How to Deal With Negative Comments Online

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Show Your Work" by Austin Kleon. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How do you deal with negative comments online? What is the risk of sharing your work online?

Sharing your work online might bring negative attention, which can be discouraging. Artist and author Austin Kleon has advice on how to deal with negative comments so you can focus on your work without distractions.

Read more on the different ways to deal with negative comments online from Show Your Work!.

How to Deal With Negative Comments

Sharing your work online brings all kinds of attention, some of which may distract you, discourage you, or even completely derail your progress, writes Kleon. He has some specific advice on how to deal with negative comments, so you can focus on what matters and continue doing the work you want to do. We’ll explore this advice here. 

Avoid the Wrong Kinds of Connections

Making meaningful connections is what sharing your work is about, so it’s important that you cultivate constructive interactions, contends Kleon. An excellent way to do this is to simply focus on the things you love—the work, the ideas, the artists, and so on. You’ll attract real people who love these same things and you’ll create fewer opportunities for negative attention to come your way. 

(Shortform note: Happiness experts note that doing things you enjoy brings more pleasure than talking about things you enjoy. So, as you share your work with others online, focus on the act of creating—making the thing you like to make, or practicing the skill you hope to learn. If you instead get caught up in merely talking about what you’d like to do, you’re likely to feel unhappier than if you actually did it.) 

Worthwhile connections are mutually encouraging—focus on these, and ignore the others, says Kleon. Don’t concentrate on the number of followers you have, and instead concentrate on the quality of those connections. If they’re distracting, hurtful, or otherwise drain your energy, don’t give them any time. Online trolls exemplify this kind of attention—Kleon suggests you block them. 

Dealing With Online Trolls

Online harassment and trolling have grown only more common in the time since Show Your Work! was published. A recent survey found that the percentage of Americans who experienced severe online harassment (including physical threats, stalking, and the like) rose from 15% in 2014 to 25% in 2021. In fact, over two-fifths of US adults have been harassed online. 

In addition to Kleon’s advice to block online trolls from your social media accounts, experts have suggested three other techniques to deal with these kinds of negative comments:

  1. Ignore negative, taunting comments.
  2. Don’t respond to people who behave this way. 
  3. Make sure your social media followers aren’t anonymous. 

Regarding this last point, a way to ensure your followers aren’t anonymous is to periodically check on the accounts of all your followers and block anyone who doesn’t use their real name. This may require some sleuthing, but the effort can help keep your online interactions constructive.

Prepare for Criticism

When you share your work, you open yourself up to criticism, claims Kleon. He suggests five ways to prepare for this: 

  1. Keep calm: It’s easy to magnify fears about what people might think. Instead, practice calming your mind and body.
  2. Invite criticism: By courting criticism, you’ll inoculate yourself to it and will learn how to take it better. 
  3. Don’t share anything too sensitive: If you don’t feel comfortable opening up certain parts of yourself, don’t. Wait until you feel ready. 
  4. Keep moving forward: Criticism will come; don’t let it stop you. Just keep doing your work—not everyone will be a fan. 
  5. Remember, you’re more than what you do: Maintain distance between your work and your identity. Be a friend, parent, and companion, not just a creator.

Carnegie’s Advice on Dealing With Criticism

In his book How To Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers a few other tips for dealing with criticism. Two, in particular, stand out in comparison to Kleon’s suggestions:  

  1. Absorb well-intentioned criticism. This kind of criticism can be beneficial. Often, other people see things in us and our work that we can’t. Take the opportunity to improve if the criticism is justified. 
  2. Frame unfair criticism as praise. Often, this kind of criticism is motivated by jealousy or some other weakness in your critic. This should be a sign to you that you’ve accomplished something worthy of envy.
How to Deal With Negative Comments Online

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Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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