How to React to Upsetting Posts Online

How to React to Upsetting Posts Online

Both the real and digital world are filled with uncertainty and discord, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Between trolls and uneducated social media posts, you may have difficulty browsing the internet while also maintaining your mental health. There are plenty of ways you can respond and engage with upsetting content—however, it’s most important to prioritize your mental health in any situation.

Method 1 of 2:
Crafting a Reply

1
Engage with the post if you think you can make a positive change. Some posts, however upsetting, come from a point of genuine ignorance. While it’s not your responsibility to educate and inform each and every person on the internet, you can write a response that possibly clarifies and rebuts the person’s negative points. Don’t feel like you have to reply to an upsetting post—what matters most is your mental health, and what decision makes you feel safest and most empowered while you’re online. [1] X Research source For instance, if someone posts that masks are useless to prevent the spread of COVID-19, you can say something like this: “Many experts state that masks can protect yourself and others from COVID-19. I understand that they’re a bit inconvenient to wear, but you shouldn’t be posting blatantly false information like this online.”[2] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source
2
Come up a witty reply if you want to keep things light. Many online conflicts or posts don’t need paragraphs of debate to get settled. In fact, a funny or sarcastic quip can be more than enough to shut down online trolls from sowing more discord. Think of something clever that can shut down the troll without escalating the conflict further. [3] X Research source Take some inspiration from some more well-known social media comebacks and responses. For instance, when the Wendy’s restaurant chain received a comment asking for directions asking what they should get from McDonald’s, the official Wendy’s account replied with: “Ask for directions to the closest Wendy’s.”
3
Listen empathetically so the poster feels heard. It can be hard to set your own biases and emotions aside when you see a really upsetting post online. If you feel up to it, try being the bigger person and really listening to what the poster has to say. Even if their content is worded in a harmful way, they may simply be feeling scared or hurt themselves, and lashing out online. Write out a response that addresses those negative feelings instead of the post itself. [4] X Research source For example, if a person is posting about how certain minorities are more likely to spread COVID-19, give yourself a moment to break down the emotions of the original poster. For instance, you can say something like: “I understand that this situation is really upsetting and scary, but casting blame isn’t going to make things any better.”
4
Ignore the post if you don’t think it’s worth your time. Your time is just as important as the person who shared or wrote out the upsetting post. More often than not, interacting with inflammatory content simply isn’t worth your time and energy. There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back and logging off the day. Sometimes, the best way to react is by choosing not to react at all. [5] X Research source
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Method 2 of 2:
Caring for Your Mental Health

1
Unfriend or block people who are having a negative impact on your mental health. You don’t have any obligation to stay connected online with people who cause you any kind of stress and anguish. The “unfriend,” “unfollow,” and “block” features exist for a reason, so don’t be afraid to use them! [6] X Research source For reference, it’s a good idea to unfriend and block people who intentionally post upsetting content with willful ignorance.
2
Mute words or phrases that upset you. Some platforms, like Twitter, give you the option to “mute,” or blacklist certain phrases that come up on your feed. This process can be a bit time-consuming, as you need to input every version of the word that you’re trying to block. If you feel up to the task, this may help limit the number of upsetting posts you see online, so you won’t have as much upsetting content to even react to. [7] X Research source For instance, if you want to mute the phrase “COVID-19” on Twitter, you’ll also have to mute words like “COVID,” “coronavirus,” and such to eliminate the topic from your feed for good.
3
Talk to a loved one about how you’re feeling. It’s okay to feel really upset or angry about something you see online. Sit down with a friend or family member and let them know how the content made you feel. You’ll probably feel a lot better after venting your feelings. [8] X Trustworthy Source StopBullying.gov Website run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services providing information related to identifying and preventing bullying Go to source Chances are, your loved ones will likely share the same feelings that you have on the topic!
4
Report the post or poster if the content is actively harmful. While some online content is just annoying and ignorant, some is downright harmful and threatening. Hold people online accountable for their actions by reporting any harmful content you see online, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. [9] X Trustworthy Source StopBullying.gov Website run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services providing information related to identifying and preventing bullying Go to source
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Method 1 of 2:
Crafting a Reply

1
Engage with the post if you think you can make a positive change. Some posts, however upsetting, come from a point of genuine ignorance. While it’s not your responsibility to educate and inform each and every person on the internet, you can write a response that possibly clarifies and rebuts the person’s negative points. Don’t feel like you have to reply to an upsetting post—what matters most is your mental health, and what decision makes you feel safest and most empowered while you’re online. [1] X Research source For instance, if someone posts that masks are useless to prevent the spread of COVID-19, you can say something like this: “Many experts state that masks can protect yourself and others from COVID-19. I understand that they’re a bit inconvenient to wear, but you shouldn’t be posting blatantly false information like this online.”[2] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source
2
Come up a witty reply if you want to keep things light. Many online conflicts or posts don’t need paragraphs of debate to get settled. In fact, a funny or sarcastic quip can be more than enough to shut down online trolls from sowing more discord. Think of something clever that can shut down the troll without escalating the conflict further. [3] X Research source Take some inspiration from some more well-known social media comebacks and responses. For instance, when the Wendy’s restaurant chain received a comment asking for directions asking what they should get from McDonald’s, the official Wendy’s account replied with: “Ask for directions to the closest Wendy’s.”
3
Listen empathetically so the poster feels heard. It can be hard to set your own biases and emotions aside when you see a really upsetting post online. If you feel up to it, try being the bigger person and really listening to what the poster has to say. Even if their content is worded in a harmful way, they may simply be feeling scared or hurt themselves, and lashing out online. Write out a response that addresses those negative feelings instead of the post itself. [4] X Research source For example, if a person is posting about how certain minorities are more likely to spread COVID-19, give yourself a moment to break down the emotions of the original poster. For instance, you can say something like: “I understand that this situation is really upsetting and scary, but casting blame isn’t going to make things any better.”
4
Ignore the post if you don’t think it’s worth your time. Your time is just as important as the person who shared or wrote out the upsetting post. More often than not, interacting with inflammatory content simply isn’t worth your time and energy. There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back and logging off the day. Sometimes, the best way to react is by choosing not to react at all. [5] X Research source
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Method 2 of 2:
Caring for Your Mental Health

1
Unfriend or block people who are having a negative impact on your mental health. You don’t have any obligation to stay connected online with people who cause you any kind of stress and anguish. The “unfriend,” “unfollow,” and “block” features exist for a reason, so don’t be afraid to use them! [6] X Research source For reference, it’s a good idea to unfriend and block people who intentionally post upsetting content with willful ignorance.
2
Mute words or phrases that upset you. Some platforms, like Twitter, give you the option to “mute,” or blacklist certain phrases that come up on your feed. This process can be a bit time-consuming, as you need to input every version of the word that you’re trying to block. If you feel up to the task, this may help limit the number of upsetting posts you see online, so you won’t have as much upsetting content to even react to. [7] X Research source For instance, if you want to mute the phrase “COVID-19” on Twitter, you’ll also have to mute words like “COVID,” “coronavirus,” and such to eliminate the topic from your feed for good.
3
Talk to a loved one about how you’re feeling. It’s okay to feel really upset or angry about something you see online. Sit down with a friend or family member and let them know how the content made you feel. You’ll probably feel a lot better after venting your feelings. [8] X Trustworthy Source StopBullying.gov Website run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services providing information related to identifying and preventing bullying Go to source Chances are, your loved ones will likely share the same feelings that you have on the topic!
4
Report the post or poster if the content is actively harmful. While some online content is just annoying and ignorant, some is downright harmful and threatening. Hold people online accountable for their actions by reporting any harmful content you see online, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. [9] X Trustworthy Source StopBullying.gov Website run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services providing information related to identifying and preventing bullying Go to source
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