Social Media Etiquette
How do you know when to respond to negative comments on social media and when to leave them alone? In large part, this decision depends on the circumstances of your social media account as well as the context of the comments being made.
In other words, are you the social media rep for a large corporation deciding how to address consumer complaints on Facebook, or are you a stay-at-home mum wondering how to deal with that envious friend who keeps cutting you down on Instagram?
The stakes will be very different depending on your situation as well as who is leaving negative comments on your social media profile. In general, this means that each comment needs to be considered on a comment-by-comment basis. In the world we are living in today, people often forget that there is an actual person on the other end of the social media account. This is particularly true if you are just an ordinary, everyday person using social media.
Receiving Comments on Social Media
If you post a video on Tik Tok about your perfect home decor, and your video goes viral, you can expect to get comments from people who will find something to complain about. They may argue that your home is so perfect you must not have any time to spend with your children. They may spread gossip about you that isn’t true or even get into fights with other people in your comment section.
Whereas social media started as a way for friends and family to connect, it has evolved into a platform where people hide behind their keyboards and pick arguments with each other. Often, keyboard warriors are feeling bad about something in their own lives, and their comments have nothing to do with you.
However, that doesn’t mean that negative comments sting any less. In a world where we are all subject to fake news and bathing in endorphins that we receive from our notifications and likes, it’s no wonder that we forget why this all started. To connect with friends and family and share things that will interest them.
Instead, we’ve devolved into a game in which the person who can look the best on social media wins, while everyone else feels less than and takes potshots. Not to mention that social media giants are now more focused on profit than connection, even as membership dwindles.
All this is to say that if negative comments on social media are getting you down, there’s a good reason for it and you need not feel alone. That being said, you probably want to know how to deal with them. In a nutshell, you’ll want to have a plan of action so that you don’t’ have to decide in the heat of the moment. That involves knowing when you will address negative comments, and knowing how you will address them when you choose to do so. Let’s take a look at those issues now.
When to Address Negative Comments
When should you address negative comments instead of choosing to ignore them?1 This is something that you’ll want to decide on a case-by-case basis. However, it’s important to note that a blanket decision to ignore or delete negative comments is not necessarily always the best course of action, even though you might hear this as common advice.
While it’s true that if you are being bullied, harassed, threatened, or otherwise insulted on the Internet, block and delete should be your course of action, there are a lot of greyer areas of negative comments that might benefit from a bit of interaction on your part. Let’s take a look at those.
People Are Watching
In a situation in which people are watching how you react to negative comments, you may wish to consider engaging instead of simply ignoring or deleting. This could mean that you are running a business, acting as a social media manager for a business, or you are an employee in the public eye for a company. It could also mean that you are a role model of some sort on the Internet, whether on a large scale (to the public) or a small scale (to your children).
When Responding Allows You to Engage
If you are running a business, engagement is the name of the game. For this reason, there is no bad publicity, as long as you handle it well.
A negative comment on your business Facebook page could be the start of a conversation with a customer to learn how best you can serve them.
In the personal sphere, a negative comment from a relative on a personal post that you share could be the springboard for you to learn more about them and their opinions. If your immediate knee jerk reaction is to ignore or delete, you could be missing out on the chance for growth in these cases.
When Not Responding Looks Like You Are Hiding Something
If someone leaves a negative comment on your social media account, and you choose to ignore or delete, this can make it look as though you have something to hide. If you have nothing to hide, then it’s perfectly fine to choose this action so that you don’t have to deal with negativity on your page.
However, if there is a hint of truth in the comment, this may come across as you choosing to avoid a problem. If you feel as though people will question whether you are hiding something if you don’t respond, then it might be best to engage in a reply.
When You Need to Apologise
If you feel as though there is some sort of appropriate apology on your part, then it would be best not to ignore or delete a comment. For example, in the case of a disgruntled customer, a business should not pretend that comment was not made about their product.
In the case of a personal social media page, if someone leaves a comment about something you’ve done that you do owe an apology for, it will be best to deal with it in some manner. At the same time, it’s important not to make false promises. Be realistic in what you can offer in the way of apology or restitution. We’ll discuss this in the section on how to respond.
To Protect Your Reputation
Another situation in which you will want to respond to negative comments on social media is when you need to make a correction, clarification, or protect your reputation. If someone has said something about you that is inaccurate or unfair, it’s perfectly reasonable to want to offer facts to support your argument that their claim is false.
When to Ignore Negative Comments
On the flip side, how do you know when to ignore or delete negative comments? There will be situations in which this is what you will want to do. Let’s take a look at the various reasons why you may not want to engage with someone on social media who is leaving negative comments.
When You Expect Others to Have Your Back
If you don’t feel up to engaging with the negative comments and you expect that others will come to your defence, it may be wise to wait a bit for your community to respond on your behalf. This will be less true for a business but might be appropriate for a personal account or an influencer account.
Things You Don’t Want on Your Page
Another situation in which you will not want to engage or respond is if the commenter is putting things on your social media page that you don’t want to be there. That might include profanity, spam, random attacks that don’t make sense, aggression, cultural slurs, racial bias, harassment, threats, etc. In this case, you have the right and should exercise the right, to delete anything that you feel should not be on your social media page.
Examples of these might include comments that have no substance to them and don’t reflect actual issues, and threats of violence (in which case you should also report to the platform and possibly the police).
In these cases, you will likely also want to ban and/or block the person from posting again on your account. This is generally fairly easy to do on most social media platforms. Note that they might still be able to see their comments and friends of theirs may see them as well, but new people to your page will not be able to see the comments.
Trolls and Bullies
Troll comments should also be ignored or deleted, for the specific reason that the only goal of a troll is to get you to respond to negative comments. Trolls like to comment on things on social media pages with the sole purpose of eliciting an emotional reaction from the victim. They revel in being able to get you “riled up” and the only cure to stop them from commenting is to ignore them altogether.
How to Respond to Negative Comments
Next, you’ll want to know how to go about actually responding to negative comments, should you choose to do so. Below are the steps that you can take whether the comments are on a personal page or you are a brand handling negative comments on social media2.
First, it’s best to respond positively, no matter how negative the comment was that was made about you. This shows that you care about everyone else on your social media page. Don’t get defensive, don’t be angry, and stay classy. Otherwise, you will come across as having lost your cool and will appear less credible. It might be hard to maintain your composure. However, remember that the comments are very rarely ever about you, and usually more about the person who is making them.
This goes along with being positive, but you’ll also want to stay polite. Stay out of the drama and keep a high ground. Even if you are attacked with aggression, don’t respond with emotion or lose your cool. This is especially important if your social media account is being used for business or if you are an employee whose account is in the public domain. It might feel hard to be polite to someone who is attacking you or your business, but doing so gives you an edge over someone who is being nasty.
Ask Them to Contact You Privately
Next, there are some instances in which you will want to move the conversation out of the public eye and into a private domain. Unless their negative comment can be quickly resolved in the comment section, this is usually the best choice.
However, don’t simply send them a direct message. Instead, leave a comment for them asking them to contact you to discuss in private. This shows everyone that you are willing to address the issue, without needing to make it a public discussion for everyone to see.
Have a Cautious Public Conversation
In cases where the negative comment can be easily addressed in the comment section, you could consider having a cautious conversation with them there. For example, if someone commented that they did not like your Elf on the Shelf display and thought it must have taken up a lot of wasted time, you could simply reply, “Thanks for the feedback! The kids enjoy it and it’s helping to bring some magic to our Christmas.”
Ask Them to Remove Their Comment
If you’ve had a private or public conversation with someone and you feel as though the comment they have left is tarnishing your reputation, you could also consider asking them to remove the comment.
One thing to note is that if you are choosing to respond, it’s better to do it earlier rather than later unless you are waiting for your community of friends to respond3. This shows that you are not ignoring the problem or trying to evade the issue.
Even if there’s nothing you can do about the comment that was left, you can ease the tension by responding quickly rather than letting it fester for a day.
You may also wish to use humour in your reply if you think the situation calls for it. If you aren’t sure, it’s better to stick with a serious tone, as that is less likely to be misunderstood. Humour can be helpful as a “clap back” that shows you have a sense of humour and aren’t taking the situation too seriously. It’s the same effect as being polite or positive, but also helps to give you a bit of the upper hand.
How to Rebound From Negative Comments
How do you rebound after getting negative comments on social media? It’s important to know how to bounce back since these types of comments can get to you if you let them.
The best thing to do is to keep posting positive things so that your consistent positivity eventually outweighs the negative. When others can see that you are still living a good life, they will be encouraged by you. In the end, you can’t control what other people do. All you can do is to encourage more positivity by engaging with people who leave positive comments.
Also, if someone has become toxic on your social media account, meaning that they consistently leave negative or unfriendly comments, then you will want to consider unfollowing or unfriending them (if they are a current friend of yours). You will know if someone is toxic if they leave you feeling drained or worse than you felt before you read their comments.
In this case, remember that their behaviour is more about their problems than anything to do with you. They most likely behave the same way on other people’s social media accounts and it’s a reflection of their envy or insecurity. It’s okay to set boundaries about who you let into your social sphere.
Set boundaries and don’t reply if they try to start an argument. Focus on solutions to problems and don’t dwell on negativity or give other people attention for being negative. Most often, these types of people will move on to bothering someone else.
Seek out people who you feel will improve your outlook on social media. Curate your friends and following list to only reflect the people who make you feel uplifted.
Why Do People Leave Negative Comments?
Are you wondering why people leave negative comments in the first place if they have no substance or are not a valid complaint? There are a variety of reasons why people will do this, some of which we’ve already touched on. Let’s review them again.
Some people leave negative comments because they are secretly envious of your place in life. They feel as though if they can point out your flaws, then they will take you down a notch, and they need to do this because they resent your success. While in real life, a person like this would likely be shunned, on the Internet they may be joined by other people saying the same thing, because of the mob mentality of envy. This type of negative commenter is usually handled best with some point-blank evidence that what they are saying is wrong along with a bit of self-deprecating humour.
Some people will leave negative comments because they are passive-aggressive. They may be envious as well but aren’t going to be as obvious about what they say, making it harder to argue with them. For example, a person might say to a vegan, “Did you know that plants have feelings too?” This argument is absurd, making it impossible to have a rational discussion. Attacks like this are usually indirect but insinuating at the same time, and they tend to get a rise out of others on social media. Again, the goal is often to get you to lose your cool. Don’t let them get to you. Finally, some people leave comments because they want to feel a sense of power by watching you crumble. These are what are commonly known as trolls. These types of commenters don’t believe or feel anything that they comment on. Or, at least it’s not emotional or important to them. It is all a planned attack to get you to lose your cool and to make them feel powerful. The best response to a troll is often no response at all.
A Word From Susie Wilson
If you are struggling to know how to deal with negative comments on your social media page, it’s important to consider whether you want to respond or not depending on the circumstances. If you decide that you do want to respond, then you’ll need to choose whether to be serious or funny, and whether to respond in public or take it into a private conversation.
Regardless of the path that you choose to take, the most important thing to remember is that your goal is not to “get back” at the person who left you the negative comment. Rather, your goal might be to defend your reputation, find a resolution, show others that your page is a safe space or correct any misinformation. Beyond that, exhausting your own emotions on a keyboard warrior who may or may not care whether you are upset is not worth it.
Finally, if that keyboard warrior is a person who you know in real life, and they consistently leave negative comments on your social media, it may be time to unfollow or unfriend. While it might cause a rift in the friendship, you don’t need that negativity in your life.
Make room for more positive sources of information in your feed, and you’ll notice that you start to feel better. The rest of your friends on social media will also appreciate that you’ve made your page a safe space for all. There’s no harm in taking a hard line on issues that you believe in and standing your ground.
Beyond all of this, if you find yourself on the receiving end of negative comments, be sure to engage in some self-care to calm down. Read a book, watch a Netflix show, go for a walk, or do something else enjoyable that takes your mind off of the whole thing.