The internet, and particularly social media platforms, has made it easier than ever for people to connect with each other. Information has become available to everyone from anywhere and people can consume information about anything they wish to learn.
Many online platforms foster a sense of community where individuals with shared interests or experiences can connect with one another. Within these communities, users often develop meaningful relationships, offer support to one another, and engage in constructive discussions. This sense of belonging can counteract real feelings of disconnection and loneliness, which have become all too common in the modern age and particularly post-pandemic.
At the same time, unlimited access to strangers and strangers’ work has created a new breed of bully: the Keyboard Warrior.
Keyboard Warriors are people who use online platforms to say things that they would never say to someone’s face. These warriors have a sense of power and impunity from using online anonymity as a shield, which makes it easier for them to say hurtful things without much fear of retaliation.
The result is the exact opposite of online community-building. Hurtful online interactions can make people feel disconnected from one another and dehumanize the individuals involved.
Many of us may not want to admit the extent of influence that Keyboard Warriors have on the offline world. Emotions and experiences that individuals have online can have a real impact on their real-world lives. Online exchanges can tangibly impact our self-esteem, affecting relationships and influencing mental and emotional well-being. Severely distressing interactions can even adversely affect a victim’s physical health, and in the most extreme cases, it can lead to suicidal ideation.
There are a number of reasons why people might become keyboard warriors. Some may do it because they are angry or frustrated – or perhaps because they feel bored, lonely, and isolated. Others might do it because they enjoy the feeling of power that comes with being able to say hurtful things.
Whatever the reason, I would venture to say that people who make an effort to spread negativity through a screen also have a lot of free time on their hands. To me, this is usually an indication that such individuals suffer from low self-esteem, and the only way for them to feel “equal” to others is by bringing them down.
At the beginning of my career, I had to remind myself that the same people seeking negative interactions cannot define me or the quality of the work I do. They are not capable of judging it with the limited information they have. Criticism coming from successful people can be helpful and valuable – it is generally constructive. People with too much time on their hands usually aren’t successful, and more often than not, they do not intend for their criticism to be constructive, only destructive.
However, there may be a silver lining in how keyboard warriors consume so much space in online discourse: in acting as virtual gatekeepers, they often ensure that people don’t get away with presenting themselves as experts within their respective fields without the proper credentials or knowledge.
In a world of instant gratification, we see so-called “experts” popping up on a daily basis. I have seen it hundreds of times, with people I have trained myself for only a few classes, or sometimes just for a couple of months. They become “Krav Maga Instructors,” without any physical training, certifications or qualifications. Some simply just obtain these titles online, or pay handsome sums of money to “achieve” their certification.
Actually, self-proclaimed experts and keyboard warriors have one thing in common: being one is easy… too easy.
Everyone has an opinion, and many people who have no way to be heard outside of the screen can scream anonymously and risk very little while being able to assume a position over those who offer up their work, art, thoughts, and themselves to the grace of social media’s judgment.
The bitter truth that keyboard warriors must know is that, at the end of the day, negativity isn’t helpful or meaningful. The actual value of their words on screen is less than nothing if they are not writing from a professional, experienced view, or if they are not willing to engage with the content in good faith.
There are times when we, as a society, allow the bully to thrive. This is when we truly risk something. The burden of social media becomes unbearable for artists who are trying to make a difference and offer new perspectives or ways of living. The world is often unkind to new talent and new creations. But as the famous saying goes: ”First they laugh, then they copy.”
The computer screen can discourage humble, smart, and talented people, and their positive influence becomes impossible to see when they wish to avoid abusive or excessive online criticisms.
In a way, social media does not only breed this new type of “warrior,” but a new type of leader as well. Putting yourself on social media and allowing others to slice up your work, your words, and your integrity is a new form of leadership that did not exist – and had no reason to – before the internet age.
The tendency to defend what is known and resist change is natural. But we must remain open-minded to allow for the benefits that come from considering new perspectives.
Here’s my advice on how to handle interactions on social media:
- *If you believe you have a lot of valuable feedback to offer, there are respectful ways to voice your opinion and engage in respectful dialogue.
- *Be open to discussing your point of view and hearing the logic of others. You are not always right. No one is.
- *When you leave your feedback on the web, it stays there. You might have forgotten about it minutes after you wrote it, but now it’s available for anyone to consume.
- *When you are on the receiving end of the negativity, don’t engage. The best way to deal with keyboard fighters is to not engage with them. This means not responding to their comments and not giving them the attention they are seeking. It feeds them, and more so, the algorithm, and will magnify the exposure of this negative interaction on the web.
- *Block them. You can also block keyboard fighters from communicating with you. This will prevent them from seeing your posts or sending you messages.
- *Move on. Improve your content and keep on educating yourself.
- *If you have extra time on your hands – find a mission. Do something amazing, productive, and inspiring.
- *If you can’t find such a mission, join someone else’s mission and use your passion to do good in the world. But if you can find neither, at least don’t interfere with those who do the good work.
If you are not on social media, you are not informed. If you are, you are simply misinformed.
You become what you do. You are your own judge, so judge YOURSELF first, by your own actions. Then you do all you can to be the kind of person you need to become.