate-filled attacks on your worth or character, but if these examples have taught us anything it’s that winning against haters is possible.

  • Learn to love and accept yourself.
  • Distance yourself from the haters.
  • Ignore the haters.
  • Respond with love, not hate.

Easier said than done, but that’s how you come out as the winner.

Have you ever had to deal with haters online? How did you handle it? Did you blow up and burn bridges or did you quell the flames before it was too late? Share with us in the comments below!

Image Credits: Zombie breakout Via Shutterstock, Anne Hathaway Via Flickr, Demi Lovato Via Reviews ‘nd News, Travel Photographer Via Shutterstock, Walmart Via Shutterstock

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  1. Stravo Lukos
    January 5, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    I am a real person, Stravo Lukos of Spokane, Washington. I can be contacted via slukster at gmail dot com, & I hate trolls. They are nothing but air thieves. They thrive on hurting the innocent, & that just grrrs me to no end. Being polite usually means nothing to the pukes who troll. They see that as permission to continue.

    Attacking invalids & grieving families is playtime for the scum. The real solution is to put the dread of God into the pusbrains by tracking them down & applying 2X4 therapy relentlessly until the patient no longer resists. Without working hands, it becomes very difficult to keyboard, I've noticed. Voice recognition still doesn't cut it. But that's just an observation. You must decide on the proper prescription.

    You bet I'm serious! Dead serious. This is one old Jarhead who never gives in, fears no one, & hates trolls as much as torturers, rapists, & pervs. They are NOT anonymous. All online users can be traced, located, & treated-- with or without their permission. Trolls of the world, burn in hell!

  2. Vincent
    January 25, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    When necessary, if I choose to respond, I usually summarize the ridicule with the following comeback -- which I've found works real well at shutting-up the fool who attempted to bait me:

    "I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed man."

  3. Vincent
    January 25, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    When necessary, if I choose to respond, I usually summarize the ridicule with the following comeback -- which I've found works real well at shutting-up the fool who attempted to bait me:

    "I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed man."

  4. Jimmy.
    January 24, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    I have had to contend with what must be one of the worst forms of hate - the hate of an ex wife.
    And I agree with the suggestion mentioned above - the best thing is to distance yourself from it.
    She is not willing to let me off that lightly, and continues to throw everything in the book at me - even after 20 years, but I am still creating distance, still holding on to my esteem and dignity - and still winning!
    Best of luck to all who find themselves the targets of haters - from whatever source.

  5. Rob
    January 24, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Thanks for your reply, DragonMouth! So is this a problem with the actual idea of regulation qua regulation when it comes to 'hate speech', defamatory remarks, etc, or is it really a slippery slope issue, where we don't know where the regulation will end? If the latter, then the problem lies in the application of regulation (mods vs crowdsourced vs automated, for example), rather than regulation as an idea in itself...

    • dragonmouth
      January 25, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      "So is this a problem with the actual idea of regulation qua regulation when it comes to ‘hate speech’, defamatory remarks, etc, or is it really a slippery slope issue, where we don’t know where the regulation will end?"
      It is both. When it comes to attitude, speech or morals, the first problem is defining precisely what you are attempting/proposing to regulate. Unfortunately, most, if not all, those regulations devolve into "I'll know it when I see it." The definition, therefore the regulation, is so vague that ANY statement or action can be construed as transgressing on the regulation. Add to that people's hyper-sensitivity on a wide range of subjects and the regulation becomes an all-crushing juggenaut. This leads to the second problem, that of the "slippery slope."

      What is the definition of "hate speech?" Is "I hate (whatever)" hate speech? Is the use of ethnically pejorative words "hate speech?" Is calling someone an "idiot" hate speech? In order to have a discussion and an exchange of opinions, there has to be some tolerance of negative comments on the part of posters. If opposing comments are excluded as "trolls" then the forum becomes as useless as the review sites that post only positive ones.

    • Rob
      February 2, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      So, because something is difficult to pin down, or difficult to understand, we should choose to avoid it? Perhaps that difficulty makes it all the more important to spend tim examine, and more carefully regulating, rather than just cloaking it with the 'too complex and arbitrary' problem. If that'd happened in the rest of history, we'd have little to no personal property regulation, therefore no way of converting assets into capital. The fact that gradually these rules and regulations came into play is what gives us the opportunities we have. Regulation of all sorts needs to be evolutionary, not revolutionary. As with all evolution, some mistakes will be made, but we can always work to amend those mistakes.

      Regarding hate speech, surely there has to be some malicious intent behind the words, rather than simply saying something 'offensive'. 'Hate speech' and 'offensive' are two different things...

  6. Rob
    January 24, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Do you think there should be enforceable responsibilities on some sites to allow hateful, untrue materials to be deleted? Fake reviews on Yelp, defamatory posts on Facebook etc, or do you think this is best left unregulated?

    • dragonmouth
      January 24, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      The problem with regulation is that it is driven by opinions of the individual or group that wants to do the regulating. Sooner or later "regulation" becomes "censorship." What is objectionable to me, may not be objectionable to you, and vice versa. In addition, people are overly sensitive in some areas.

      Then you run into the concept of Freedom of Speech. With the exception of a few specific prohibitions, such as yelling "FIRE!" in a crowded room, we are supposedly free to say anything we want. However, in practice, Freedom of Speech means that "we" are free to say anything we want but "they" are not, "they" being anybody with opinions radically different than us. In practice, Freedom of Speech means that free to say only what is "approved" by the powers that be or by various pressure groups.

      "I cannot define obscenity but I'll know it when I see it" Are you familiar with that statement or other ones like it? It means that if I don't like what you say, it's objectionable.

      Recently I stumbled on a couple year old article about "forum trolls" written by Saikat for MUO. According to the definitions he provided, anybody who disagreed with your opinion could be classified as a "troll." Similarly, anybody who disagrees with you can be defined as a "hater."

      As far as Yelp and other review sites go, I would not trust any of those reviews. Yelp has been paying people to write bogus, positive reviews. Many of the sites do not allow negative reviews because they have been threatened with legal actions by companies receiving the negative reviews.

    • Joel Lee
      January 24, 2015 at 4:16 pm

      Regulation is a hard topic since everyone wants different levels of free expression. I personally think that there should be repercussions for manner of delivery (e.g. being overly aggressive, making threats) and for things like slander and libel, but I wouldn't want to see any regulations on content of speech.

      If you want to hate X and express it in a "mature" way, I think that's okay. On the flipside, if you're arguing for a noble cause but you're doing it in a loud and obnoxious and immature way, I don't think that's okay.

  7. Saikat
    January 24, 2015 at 5:55 am

    We all suffer from some variety of confirmation bias. The haters too. That is the principle cause of attitude polarisation.

    One of the best ways is to not react immediately. I liked what James Altucher wrote once...

    The 24 Hour Rule works in almost every case. If you never respond to the initial attack, it goes away in 24 hours. If you respond EVEN ONCE, then reset the clock. It’s another 24 hours as it spreads through the spider web of human interaction.

    • Joel Lee
      January 24, 2015 at 4:09 pm

      That's some very good advice. A few years ago, back when I was a lot more hot-headed than I am today, I used to dread the orange envelope on Reddit (which signifies a new comment reply, for anyone who doesn't know) because I couldn't help myself: I always had to get the last word in.

      Thinking back, a lot of those arguments would never have happened if I just waited 24 hours. There's definitely a sense of "reigniting the conversation" with every reply. Great advice from Altucher.

  8. ShowMe
    January 24, 2015 at 3:39 am

    Yes, I had a very negative and hateful comment about me on a website called Topix. The anonymity of the website lets users feel free to bash and slander others who reside in their hometown, because Topix is "Your Town. Your News. Your Take. Local news and discussion forums for every city in the US" Residing in a small town, it can be extremely embarrassing to find your self as a topic in such a forum. I know the person who wrote it was just dying for me to respond to it. They wanted me to respond. Even though I wanted to rant, rave, and defend myself as soon as I saw the post, I knew it was better to ignore it all together. I didn't want to give them the satisfaction by me responding to it. I did however report the post and asked that it be removed from the forum or I would take further action. It was gone 2 days later off of the Topix website.

    • Joel Lee
      January 24, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      Wow, that's a tough spot to be in. I don't know if I would've been able to dodge the bait if I were in your shoes. But I agree: from a hater's perspective, there's probably nothing worse than bait that goes untaken. Reinforces the notion that their comments have no worth. Nice one!