Attack the issue, not the person.

Every once in a while I sit down with a group of friends who generally know what I do, but not the boring day to day details. Inevitably, at some point they tell me my job must be amazing – which it totally 99% is – but I say “yep, minus the comments sections and daily trolling”. That part is no fun.

When we get there, people are generally shocked to hear that I do constantly get trolled, receive hate emails and on the odd occasion even have some actual threats to my life and other oddities, like the person in Australia who was using my pictures to purport a marriage with me, and then mourned my death when their friends started closing in on the fact that I did not exist.

When I share this, their response is almost always the same, somewhere along the lines of…

“But why? You just share travel tips.” I tend to agree…

I did not start this blog as a commercial enterprise, nor did I realistically believe it ever would be one in any way. In fact, for two years I didn’t even put advertisement space on the website, I just used it as a place to share the things I’ve learned over many years of travel, about travel itself, loyalty programs, credit card points and exciting deals to take people to places they never believed they’d actually get to go. These things are still virtually all I write about, and I do it to try and help people get the most out of their travelling lives…

What’s so hatable about that?

It turns out, a lot. Zooming out from “me”, bloggers are constant subjects of ridicule and for the most part very unfairly. People love attacking the person, rather than the issue at hand, like the subject of the blog post they just read.

Once they sink their teeth in, some people are quite vicious and are far more interested in slamming the person, than the thoughts in question. Maybe it’s because I’ve turned their favourite hobby into a fruitful career, or because they think some thing they learned a week earlier on a super secret internet forum should remain secret (hypocritical, much?) but for whatever reason – they get angry.

I literally have a group of people who take time out of their day, every single day, to write something personally vicious about me and make sure I see it.

The comments are virtually never about the actual substance of an article, just something designed to make me feel weak, hated and vulnerable. Sometimes it’s about my personal appearance, other times my aptitude, family, integrity, finances, you name it, but it’s never about travel, points, cities or any of the things I write about. After a while, it’s not as easy to brush off as someone might think.

Spoiler alert: trolling works.

I do consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world for a variety of reasons, one of the large ones being that I get to share the world of travel with people in a way I control and curate 100% on my own, and I get to make a living from it. At the same time, I don’t think anyone with genuinely good intentions deserves to be savaged personally for their professional work.

It’s easy for anyone reading this to say oh just get a thicker skin, or something along those lines – but the people who regurgitate that sort of pop psychology are rarely ever people who have experienced the toll this kind of thing takes on you. It’s not like driving a car and getting flipped off impersonally on an odd occasion – it’s every single day.

After years of occasionally being the subject of travel stories making the rounds on outlets far bigger than mine, I finally learned not to so much as glance at the comments sections. On my own outlet though, it’s much harder – especially because I still want to be helpful to those who leave comments seeking help or personal input. It’s really hard to be motivated, to be excited and help others when you have to spend a good few minutes reading awful things about yourself, first. 

Respectfully disagree with the substance or the suggestion of an article all day, but telling someone to die, or suggesting something worse is simply unacceptable. Unfortunately, I just admit that trolling has changed the way I blog and more so, the way I interact.

I just took a week off and didn’t miss the thing I love most; not because I didn’t write 3,000 free words a day, but because for one week I didn’t have to read 10 times a day that I should stop, die or that I’m the worst thing in the world. In an effort to find comments where I can be helpful to someone, I can’t avoid seeing these comments. In a year where I lost my daughter, these suggestions of how to end my career are not as easy to hear as other years.

It may be part of the job, but I won’t pretend that it’s fun, fair or anything less than awful.

Having a platform will always come with pains and it’s very cool to me that we’re now one of the 10 largest travel blogs in the world, given that I’m just a guy with thoughts and no corporate budgets or marketing plans. But at the same time, the fact that the simplest way I can say thank you back, which is to read and help people with comments, is such a chore is just plain awful. I am sorry, genuinely sorry to those of you I haven’t gotten back to lately. I just haven’t had it in me.

I want to help you have that a-ha moment, and trolling hurts that.

Because of trolling, I now do my very best not to look at the comments section. That means people who are kind enough to support my work and have questions now often miss out on my help, because I don’t have the strength to weed the good ones from the bad ones. I pretty much just stick to Twitter and Facebook, where things can be gruesome, but it’s harder to hide behind a lame internet moniker. People tend not to be as daring when their picture or actual name are involved, or a real life boss may be lurking.

Unfortunately, this is the point where we both realize that there’s no fairytale end to this story. Nothing will change as humanity becomes more on edge and standards of polite conversation die. At the same time, my only hope in addressing this publicly is that people who love to have a pop to make their days less miserable will channel their efforts into the issues at hand, rather than at me. Listen to your parents advice of “if you don’t have anything constructive to say, just shut the f**k up”. Perhaps thats my own spin on it, but I back it…

How can so much outrage and hate come from a free internet resource which casually helps travellers around the world save thousands upon thousands each year while seeing the places they once only dreamed of? It just doesn’t add up. No matter what happens though, we’ll be here. And no matter how awful some things are, the success stories outweigh the bad things 1,000,000x over. Massive thanks to anyone who has ever shared one.

If you don’t like what you see, move on or go read somewhere else.

 

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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49 Comments

  1. Your expectations are misplaced. You expect to be thanked for your work. Just expect that nasty thankless robots post comments on your website. When our expectations are not met we feel hurt. But you get desensitized to it. Once in a while someone nicer will comment and have a conversation.

    So don’t take comments personally.

    1. Hi Debit – Knowing Gib, I don’t think he expects to be thanked. While I agree with you that expectations can help shape how we experience the world, it would be incomplete to say that setting expectations is all it takes. Even if you know verbal abuse is coming, that doesn’t mean it won’t have an impact.

  2. Amen. I appreciate the article and appreciate your articles and dedication and always the sense of humor and personality. Stay strong and please keep blogging!!!

  3. For me, like most others who follow you i’m sure, I also follow many others doing the same kinda thing that you do. Without blowing smoke up your well travelled ass, for me your by far the most ‘normal’ dude of the lot. Most of the others irritate the crap outta me with their god like complex/awfully written articles/mundane clickbait etc. ( I desperately wanna say who but i won’t). Without question, you give the most helpful, well written, funny and actually useful articles that helps me and i’m sure others. You bring a human content to it, you swear and curse and take the piss, tell us about personal stuff and that element alone makes you the best out there. So screw the keyboard warriors and keep up the good work.
    The only reason I hate you is you cost me too much damn money with your deals!!! 🙂

  4. NOT REAL PEOPLE…these hateful comments are from bots.
    Whether or not this is true 100% of the time, this is what you must train yourself to think

  5. @ Gilbert — I hope my comments have never risen to the trolling level, but I will call out something I disagree with in a split second! As a very long-time FT/BA reader, I will say your blog is one of the best, so don’t let the trolls discourage you.

    1. Hey Gene – You bring up an interesting point about calling things out. I think people are sometimes unaware of how aggressive they are in doing so – not implying this is the case with you. It’s one thing to say, “I think you missed X” or “I think it’s actually X” but so often people seem to want to tear others down instead of help them. You can see this in the comment section of GSTP, other sites, on forums, Twitter, etc. Many seem to misunderstand what it means to be assertive rather than aggressive.

      Perhaps, it’s the nature of anonymity in many cases. Having worked in politics for years doing voter outreach, I can tell you the vitriol you see online rarely comes out in a 1-on-1, face-to-face chat. It’s just so much more personal when you have to look someone in the eye.

      In the end, I’d like to see people operate with more empathy online and otherwise.

  6. Sorry about the loss of your daughter. Can’t even imagine that kind of pain.

    Couldn’t agree more with the article. Even with the thickest of skin developed over 15 years of blogging, trolling takes its toll.

  7. Those that are best and most successful are most likely to be trolled.
    At least there’s no basis for criticism unlike the cleanliness, product and service delivered by the world’s most profitable airline. #toflytoscam #BA100 (since 1972)

  8. As a reader, I’ve learned a lot from your posts and thank you. After years of following BA blogs, I’ve come to learn the comments section tends to have a mix of trolls and really good/useful information (both agreeing and disagreeing with the post thus providing different perspectives on the same issue.) Ignore the trolls. Don’t let them steal your joy!

  9. Gib, if there’s one thing that comes through day in and day out is the passion you (and of late) Spencer bring to the blog. You put your personalities into each post, and it’s great.

    The anonymity of the internet unfortunately gives trolls much greater confidence; confidence that they don’t generally have in person. Not sure how you fix that one without becoming vindictive and losing a piece of yourself in the process.

    I don’t comment often (usually just send out tweets on Twitter). Seems like Twitter offers a better medium, but also a more public medium than comments… that said, often times there can be gold in comments; so it’s a tough bet deciding where to have that discourse.

  10. Please don’t think this is facetious. It’s not. Why don’t you disable comments? Most of us come here to read your blog, not comments from others.

  11. Oh and before I forget…there’s a certain blogger who constantly, and I mean constantly bashes the TSA and government. As a former police officer it gets old and i left him a snarky comment. Instantly regretted and said so. Not sure that he even cared but I felt better for apologizing

  12. You won’t get thanks in the form of praise in the comments generally (there will be occasional thx). You know you are successful because you can live off the back of it. That’s the acid test, and the bigger you are the more assholes will follow you. It’s part of the territory. Maybe if you can’t handle that side of it, it should remain a hobby and not a job?

    1. Don’t worry, Chris. We’ll keep at it. Acknowledging the fact people are impacted by nasty comments doesn’t change that fact. 🙂

    2. Why should a blogger have to ‘handle that side of it’ if he/she wants to do this for a living?

      We wouldn’t say that a nanny has to ‘handle’ abuse (or be a nanny as a hobby) if people verbally abuse her, we wouldn’t say that a Doctor in the ER should have to ‘handle’ verbal abuse (no, I’m not comparing the life-saving work of a Doctor to a blogger) and we wouldn’t say that someone sweeping our streets should have to ‘handle’ appalling verbal attacks if he/she wishes to stay in a job….so why should bloggers have to ‘handle’ it?

      This sort of abuse is only tolerated on the internet and nowhere else – it’s toxic.

      The root of the problem is that the people who have to deal with this c*** are the ones who are told to ‘handle’ the problem while few do anything about the trolls…and that’s why it will never get any better.

  13. Haters, bullies, trolls, anarchists, terrorists tend to lead small lives except for the hating, bullying, trolling and destruction of others. Seldom creating or building. They feel their power in hate.

    It is sad… for them and for the people they touch.

  14. I can relate and it a very big part of why I don’t use my image anywhere online or share too many personal details.

    I probably don’t get anywhere near the number of personal attacks that you do (but then you’re significantly more successful than I am and considerably better known) but even a few comments can still hurt.

    My main takeaway is that we’ve become a society where the internet allows people to say things about others that they’d never dare to say to their face (if the deny this they’re lying) and because there are no repercussions this will just continue.

    Sadly there’s nothing that’s going to stop a small-minded idiot from posting vile comments whenever he/she feels like it so the only way I’ve found to combat it is to make sure the comments never get published – I vet every single comment.

    Clearly this isn’t a solution for all platforms as you can only control your own blog, but I’ve definitely noticed fewer hateful comments since even the dumbest of people started to figure out they were getting no audience.

  15. Gib, you are doing an amazing job and personally I’ve been missing your articles this past week!
    You might be in the top10 travel blog list, but yours is my top1.

  16. Meh – quit the hating on trolls. In this era of diversity, trolls, ogres, ghosts, demons, leprechauns, poltergeists and zombies are people, too. So treat them with respect or they will take you to court for violating their civil rights or failing to bake them a cake when they marry. This applies whether they are in this country legally or illegally, entitled to vote, receiving preferential treatment in school admissions or getting free health care and medical marijuana in California. And don’t even think of banning comments from trolls, ogres, ghosts, demons, leprechauns, poltergeists or zombies wearing MAGA hats or FOX will be all over you.

  17. Just because you don’t take criticisms well, it doesn’t mean people are all trolling you.

    And you’re now writing a post about your own experiences of being “trolled”… It just attracts more trolls. Go figure! Tbh, you’re nothing more than just an attention seeker.

      1. I’ve seen this guy on other blogs. He trolls everybody, so don’t feel bad. Obviously he has a lot of time on his hands.

  18. People are shitty when they can hide behind a screen/keyboard/VPN.

    Karma is also a bitch and will get them one day.

    You’re awesome, refreshingly honest and I believe you truly have no secret agenda or motive beyond sharing the joy of travel & points hacking. That you feel able to share this kinda stuff is also awesome – none of this false macho I’m invincible shite.

    Haters gon hate. Fuck em. Keep it up mate – they ain’t the ones sipping Krug in the Pier are they?

  19. I honestly can’t imagine the impact these nasty comments have on you. Yesterday I commented on a FB post from a friend. Another “friend” of theirs commented as well and I added a respectful comment and stated that I don’t disagree but then pointed out as a Devil’s Advocate a slightly different point of view. Next thing I was being called a “Dumb Ass” which really pissed me off.

  20. What a pity Gil. Wondering if a media student could be worth hiring to check once per day and forward you non-troll posts? Trolls are a sign of success these days… If i was a blogger i would be very embarrassed if I didnt have any!

    Sorry about your sad personal event too. You hinted and i guessed, but didnt know what to say…there are no words.

  21. You do seem to take these handful of cretins a bit too much to heart, but this is the only blog I regularly follow for the precise reason that you view achieving luxury travel for affordable prices as an exciting pursuit and not a cynical journey of entitlement. Some other blogs post good fares, but the overall tone of the content is very “Moet in F? What kind of fleabag airline is this?”

    People who take that approach are naturally going to attack other travel bloggers because they’re unhappy people who want to jealously guard “elite” status for the worthy rather than share the enjoyment of travelling well for less cost.

  22. A good blog I read most days. Always at the forefront of things I would genuinely want to hear about. However I do agree with another poster that trolling and criticising a point are 2 different things and the way they are often responded too could maybe be adjusted. I feel sarky comments back just adds fuel to the fire.

    I do remember an article a year or 2 back where you ‘trolled’ another blog from a competitor site in the form of a fake review of Cathay Pacific F/J. It made for an entertaining read but not to say the original writer of that blog post wasn’t offended.

  23. Honestly, I’d be more than happy to monitor and validate the comments for you. Theres no reason you should be bullied for writing great material.

  24. A lot of these wankers are jealous of what you get to do, but they don’t see the other side of it. I’ve been lucky enough to do some really cool things in motor racing, but when your passionate hobby becomes your job things are different. Not necessarily bad, but different. I’m thankful for you and your team for working hard to give me amazing travel advice…..but I wouldn’t want your job! Nobody should be personally attacked over bloody travel tips!

  25. Gilbert, firstly let me say that just because you choose to use the internet as a way to commercialise what you do and, without a doubt, it’s an honest one, this does not give the great unwashed and their associated bottom feeders the right to troll you.

    As someone who also makes their living on the internet, albeit via a very heavily news intensive site with around 3m article views a month, I really feel for you doing all you do on your own. I have a full time team of between four and eight people on line at all times updating, posting and to be fair, dealing with trash trolling.

    We too provide a free online service and we pay good money to send our reporters all over the world to report on site and deliver unique content. You will not believe how we get trolled for allegedly “taking a side” or supporting/reporting on a competitor (we are a sports website) they don’t like?

    Oh, and then we have the ultimate bottom feeders who copy and paste our content directly (some don’t even change the headlines) onto their third rate sites, claiming its their own work. And it’s amazing that some of them even defend doing this; it beggars belief!

    At the end of the day, I guess that these cretins have always been around but now that they can hide behind anonymous or fictitious names, they can throw as many rocks, stones and insults as they like. Sad thing is that it won’t make them better citizens of our crowded world, rather they just show their inadequacies and personal hatred to all of us…

    Stay strong Gilbert and keep blogging, you are a breath of fresh air to all of us!

  26. Sorry to hear about your loss and personal attacks.

    FYI tweets like this from you aren’t offering positivity – keep that in mind:

    “It’s getting so hard for me not to laugh at reviews coming from TPG these days. Not from TPG himself, but from the children (who they call editors) experiencing travel for the first time, with one massive, blimp sized sense of entitlement and no sense of relativity or reality.

  27. I for one “tune in” daily to GSTP, i enjoy your passionate and yet relaxed writing style and the unique finds/tips etc. I don’t understand why people turn to trolling, what a complete waste of time, guess they just have very sad lives and try to drag others down with them.

    I’ve previously seen attempts at trolling (these have died down somewhat) and i just feel sorry for people who have nothing better to do with their lives, but never really thought about the impact on the blogger (until this post)

    Anywho keep up the good work, its not many people that get to make a living from their hobby, so trolls aside you’re doing well.

    Many thanks for the site!

  28. I’m a fan of 90% of what you write. I am on your page daily. However
    some posts are not for me and I roll my eyes at your use of colourful language, call me old fashioned. Thats your every right to post and write how you like, just like it is others right to post how they like on their sites.

    What I dislike about what you did, a few months back, is going toe to toe with other travel/points sites and the people that post there. Maybe you have stopped that and maybe they did something to you to provoke it. I am definitely not clued on to whats going on with that but I haven’t heard of any big time bloggers in this industry calling out other blogs.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like your site more than theirs, but its posts like that, that invite hate. Maybe I am totally wrong, or maybe its just 1% of the problem and i have no doubt most of your trolls come for reasons other than what I describe here, but my only advice, and take what you want from it, is don’t invite hate. You do you and let your articles speak for themselves.

  29. +1 to what Greg said about your comments about TPG. There is no excuse to troll and overall, I like your site more, but that episode of this blog and follow ups with back and forth with Brian was a little strange and sounded hateful. Don’t invite hate let your good work do the talking.

  30. Hi Gilbert

    1. Please keep up your efforts. Don’t let others get in the way of what you choose to do. You can see from the comments on this thread that many many people appreciate your efforts and you being so giving of your time and advice
    2. Someone smarter than me once said don’t feed the trolls. Some of them want to see their name in lights on your blog. I’m sure there’s a feature to just delete their comments – depriving them of the opportunity to take away from your success will see them lose interest. Surround yourself with just positive comments and valid criticisms that will take you to another even higher level with your blogs.
    3. As I tell others, and yes, easier said than done, but you should only care about the comments if they come from a source worth listening to. If it’s not from a source worth listening to, give it no heed.

  31. Hi Gib,
    It’s been a sad year for you and dealing with offensive comments/posts will be much harder to deal with at the moment as you deal with your loss. No-one will understand unless they have been in your position.
    I can’t thank you enough for all your posts having gained some great information. I recently took my family on BA first class to Doha returning on Qatar Business using Avios. A wonderful experience I couldn’t have done without your posts and those from HFP.
    Keep up the great work and don’t let other peoples envy get to you.

  32. I was quite surprised to hear about the death threats. There are some SICK people out there. I do not follow you on the Facebook, but here or on twitter i did not noticed those vicious trolls and treats. You are right about that it can take a toll. I would say you need to to depersonalize from those and immediate delete it before finishing the reading of the troll post, but it is easier said then done and simply some day you just feel it is enough. I just hope that the readers who appreciate your work will give you enough strength to continue . Thanks for sharing.

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