How to Deal with Online Criticism

trollsI’ve been writing my own blog for two years now, and it’s funny how things have changed since the beginning.  When I first started writing online, my only consistent reader was my mom.  As anyone would guess, she absolutely loved everything I had to say and agreed wholeheartedly.  But, as time went on and more people started reading, I began getting the occasional angry comment or criticism.  Fortunately, it has never been a big deal to me.  I mean, I’m not writing for The Atlantic or trying to win a Pulitzer Prize here, folks. I do have professional writing jobs, but most of my writing jobs are blog-style and unapologetically casual.

Over time, the chorus of disgruntled commenters has grown in size, although their disdain for me is somewhat sporadic.  Still, I’m not sweating it. In fact, I’ve learned to enjoy the angry comments, especially the unintentionally funny ones.  For example, I’ve been called a gold-digger more than once (LOL).  A common theme in my hate mail is that I’m an out-of-touch elitist (Say what?).  People constantly accuse me of not being a good mother, even though they’ve never met me or my children (Sigh).  I was even accused of possibly not vaccinating my kids the other day for some reason (Eye Roll).  Oh, and my favorite- I love it when people call me greedy (100% True).

How to Deal with Online Criticism

If you’re just starting out in the realm of internet freelancing, it can be tough.  Angry and disgruntled readers often take life’s frustrations out on you in ways that you’d never expect, and it can be disheartening.  But it doesn’t have to ruin your day, nor should it make you stray from writing in your own true voice.  Want to deal with online criticism like a boss?  Follow these simple tips:

Celebrate the Fact that You’re Doing Something

When you put yourself and your work out there, it’s only natural that not everyone will be a fan.  And that’s okay, right?  Some people may not like your writing style.  Others might think you’re boring.  Some people might think you’re a total bitch (That happens to me…..a lot).  Remember, you’ll never please everyone.

Instead of letting negative comments get you down, celebrate the fact that you’re doing something.  I mean, you’ve put yourself out there in ways that others can only dream of.  It takes a lot of strength and courage to publish anything you’ve written or created for the world to see, and you deserve some credit for that.

Don’t Feed the Trolls

When someone anonymously insults you, your first instinct is likely to fire it right back at ’em.  However, that’s usually a bad idea. Trust me, I know.  I’ve done it a hundred times.  Fortunately, I am usually smart enough to delete my comeback before hitting “submit.”  Usually.  But, sometimes I can’t help myself and I say things that just invite more criticism.  And the one thing I’ve learned about trolls is that they’re kind’ve like Mogwai.  When you feed them, they multiply. 

Know That People Hate Success

One thing I’ve noticed in two years of writing is that a lot of people hate hearing about success.  It’s happened to me too many times to be a coincidence at this point, especially in the comments on some bigger sites I write for.  For example, when I write about the mistakes we’ve made and stupid things we’ve done, I usually get supportive comments.  But, when I write about our 50% savings rate and how I quit my job and doubled my income, the comments are often harsh.  Sometimes they’re even nitpicky about things that have nothing to do with the article itself, which I find strange.

When you reach a certain level of success, you’ll probably notice that some people have a different attitude toward your writing.  Instead of taking it personally, it’s important to keep things in perspective.  The fact that people even care what you have to say to begin with is reason to be proud, even if they don’t like what you have to say.

Keep Your Eye On the Scoreboard

Hurtful comments about your creative endeavors can be painful, but they don’t really matter in the long run.  Everyone has their share of critics, but their opinions only matter if you let them.  If I had a dollar for each time someone criticized my writing in some way, shape, or form, I would be rich! 

Have you built up a healthy readership?  Is your website earning money?  Are people paying you to write?  If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” then you are a success.  Period.  If people continue to tear you down after you’ve proved yourself, simply point to the scoreboard.  You’re winning.

Let’s be real, here.  You’re a badass.

Unfortunately, online criticism only gets more intense as you grow in popularity and expand your reach.  Instead of letting it get you down, wear criticism like a badge of honor.  Remember the days when you only wished that someone would read what you had to say, and consider yourself lucky that you’ve finally made it.  It’s important to believe that every reader is important….even the ones that are only there to criticize you.  Sometimes their criticism might even be warranted, and you can use that opportunity to learn something.

Other times, it’s best just to laugh it off and focus on your work.  And remember, it’s hard being awesome.

Do you get negative feedback in any aspect of your life?  How do you deal with online haters?


  1. says

    One of the good things about being mainly on the editing side rather than the writing side is I don’t take direct heat. I know so many reporters and writers and don’t know how some of them have such thick skins…!

  2. says

    It is so true that anyone who would attack you like that without really knowing you is a troll. I have not experienced online trolls, but I have definitely had real life trolls who tried to make me feel bad about myself and it’s true, some people hate your success and hate you for having it. It’s sad because I have never thought like that and it actually makes me feel bad for them more than anything else. In my 20s, I definitely internalized it more, in my 30s, I laugh it off and feel bad for them and not me.

  3. says

    There’s nothing like having the internet to hide behind. It gives people some sort of license to be mean which is sad. I’m glad you have a thick skin and just let it wash off your back. There are always going to be people who hate, kill them with! Enjoy your success!!!

  4. says

    LOVE this, Holly!!! We’ve been dealing with more and more of this as the blog keeps growing, and I”m happy to say that I DON”T CARE. Not in a mean, selfish way, but only because it’s my responsibility to do what’s best for my family, not to do what others think is best for my family. An out-of-touch elitist: funny. You and the Siegels, right? :-)

  5. says

    We’ll have to add this post to our future post on whether or not people hate success. We don’t! And our readers don’t, which may be why we’re stuck at 800 hits/day. Thank goodness our blog is a hobby and not monetized!

    We disinvite people who say nasty things about (non dangerous) parenting styles. We disinvite people who say nasty things about their IRL friends behind their backs. We delete or “translate” misogynistc comments and make fun of tiny penises.

  6. says

    Negative feedback used to really get under my skin but now I can care less. The more you put yourself out there, especially on big blogs the more people will criticize you but it’s part of the territory.

    Sometimes you just have to stop reading the comments. There was one post I wrote for a big blog that had gotten around 150 comments. After reading some of the first few that implied I was a slut I just stopped reading. Sometimes that’s just what you’ve got to do!

  7. says

    I’ve always had a hard time dealing with criticism… but it’s definitely a good thing to build thick skin. There will never be a day when everyone agrees or likes what you have to say.

  8. says

    Love this Holly! I’d love to be like my Mom and kill them with kindness, but I’m just too damn sarcastic for that. Thankfully I’m smart enough, most times, to dial back the sarcasm before I click on submit. Unfortunately too many just use the internet as a veil to spew hate because they’re unhappy or jealous. I do my best to take it with a grain of salt, or laugh if it’s the case of comments on a bigger site, and make me stronger.

  9. says

    I don’t know how, but I haven’t really gotten any criticism and I’ve been blogging for three years now. *knocks on wood* I’m a bit surprised, to be honest. Maybe people feel that my income is so unrelateable that my savings is motivational and out of reach rather than something that they could actually do?

    I probably don’t nearly as many visitors as you do – I have yet to hit 1,000 visits in a day and my best month was just over 8,000 visits.

  10. says

    Great post Holly! I think that it’s true that it does take courage to put yourself out there, especially when you are talking about a “taboo” subject like your finances. I have had fairly supportive comment (which makes me wonder if I’m struggling financially too much-lol), but I have one friend IRL who makes snippy comments here and there. She is just kind of negative in general so I totally ignore her and don’t respond to her comments. I just have no desire to engage in a battle of words. In the same token I have to respect their perspective of what they read, whether they took it wrong or misread or not.

  11. says

    The internet has attracted every person with an opinion! Some of those people should keep their opinion to themselves. I think it is best to just let people show their ignorance or anger and respond accordingly.

  12. says

    I’ve had some pretty horrible emails come my way. There’s one particular troll who continues to email me about how selfish I am and how I am singlehandedly bringing down the economy with my reckless student loan debt. No joke.

    At first, I was so angry and let it get to me. But my husband said to me, “Hey, at least they’re listening.” Now I take the Leslie Knope approach and say, “I don’t hear people yelling at me. I hear people caring a lot at me.”

  13. Maverick says

    The internet has done many good things, but providing an “open-mic” and podium to EVERYONE is not its best feature.

    Thanks for being a prolific, interesting blogger…keep it up. :)

  14. says

    My blog is not popular enough to get much negative comments or hate mail! =) I guess you should take it as a compliment! Though it’s annoying that people can hide behind their anonymity and say horrible things that they’d never say to someone’s face.

  15. says

    I LOVED this post Holly! You are so unapologetically you and that’s freaking awesome. :) My blog is nowhere near as popular as yours but I sure get a ton of criticism/hatorade for such a small blog. Who knows. Maybe they’re jealous of my cute avatar. 😛 I’ll be bookmarking this page for when I get my next one so I can deal with it as badass as you do!

  16. says

    Unfortunately, negative feedback is just part of life no matter what you’re doing. In some cases, the negative feedback is warranted. As a matter of fact, early on Greg from another blog ripped me a new one in a carnival that he was doing. I emailed him and asked why…turns out he was a really nice guy. His readers enjoy when he bags on people, but he offered tips and tricks to pick my blog up to par. I really appreciate things like that. Other times, I’ve gotten literal hate mail. There was no reason to say things except for out of sheer hate. Then I remembered, haters are gonna hate. The hate may be geared toward the playa, but they just mad at tha game homie!!!

  17. says

    I have no problem with people respectfully disagreeing with me because that can actually be a lot of fun. But the weird, random hate is a strange thing. I’ve noticed too on the really, really big sites. Half the time it has nothing to do with the article, just people trolling, I guess. I do agree that the more successful you’ve become the more of a target your can become. My blog is still too small, so I really don’t get hate emails/comments, although I (and I’m somewhat proud of this) got my first negative comment that sadly I could not approve. It was full of swear words which doesn’t offend me, but my girls look at the site with me so no. But I was dumb f* for telling parents to talk to kids about money. :) Well, I’m guess I’m going to stay that way because I’m not going to stop. Love this, Holly!

  18. says

    I don’t get trolls. How do you have nothing better to do with your life than spew negativity everywhere? It’s just sad. I haven’t gotten any criticism yet, but I’m not really controversial. I can’t believe some of the things people pull out of their ass, though. Clearly your income doubled overnight, and you did absolutely nothing to make that happen. Sigh. I love your sarcasm and style of writing, and I’m glad you haven’t stopped being yourself because of silly comments. There’s a reason you’re successful!

  19. says

    You’re killin’ it, Holly. This is a fantastic post for anyone who has to deal with trolls. I love that you can sluff it off because I take it very personally and live in fear of being called out, but you’re right: it comes with the territory.

  20. says

    Oh gee, just read the comment on GRS that may have sparked this. I do think you were a bit harsh there in the comments section about something honestly pretty trivial (which then escalated to worse comments from the peanut gallery). That’s not like you.

    • says

      It just rubbed me the wrong way for some reason. What bothers me, I think, is that it seems to be the same people over and over. Then they wanted me to actually edit my article to please them, which I thought was absurd. It just gets old sometimes.

      Honestly, I think the whole thing is ridiculous. I can’t believe that anyone would read that post and nitpick me over something so petty. I don’t know. I guess I’m not much of a people-pleaser anymore.

        • says

          Believe it or not, I wrote this post a few weeks ago so it is not directed at anyone in particular, especially GRS readers/commenters. They are usually a thoughtful bunch and there have been great conversations sparked in the comments.

    • says

      I think the lesson here is to NOT RESPOND! That is truly the only thing that squashes crazy threads like that one. I should know better.

  21. says

    I usually think the people that have online criticism are having a bad day or really don’t like the life they have made, so while difficult to not “cut them with words” I usually turn the other cheek and hope their day gets a little better. I also usually hold off on commenting for a day so I calm down and think lighter of the comment.

  22. says

    I’m trying to strive for more trolls because that usually means your successful! I’ve had lots of them in real life, and it’s really hard not to be a smart ass when someone says something incredibly stupid. When I get old and don’t have to work for anyone, I’m going to just say whatever I feel like. People will just call me an old coot and I’ll get away with it!

  23. says

    I’ve been fortunate to only get a few negative comments here and there, and they don’t generally attack much that really gets to me. I have had some hate tweets and I have just enjoyed the traffic they bring in. I have had a couple of negative comments which have made me re-think my points of view, and those ones I try to see as positives; anything that makes you grow as an individual, a blogger, and a writer, right? I think you have a great attitude about it.

  24. says

    Holly, one of the things I love and admire about your site is that you stick to your guns and don’t take crap from anyone. Even I don’t always agree with you but I respect the hell out of you for your personal fortitude. I already know that if my site starts picking up trolls that I will have to channel my inner Holly. Keep doing what you’re doing, I have no doubt you will that you will never let anyone water you down.

  25. says

    I was talking to a friend about this the other day. She had some offline haters. People who can’t stand that she is doing well in her life and trying to get ahead. She was in disbelief that people she thought were her friends and even close family members were being so critical of her for doing better. Haters are gonna hate because they are jealous.

  26. says

    To be honest… I’ve been dreading my first negative comment at Trendy Cheapo. I just do not take it well. I had one negative response on Reddit one time and I almost had a conniption. When it happens on my own blog? I’m going to have to take a looooooooong breather. Bookmarking this post.

  27. says

    Thanks for the tips, Holly! I just recently came out from my anonymous moniker and relaunched my finance blog using my actual name (eek!) and honestly the criticism concern was a real one for me. Despite my uber-manly former username “The Caveman,” I’m actually notorious in the real world for being an overly-sensitive guy, especially when it comes to criticism. I’ve found this out over several years of blogging, running internet forums, and of course interacting with people on Facebook.

    I think ignoring it is the best thing, usually. Like you eluded to, often times these people are just trying to make you feel bad because they’re jealous. They might phrase it differently and take issue with things like “gloating,” but at the end of the day it is born out of jealousy. They don’t like it and they want to bring you down. Generally speaking, any response you give them (at the very least) is going to make them feel good because they know you read their nasty message and it impacted you enough to respond.

    Honestly I’ve never read anything on your site that has even slightly made me consider having negative or mean feelings toward you. Some people just like to watch the world burn! :)

  28. says

    I know I’m late to the party but I kind of feel like you haven’t really made it as a blogger until you’ve had some negative comments. 😉 I think getting a negative comment is a kind of a milestone. It means you’re writing something that people care enough about to be negative (if that makes any sense). I (sadly?) have yet to receive my first negative comment. 😉

  29. says

    I just saw this post. Great one Holly! I love the angry comments. It means I am doing something right. Typically, these people are just jealous of your success. They take the time to comment about you, so take it as a compliment.

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