My anxiety has kept me terrified about creating any sort of presence on the internet that is in anyway linked to my real life. Even worse, sometimes the anxiety holds me back when I can be completely anonymous. No one I know will ever know what I posted or wrote on a comment somewhere, but the fear of being judged by some random person for saying something stupid still held me back.
And the idea of starting an entire blog? Well that just made me a wreck worrying about it, until I finally decided to just go for it. I figured, if i had the potential to help at least one person, it would be worth it and everyone who didn’t like what I had to say can just sod off.
Because, lets face it, while the internet can be a great place to help you deal with your anxiety and meet people and become a little more social, it’s also full of assholes and trolls that take pleasure in bringing other people down.
So, be selective in where you participate, and try not to let the jerks bring you down. Focus on the good, not the trolls. Never, ever focus on the trolls. They’ll eat you alive. Or boil you in soup. Or some other terrible thing trolls do. Anyway. Read on for some advice about commenting and participating in online conversations!
Why Should You Bother Participating?
Anxiety can be very isolating, especially social anxiety. Finding a group of support online can be very helpful, and you can build those relationships by joining groups, commenting, and developing virtual relationships with people.
Places you can post comments and start talking to people include:
- Social Media (e.g., Twitter, Instagram, Facebook)
- Blogs (You could leave a comment on this one!)
- Fiction Sites (e.g., Archive of Our Own)
- Chat Rooms, Forums, and Discords (For a wide range of topics and interests)
- School Websites Like Moodle (Great for getting to know fellow students, or getting notes for that lecture you missed!)
Benefits of online socializing over traditional socializing include:
- time to compose what you’re going to say
- no face to face or speaking interaction if you don’t want it
- you can walk away easily if you get too uncomfortable
Also, it builds confidence. I’ve found it has for me, anyway.
What If Everyone Hates Me?
If you’re going to post content, like art or writing, you may get a little more hate, but if you don’t think you can handle the potential negativity, that is something you should work up to.
Get a bit of commenting and participating in chat under your belt first so you have a bit more confidence. It’s generally best to start by easing your way into the shallow water, not jumping straight off the diving board into the deep end. If all you’re doing is posting comments or chatting, it’s unlikely you’ll be attacked. Also keep in mind that most blogs/forums/sites etc. have moderators that will shut down anything that breaks their rules, so if you do run into anyone nasty they will probably get their stuff deleted or be kicked out.
Things to Remember When Commenting Online
- You are in control – You can usually edit comments. Or delete them. Or choose not to reply to someone who replies to you or questions you. There is no face to face pressure or any time limit to respond a certain way. You have time to think about what you want to say, or you can choose to say nothing at all. In an online conversation, you are totally in control.
- You can spread joy – People LOVE to get comments. If they’re anything like me, It makes their whole day. People love to hear that you like their work, or that you found something inspiring, or if you had a similar experience, or if you have constructive criticism, or any number of things. If it’s related to someone’s writing or artwork, and it’s not anonymous hate, people will be thrilled to get your comments. Even something as simple as “I like this” or a thumbs up emoji can be awesomely received. You don’t have to craft a long or perfectly eloquent comment to spread joy.
- Your thoughts are temporary – If you’re not famous and you’re not posting anything extremely controversial, your comment will fade into obscurity. It will not go viral. It will not be on the news. There’s no need to fret about that. It seems kind of defeatist, but to me there’s something comforting about only affecting a select few people instead of the whole world. And, it’s less pressure. So don’t worry that “once you put it on the internet it’s there forever.” That is technically true, but as long as your posting positive comments and not offensive material, you should be ok. Your contributions are temporary.
- You can make an alter ego. – Mine is Jenn of Arc. That’s what I write with and that’s what I use to comment on other peoples’ stuff. It can give you that boost of self confidence that comes with anonymity. Just dont use that anonymity to be a dick. And try to actually come up with a name, instead of just posting as anonymous. It can be a play on your real name, like mine, or something made up entirely. It makes sense not to want to share your real name online, but even a fake name can give you a sense of identity, and you may even make a friend or two under this alias. Well, maybe not a friend, although that certainly can happen, perhaps more of an online acquaintance. Either way, you can gain some confidence by using an alter ego.
- You can make a new account – If you’re on FaceBook, or a place where you have a lot of followers or friends who know you personally, I find it’s easier to get anxiety about posting something, liking something, or joining a group for fear of being judged by people who know the “real me”. To mitigate this, I made a new facebook for my “online life”, and haven’t added any of my real life friends. Consider this as an option if you want to be a part of a social group online, or as an extension of the alter ego option above.
You Might Find A Great Community
My teenaged niece recently told me that “Facebook is for old people,” but there are groups on there that can be super helpful. Even if it makes you an “old person.”
I recently joined Ruth Sukoup’s Doing It Scared Coaching Program and have been active on the private Facebook Group that accompanies it. I have actually been posting and commenting on other people’s posts and handing out likes all over the place, something I’ve always been too scared to do. But it is such a supportive and welcoming community, and I made the leap from lurker to participant.
Sometimes it just takes the right group of people to bring you out of your shell. So look around, and try to find your tribe, the people who get you and with whom you can relate. It can be really nice. And who knows? Maybe you’ll find those people here.
I’d love it if anyone would be brave enough to share their thoughts in the comments, but given the nature of this post I understand if you’re a little nervous 🙂
However, if you’ve never commented on anything before, I’d be extremely honoured if you feel inspired and safe enough to comment here and say hello! I promise I won’t bite! And I’ll keep away the trolls!