Grace Under Pressure: Dealing with Bullies and Trolls Your Blog

One of the most interesting things about the IFB community is how passionately and thoughtfully you respond to our posts that center around dealing with negativity. As much as we try to foster an atmosphere of respect, friendship and growth – there will always be those naysayers, won't there?

The freedom we have allows us to navigate and participate around the Internet mostly unchecked, uninhibited and without restriction is one of the great blessings of the digital age. As we know though, there will always be people who have to take a good thing and turn it into an ugly one.

Cyberbullying and anonymous trolls who leave negative comments are an unavoidable aspect of being a blogger. (To clarify, we're not talking about constructive criticism (and rejection) like in this post) By putting yourself out there (especially if you're posting images of yourself) you're accepting the risk that not everything you do will be received warmly and with positivity.

Inevitably, most bloggers will receive a painful, hurtful comment at some point. Probably more than one. They sting, they're insulting and no matter how ridiculous or off-point the comment is – it's only human to feel the burn.

Jessie Artigue, the blogger behind Style & Pepper recently dealt with an anonymous troll leaving various negative comments on her blog. She has a hard-and-fast policy to delete any comments that are profane or inappropriate – but what about the ones that are just mean? Far from constructive, it's tough to know just what is the right way to deal with these kinds of remarks on your blog.

In the most recent instance, Jessie decided to respond. “This comment clearly wasn't coming from a place of concern,” said Jessie when we spoke to her earlier today. “It wasn't the first time I've received a comment of this nature, but it was the first time it elicited a response.”

She decided to respond for a couple reasons. “I wanted to make sure my readers knew I was paying attention to my comments and reading them, and leaving it unchecked or deleting it felt like I'd be letting this anonymous troll win.”

Jessie's course of action was quick and deliberate. She was alerted to the comment early in the day, mulled over her options and thoughts for 15 minutes and wrote a succinct, constructive reply.

Once I responded, I felt like I had taken the power away from the comment, and from the person who left it,” Jessie said. “It wasn't about winning or getting into a bickering battle with this person – and I learned a valuable lesson in responding for the first time. I was able to let it go and move on as soon as I pressed “reply.””

Naturally, she wondered if responding might inspire an even more biting return, but is determined not to let what may be bother her too much. She says she'll go forward taking any future comments on a case-by-case basis, but found that responding in her usual voice, which is both light-hearted and professional, was the most honest way she could approach the situation.

Responding to every negative comment (or any at all) may not be the right approach for everyone, and how any blogger handles trolls and bullying is a deeply personal decision. Whatever action you take, it should be the one that makes you feel better.

What can you do about bullies and trolls?

  • Delete the comment.
  • Respond to the comment. How you do this is up to you, but generally we'd advise you not to engage in a verbal battle with this person – especially if it's an “anon.”
  • If the comment isn't anonymous, respond privately via email.
  • Create a “comment policy” for your blog that outlines the kinds of comments that are encouraged, and aserts that you have the right to delete things that don't fall under your suggested guidelines.
  • Implement a comment approval barrier, so you see each comment and approve it before it can appear on your blog
  • Use a captcha system to put up a barrier against spammers and robots.

The goal is not to let others define you with their judgmental, hurtful comments. Let your actions, your words and your strength define your character both on and offline.


Have you dealt with cyberbullying or trolls as a blogger? How should bloggers handle these kinds of situations?

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23 Responses

  1. Libertad

    On numerous occasions I had to deal with trolls on my blog, either because they dislike the way I dress or because they think I’m fat by having much bust (something really pointless). The fact is that the trolls do not care if you try to reason or not with them because what they claim is hurting us; in my case I responded firmly to their insults, so observe that a) I’m not going to remove their comments to give them the feeling of winning and b) that my readers understand that one should not allow this kind of behavior in our blogs.
    Only one of the three trolls that haunted me at the time (I sense that people were known between them) continued to bother me, and so I stopped allowing anon comments until he/she was bored.

    I think one of the basic keys of behavior is respect and if someone does not like what I do, will not come to my blog to bother as I do not upset others. It also influences the maturity of the people: a troll proves to be a totally cowardly and immature person, ergo he or she doesn’t worth our attention.

  2. Amber

    When I got trolls I used to delete them, now I answer because it is MY blog and I am free to express myself. You don’t have to answer every one, but its good to stand your ground.

  3. Rachel

    After a few nasty comments, I put together a comment policy in a way that mean I could delete any comments with profanities or with language that any of my readers could potentially find offensive and hurtful.

    The few that do make it through these criteria are usually comments on my personal life (or what they perceive to be my personal life) and how my blog is just something I do to show off how much money I have (I really wish I was as rich as these trolls tell me I am!)

    I point out that unless I’ve directly shared something on my blog or social media outlets it is none of their business, why what they have said is a misconception, and then I just move on.

  4. Ana

    Her response is a winner.

    I’m glad to see that dealing with trolls and bullies, online and off, has been getting the attention it deserves… and not just attention – there are always suggestions and examples of behaviour used to successfully deal with them.

    I do get discouraged by them, still.

    It’s not so much about what they say, it’s about the fact that some people, a lot more of them than I could brush off as “oh, it’s a bad apple”, feel the need to bully others *shivers* .

  5. Eat.Style.Play

    I’ve been running into this on my friends blogs, and I think it’s sad that someone keeps coming to certain blogs just to hate. I find myself ready to defend them all the time, but everybody that comes to your blog might not get “it” blogging i mean. I’ve had people come to me and say I don’t understand why you think you so highly of yourself to have a blog about fashion? Who really wants your two cents? I emailed them back and let them know that this is my hobby, and nobody is being forced to listen, so carry on about your life, because I’ll still be blogging why you boggle your mind over why I’m doing this. Whenever i get any message that is trolling I delete it, and luckly it comes to spam folder more than anything.

  6. bgreenwood

    I am fortunate to have never encountered a troll on my blog, I think if I ever did get one commenting on what I write I’ll answer them because its my prerogative to do so. Although I think when you knowingly post pictures of yourself online whether it’s on a blog or a social media platform you’re opening yourself up to unwanted comments and criticism, not that I agree with it, we just have to be mindful of it.

  7. Sarah

    I’ve had one negative instance on my blog. One reader left about 20 comments within a matters of 10 minutes or so — saying things were ugly, hideous, etc. I’m not sure what set this reader off, as they had been involved with my blog for a while. But it’s definitely a bad feeling when something like this happens. I ended up deleting all the comments, simply because of the sheer quantity of them. And I updated my settings so that her IP address always goes into the Pending folder.

  8. Shybiker

    Because I’m an unusual fashion-blogger (being male and dressing in women’s clothes), I attract mean comments fairly often. While I’m very sensitive IRL, I’ve learned to be tough online, out of necessity. These commenters are strangers who know nothing about us, so their “opinions” carry little or no weight. What my friends and regular readers say does matter, but they never say anything hostile.

  9. Shannon

    I haven’t had a mean comment on my blog yet, probably because it is fairly new. If I have then I don’t remember, so therefore it must not have bothered me enough to get a response. The advice in this article is great for future reference, because I do know they’re out there and likely to leave hateful comments on anyone’s blog.

    Trying to decide what to do is definitely a decision that every blogger has to make for themselves, because some of these commenters are just looking for attention and would feel better if given a response while some would shut up and feel defeated if the blogger spoke back.

  10. duckalicious

    please don’t encourage people using captcha – it’s incredibly annoying and usually puts me off leaving a comment. there are other, more efficient ways of maintaining control over spam/inappropriate comments.

  11. Borjana

    I’m blogging for a year and I honestly received only few negative Anon comments,but I heard and read a lot of them on my blogger friends blogs.Horrible!It’s OK not to like what person wears,OK to say your opinion (that’s why we all have blogs),but there are so many nicer ways.Karma is a b*,it will hunt you down;)
    I’m not for deleting or responding to it.I would just let it go.

  12. FutureLint

    Luckily I’ve only received one anonymous comment that was mean-spirited. I deleted it because I’m just going to move on and not going to engage. I’ve also gotten a few… pervy? comments lately, mostly from foot-fetishists… I wasn’t quite sure what to do about those, so I just deleted them too because they made me feel a bit uncomfortable.

  13. Louise

    Thanks for this post! It’s good to be reminded that we’re not alone in dealing with this unpleasantness. Just this week we had an anonymous commenter become very negative on our travel blog. Our statcounter account said they were a regular visitor, so why did they become so critical now?

    I chose to delete the comments and then block the commenter’s IP address. Our blog is on Blogger, where that is harder to do than on WordPress, but it is possible.

    I disagree that deleting the comment looks like “giving in.” I view it like graffiti: scrub it clean as soon as possible and deny the bully the chance for other readers to see their “work.” If they have no audience, they will go away.

  14. Kathleen Lisson

    I have never had a troll on my blog. I do not use captcha, but I do approve every comment before it is posted. I want to foster a positive community for my readers, so I will not post troll comments.
    I think the first question bloggers should ask themselves is: what is the goal of my comments section? My comments section is not about free speech, it is about sharing information that could benefit other readers of my blog.

  15. Sascha

    Interesting post! I hate it when people use the argument of “if you choose to blog, you have to put up with criticism”. Personally, I delete all offensive and inappropriate comments from my blog, but leave the ones that criticize without offending. I often reply to those as well.

    But being that I don’t do outfit posts, I haven’t had lots of negative comments. Most people comment negatively when they disagree with my choice of living a cruelty-free lifestyle (for example, they may not agree with me preferring non-leather bags) but overall, I’ve had relatively few negative comments.

  16. debi c

    both the times i responded to such nasty comments was because 1.the 1st commenter left a completely irrelevant comment which sounded sexist.but at least the person wasn’t mean when i tried to reason with him 2.the 2nd person very rudely stated giveaways are a trap for getting more followers(missing the point that it is a way to say thanks to existing followers) and was generally mean about how it won’t work.well he tried to say something witty which didn’t work.
    both the times i got responses but i felt good that i had taken a stand.also funnily enough i am from a country where guys generally consider fashion something frivolous and girly and a waste of time( which comes from ignorance and of course i know plenty of guys who are in fact in fashion biz).so that mentality was working in both these cases.

  17. ambersmouthwash

    You know, I miss my trolls. I used to have them, and I took it as a success moment because to me it meant that I was doing something right. That I was catching the attention of someone and they felt a little bit threatened. Now, I don’t get them any more. I wonder what I’m *not* doing right?

  18. Michelle - Dream Find Do

    Negativity online is the nature of the beast that is blogging, but that doesn’t make it right. It’s sad that people feel they can say so many hurtful and throwaway comments when hiding behind a computer screen. I bet they would not even dream of saying half these things to people face-to-face.

    As in any industry, joining together in support, encouraging and promotig each other should be our priority as bloggers. It can be so isolating at times so it takes a thick skin and a pragmatic approach to trolls to not let them get underneath it.

    Great article.

  19. Bo-Tarah rose

    Ivr received 3 in my 2 years of blogging all in the same month and all from the same anonymous commenter. The things they said were a personal attack and I got the impression on numerous occasions that it was someone I know, not well but known to me nevertheless.
    I deleted all of the negative comments as i refuse to give that person the audience they so clearly desired out of such a public and personal attack.
    I did however retaliate with another outfit post to show once and for all that someones rudeness was never going to stop me doing what it is I love most. It inspired more negative comments from them but they became below the belt and it was fair obvious my lack of care and response to their stupidity had enraged them more. Sucked in to them. I audit all comments before they are published so when they saw their ridiculousness was falling in deaf ears they went away.
    My post was a simple outfit with a little description of the comment and suggestion to my readers to not tolerate bullies. Check it out

  20. Lipstick and a White Tee

    I got a comment on a post yesterday, that was not in any way constructive criticism, just “Pathetic…”. Not really sure how that will help me improve my posts, right? So, I hit “Delete”. After reading this I’m thinking I should have published it and replied to it, but cannot do that anymore. I guess these comments are something I have to get used to, even if I’ve just been blogging for 2 months :S Thanks for this post!