How to Deal with Online Criticism

How to Deal with Online Criticism - picture of young woman screaming at laptop

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I’ve been writing my own blog for almost 4 years now, and it’s funny how things have changed during that time. When I first started writing online, my biggest fan was my mom. As anyone would guess, she nodded in agreement with everything I said and thought I was ahhh-may-zing.

But as time went on and more people started reading, angry comments and criticism starting pouring in. 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 write professionally, but my blog is unapologetically casual.

So yeah, I occasionally use words like “cray” and “gazillion.” If you don’t like it, then by golly, you can stop reading any time. Or keep going and grit your teeth. The choice is yours.

Let me be clear: I don’t care.

Either way, blowing up a website means getting new critics every day. And over time, the chorus of disgruntled readers has grown in size.

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 not vaccinating my kids the other day (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 created for all the world to see, and you deserve some credit for that.

See also: How to Freelance Writing Changed My Life

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 kinda like Mogwai. When you feed them, they multiply.

Know That People Hate Success

One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of people hate hearing about success. At this point, it’s happened to me too many times to be a coincidence. 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 quadrupled my income, the comments get pretty stupid. Sometimes they’re even nitpicky about things that have nothing to do with the article itself, which is a key indicator they basically wish they were me. (Kidding!)

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 it.

See also: How to Get Freelance Writing Jobs

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 making money online? 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 proven yourself, simply point to the scoreboard. You’re winning.

The Bottom Line

If you’re building an online career, you should know that criticism only gets more intense as you grow in popularity and expand your reach. Instead of letting it get you down, wear your 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.

Also remember, angry comments can sometimes be learning opportunities. Every reader is important, and there are times when their criticisms are warranted. At the very least, use their anger to build a thick layer of skin. From one writer to another, I can tell you, you’re going to need it.

Next → How I Make Over $150,000 a Year Blogging

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  1. Internet tough guys! I was surprised at some of the hateful comments our debt free story got when it got picked up by some of the larger sites. It turned to personal attacks. So true about success, people seems so bitter about their own failure that lashing out seems to be the only way to deal with your hard work and good fortune.

    1. Oh yeah. People hate reading how someone else became debt-free. Your success is always their failure – at least, that’s how they see it.

  2. I would think that people would find you inspiring. I love your experience of working in fast food, and then Greg and you working at a mortuary, then starting the blog and getting freelancing gigs and now doing consulting and living the dream. I’d think that people would be all “Hey if she can do it then why not me, eh?”

    When I was a kid in 5th grade I got bullied really harshly and then I worked at a call center doing telemarketing. I feel like I’ve already had a lot of rejection thrown at me so I feel like I can handle the trolls (if they come, usually its other bloggers that comment on my blog and I get spam comments that I end up deleting).

    1. Yep, same here. I wasn’t really bullied in school, but I was extremely insecure. I was so insecure that every whisper or rumor about me felt like death. I spent junior and senior high feeling like the biggest loser on Earth – like I wouldn’t amount to anything, That’s the sad truth.

      I have a lot more confidence as an adult. But the truth is, people on the internet can be assholes. Fortunately, I get enough positive feedback that it balances out the bad.

      And also, like I said, I keep my eye on the scoreboard – which is the true measure of my success or failure.

  3. I will let you know once l get trolls 😉 🙂 ;-). We know misery loves company, but l really find it hard to believe people can be so poisonous :-(.

  4. Could not agree more Holly. One of the biggest things I’ve taken away from my experience is how much people hate success and really are just unhappy and like the veil of anonymity being behind a computer provides them. It can be a challenge at times not to respond but that only feeds the beast. Like you said though, there are times where comments can be learning opportunities and it’s important to take them as such.

    1. Yeah, definitely. But it can be difficult to distinguish real criticisms sometimes. I have definitely learned useful information about myself and my writing from negative comments.

  5. As a middle school teacher, it’s crazy to watch the evolution of bullying. Some people never grow out of it…or get worse as adults! I’m not sure why it seems like someone else’s success reduces the likelihood of theirs, but it seems to be why people are so competitive with others’ triumphs. Misery and company and all that jazz.

    1. Yeah, school is the worst. I am not looking forward to the day when my daughters have to deal with teenage girls and all the drama.

  6. Just curious, when it’s via comments do you just delete the comments or do you just move on?

    1. I almost never delete anything, as I prefer to make fun of people instead. I have deleted some curse words!

  7. Great post, you can’t make everyone happy and that’s not your job. I just wrote a post recently about Imposter Syndrome and moving forward in my business (this will make sense in a sec) the idea being that the more people put themselves out there (in their field) the more likely they will experience growth in their business. As for blogging and online entrepreneurship playing it safe isn’t how you grow your tribe and make money. You have to take risks. Thanks for the advice and keep on rocking on.

  8. This is great advice. I’ve always felt like if people are stopping in the middle of their day to draft a negative or spiteful comment to something you’ve written, you pretty much have the power and you’re be recognized by a lot of people. I come across stuff almost every day that I don’t agree with or think is silly, but I don’t stop and comment because I could care less. Making someone care and think definitely means you’re winning.

  9. Love this and totally needed this. I need to focus on #1 rule especially. That type of criticism is hard for me because I would never treat another person that way, but I need to learn to blow it off. Thanks, Holly. 🙂

  10. I heard a great quote recently that works here: “Try not to take things personally. What people say about you is a reflection of them, not you.” The trolls are just that. It’s one thing if the criticism is constructive or they state a disagreement in a civil tone, but many people just hurl hurtful insults behind the anonymity of the internet. They would never say that to someone’s face, but think it’s okay since it’s over the internet.

  11. \’Haters gonna hate\’. You just have to keep writing and doing what you enjoy. It can be a bit difficult and intimidating to face criticism online, especially if you have just started blogging and are slowly building the numbers. At that time, you obsess with traffic and comment stats and are eager to make a positive mark. But I think it becomes easier to deal with such criticism once you gain a bit more confidence, which comes over time, and once you know you have a dedicated following.

  12. I totally agree with you on not feeding the trolls. That was also my motto (in different words) when in my previous life I was an expert witness for the Corp I served. The opposing attorney would say anything to get my goat and diminish the testimony that I was to give. Any crumb left for them would only double their nonsense. I have even ran into negative verbal comments in casual situations regarding my early retirement. When asked what I do and I say I am retired the career snob remark, “oh you mean unemployed” has been the unoriginal remark quite a few times. I chalk it up to either their envy or financial regrets. I have to imagine that is also the reason for the online trolls who lay out anything negative to you in the comments.

  13. I used to struggle with this more so when I had a political blog. Part of the issue is I would feel a need to respond/correct people who commented and tried to make me out to be dumb/stupid/ignorant. Honestly on my own blog I am not afraid to delete a comment if it’s out of line, but if it’s simply a critique of my argument I typically am just happy to have them care enough to go to the site and write a comment.

  14. Some people base their happiness on bringing people beneath them … don\’t let it get you down!

  15. Constructive feedback is one thing; rude personal attacks are something else. I agree with what you & others have said that it’s probably best to just ignore the comments & move on. Replying with anything just fuels their negativity towards a person for some reason. So sad that people feel they can treat people poorly online and that they aren’t accountable for their behavior. Keep focusing on your wonderful success, those who care about & support you, & keep doing good for others because that’s what truly matters. Onwards & upwards!

  16. Financial Samurai says:

    Good feedback. It seems like the opposite has happened with Financial Samurai as it has grown. I had many more trolls and haters in the beginning first two years. Now that my website is 10 times larger I actually get less comments per post on average and almost no haters/trolls.

    It’s kind of weird. And I kind of miss the old days where there were huge flame wars. Lots of entertaining comments.

    Maybe there is an inflection point once you’re past five years where people start excepting you and realizing OK you’re here for the long term.


  17. I am glad that I am not that affected by criticisms. As long as what I am doing is right and I don’t harm other people, I just feel at ease. I just consider these criticisms just constructive and use it in a positive way. I can’t control these but I can control how I respond to these.

  18. I think people don’t like to hear hard truths. They like you to pat them on the back and say it’s OK to spend all your money on crap and wonder why you’re in debt. The big thing I get, online and real world, is that I have it easy because I am a “big doctor” and must make all kinds of money so normal rules don’t apply. It doesn’t matter what your income, if you spend more than you make, you’ll be broke. If you don’t make a lot, earn more. Unicorns don’t hand out doctor degrees, debt freedom, or affiliate sales to lucky people, you have to make it happen for yourself. I think it’s the hard work and changing lifestyle part people struggle with, so it’s easier to bash someone who did it than look at what’s wrong with yourself.

  19. I like the people hate success point. It’s so true when we write about money. Everyone is looking for a reason to take down someone’s success or strategy. The only time I do feed the trolls is when sexism rears its ugly head. SO HARD to not engage there.

  20. ….and then some people are just assholes.

    I’ve certainly had my fair share of criticism and thankfully it doesn’t bother me. The only one I almost lost my shit on was someone sending me a personal email going on…and on…and on…about the shitting situation I was bringing a child into and how I should basically be condemned to the depths of hell. I sat on it for days before hitting delete.

  21. Though I’m sure we haven’t achieved the volume of criticism (or traffic) you have, we also view criticism as a compliment, something to be proud of. If we never said anything controversial, we wouldn’t be adding much to world. So we try to think of any haters as a sign we’re doing something right. Thanks for writing about this topic–it’s something we all need to hear.

  22. I will very well keep this article in my pocket! This is one reason I’ve been hesitant to open up with family about my online writing endeavors because I’m publishing earnings. I know how quick people can flip a switch when you’re just getting by. When they hear about successful things they all of a sudden want to turn off the lights. I’ve grown accustomed to critiques from those I know so I’m hoping my skin is thick enough for the trolls I know will come online. Thanks for this!

  23. When I see these types of comments I always get a good laugh. Even better when they contain typos, a real glimpse into the lowest common denominator types in our society.

  24. One day my partner came home from work to find me snarling at the computer with my hair all clenched. “Herding trolls again?” was his sympathetic response. From that I wrote A short clip:

    “The comments section is there so that readers can share their own points of view. Too often they’re talking points rather than real points, or lazy-ass, knee-jerk retorts like:

    “They paid you to write this junk?” (I only wish I could respond, “You bet! And they pay quite well!”)
    “This would never work in real life because…” (In other words: It didn’t work for me/sounds too far out of my comfort zone. Never mind that I quoted people for whom it did work – and in real life, too.)
    “Democrats! They’re ruining the country! They want to tax the rich and enable the poor!” (I know which radio and TV stations you’ve been patronizing.)
    “Republicans! It’s all the fault of the Republicans! They only care about money!” (Yeah, but I bet you wish you had as many media choices as they did.)

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