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.