Understanding and Responding to Criticism on Social Media

Updated on December 13, 2017
Carola Finch profile image

Carola writes extensively on health, social issues, mental illness, disabilities, and other topics. She is a breast cancer survivor.


Most people can post and tweet their criticisms for the world to see on social media, but that doesn’t mean that they should.

As a writer, I try to get the butterflies in my stomach to fly in formation every time I post my articles on websites and social media. I know that no matter how well thought out and articulate my work is, a negative comment might pop up. If I have made a mistake, a posting that criticizes me may come up in a public forum such Facebook, Google, or Twitter.

Is the criticism constructive or destructive?

Some people who post are strangers to me, but most seem to have my best interests at heart. I appreciate their feedback. I feel a sense of safety because I know I will be advised if my article is unclear or has something needs correction. It is hard not to thump my forehead a few times and wonder how I could have made such a stupid error. Fortunately, the problems are usually quick fixes.

Sometimes, people leaving comments add a few words of praise, which my poor battered soul appreciates. I consider their remarks to be constructive criticism - not social media bashing.

On the other hand, many people use social media sites to judge and put down businesses and other people – especially writers and celebrities. Social media circles refer to these people as “trolls” and to their postings as “trolling.” Social media bashing may take the form of character assassinations, rude content, offensive putdowns, or general craziness.

Reasons people are critical

A blog on Yahoo speculated why so many people seem to love to tear down celebrities on social media and exult in their failures. No matter how much good celebrities do and how much they accomplish career-wise, these facts don’t usually does not show up on social media. Instead, some people will speculate that singers are lip-syching, entering rehab, or tsk-tsk about the so-called monstrosities that celebrities are wearing.

Some reasons why people criticize others on social media:

  • An urge to vent all the unhappiness and discontent they are feeling in their lives by projecting their negative baggage on someone else
  • To express anger and disillusionment when celebrities fall off a pedestal, revealing imperfections such as marriage failure or substance addition
  • Rage their jealousy at people who have what they don’t have such as fame, position, or riches
  • A compulsion to overcome low self-esteem by acting superior to others and putting them down
  • Feelings of outrage that their core values have been violated and need to be defended, no matter how nonsensical they may be


How to respond when we or our business are victims of social media bashing

  • Postings that are offensive, rude, or an obvious bid for attention can be ignored or deleted in some cases. Our first instinct when we see a damaging posting is to delete them.
  • Instead of hitting the delete button, making a nasty retort, or taking vengeance for hurt feelings, we should treat people with dignity by politely responding to their posts in most cases.

  • A timely response can also stop other critics from jumping on the bashing bandwagon. A quick answer also shows people that we are honest, have integrity, and are willing to be held accountable.

  • We can thank people for their feedback, even though we are fuming inside at their effrontery, and tell them that we will consider what they have to say. The main thing people really want to know is whether they are heard.

  • We should read postings carefully in order to determine where people are coming from. Sometimes people just want to push their own beliefs and agenda on us and don’t care what we think. If we become defensive and counter all their claims in our answers, these people will become furious and serve up an even worse dose of the same criticism. A timely, neutral response may stop what could become verbal abuse.
  • We can express a personal opinion, but arguing with the people posting is fruitless. This is likely to infuriate people and set off a verbal assault.

  • Sometimes a non-committal soft answer can calm down irate people and assure them that we will consider their position.
  • There will probably be issues in the posting that we should clarify or address. Our answer can be gentle and kind, which is much more effective than nastiness and verbal retaliation.
  • We should accept responsibility for areas we have been in the wrong. We can also offer our apologies and say we will investigate and get back to the person, if needed. The conversation can be taken offline by offering people our name and contact information.
  • If we have a business, we should create a plan and guidelines for responding to negative posts.
  • The best results will come about if we appear to be open to criticism, willing to acknowledge errors and correct them, and open to discussing the situation.

No matter how nasty or out-of-line social media comments are, we can choose to learn from them.

© 2013 Carola Finch


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  • Chriswillman90 profile image

    Krzysztof Willman 2 years ago from Parlin, New Jersey

    I've devolved into this topic with a couple of my own hubs though you nicely described every aspect of criticism regarding social media. I to believe that most "trolls" are either jealous or are struggling in their own lives. Sometimes their criticism is legit so I'll never assume they always want to take you down. Great hub and voted up!

  • Carola Finch profile image

    Carola Finch 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks for sharing. This issue is tough to navigate.

  • wordswithlove profile image

    Neetu M 2 years ago from USA

    Carola, indeed we must learn to observe the same decorum online that we do (or ought to do) offline in the real world. I have thought a good deal about why people tear down other people for a variety of reasons, online, and a few things come to mind. I think there might be a certain latent potential or desire in many people to erupt at things and discussions they feel safer to do because they are not face-to-face with the others. Sitting at home, in a pub or a restaurant, even if those you are conversing with have differing views, you just generally follow the restraint imposed by "decorum". That falls away when the X, Y, Z sitting across cyber space has another viewpoint. Sometimes, the worst of our behavior comes out when we wear an anonymous mask. Just my two cents. :)

  • doris and me profile image

    Mohammad Tanvir Ibne Amin 3 years ago from Dhaka

    Criticism on social media is depends on situation. Generally people do not like to hear any criticism. But it important for recovering bad things. Great hub.

  • oliwier profile image

    Richard Warren 3 years ago from London, United Kingdom

    IMO, when we publish something in internet. We are opening our works to different view of public opinion.

  • peejay1980 profile image

    Paul Jellicoe 4 years ago from Neston, UK

    I agree with other comments, like any art it's always open to critique and trolling. Look at the likes of Coldplay, every time they have a new album out, NME readers will stamp it 'crap' 'awful' etc... without ever listening to the material. The same goes for writing, if they don't like what they're reading, then they can freely avert the eyesight elsewhere.

  • Carola Finch profile image

    Carola Finch 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks for your comments. I think that responding to critical readers is one of the most difficult challenges for writers.

  • married2medicine profile image

    Funom Theophilus Makama 4 years ago from Europe

    These are excellent tips and advises, no wonder this hub was featured as a hub of the day, which it truly deserves... It really takes nerves, courage and a great deal of maturity to overcome criticisms in the way you have portrayed, but surely it is the best and only way to positively wave them off. Thanks for this wonderful share

  • Carola Finch profile image

    Carola Finch 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks, Deborah-Diane. I agree that time is too short to spend it upset with people who usually have issues that have nothing to do with us.

  • Deborah-Diane profile image

    Deborah-Diane 4 years ago from Orange County, California

    Great advice. I usually thank people for their feedback, and ignore their statements. If they are very inflammatory, I delete them. Life's too short to put up with some of the things people say.

  • Carola Finch profile image

    Carola Finch 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks for your comments.

  • iguidenetwork profile image

    iguidenetwork 4 years ago from Austin, TX

    So true. It's everywhere -- Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Many people are downright nasty especially those who have questionable accounts, so they have the gall to say offending things. I only have to think that well, it's their problem and not mine. It shall pass -- except if those people speak nasty against anyone I'm close to, my friends and family. It's either I confront them or block them, which thankfully rarely happens.

  • cheeluarv profile image

    cheeluarv 4 years ago from INDIA

    very helpful hub,on how to consider negative,hurting comments.voted up useful.

  • Carola Finch profile image

    Carola Finch 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks for your comments, folks.

  • izettl profile image

    Laura Izett 4 years ago from The Great Northwest

    I think number one...the source of criticism should be considered. When celebs get bad fan mail or media publicity, well it should be ignored. If someone leaves me a comment about my hair, but I wrote something about religion...well duh...that comment would be silly to respond to. Deciding on what is constructive is most valuable. Anyway, your hub is thought provoking. I'm still mulling it over...

  • Machashabah profile image

    Machashabah 4 years ago from The Coast

    This was helpful, thank you!

  • donnaisabella profile image

    Donaisabella 4 years ago from Fort Myers

    That old golden rule, "do to others what you would have them do to you," is truer for the social media than any. I joined social media first with my mouth before I made my presence known. I spent hours reading blogs and commenting. I gave honest feedback, because I believed that is how life is supposed to be lived among fellow writers. I am sure some people may have considered me a troll. Some were really unpleasant and banished me, others were more pleasant and drew me in. When I started my own blog, I vowed to be pleasant, open and teachable. I have learned in as far as I can, to disagree without being offensive or arrogant. I never delete comments and so far, I have never received comments that were aimed at insulting or offending, even if I could see them that way if I chose. At the end of a heated discussion, I have made sure to shake hands with everyone and move on. However, there are people who have vowed never to return to my blogs or posts again because they felt my stand was too strong; now, I cannot help that, so life goes on... I post and I blog. Social networking is life in motion, whether we like it or not, it is not some superficial lifestyle, it is like belonging to a club, others like it, others do not. It is not going away, we will have to learn how to do life that way as a permanent way of living. Thanks for sharing.

  • Carola Finch profile image

    Carola Finch 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Hi, izettl: Thanks for taking the time to comment. The hub was not intended to be a one-size-fits all. It was intended to be a guideline for people who may be upset or perlexed by criticism and looking for ideas about how to respond. As for the thick skin - haha, yeah, I have got one too, though there is a soft, sensitive artist underneath.

  • izettl profile image

    Laura Izett 4 years ago from The Great Northwest

    I have mixed feelings on this...on one hand I think too many people agree with each other just for the sake of agreeing in our overly optimistic (but more depressed than ever) society that is afraid to offend anyone (God forbid being politically incorrect). People think its the end of the world when something negative is stated. But negativity is very subjective- you can have one person who takes a comment for a comment but they have thick skin (so to speak) then you have another person who is very sensitive that takes many things as negative- basically those people shouldn't be writing online. They walk away from what could be a learning experience. I used to imagine theorists, scientists, and philosophers sitting down to discuss things and I never imagined they all agreed with each other but I bet they learned a lot from even some heated arguments.

    I've been writing online for several years (on some hot bed issues) and I take all info in- I consider it, then take and leave what I want. I do engage at times to negative comments- too many people walk away from them when so much can be learned from those that don't agree with us. Think about it...

    So here's my constructive criticism- it's a great hub BUT I think you're trying to be objective with a one-size-fits-all answer to a very subjective area. A more appropriate hub might be 'How to grow a thick skin when dealing with people online'. Just kidding about that, but I think you get it.

  • Carola Finch profile image

    Carola Finch 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thank you for your encouraging comments.

  • VictoriaSheffield profile image

    Author Victoria Sheffield 4 years ago from Georgia

    This is great work!

  • JayeWisdom profile image

    Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Several years ago I joined Facebook, only to have a very unpleasant experience there. I left and will never return.

    There are some people, of course, who can use Facebook in a positive and enjoyable way that benefits them and their true "friends" and family. However, there are many others who sign onto FB and, in the process, appear to leave behind their humanity. Those people use the social network as a blunt instrument with which to bludgeon the psyches of others.

    "No matter how nasty or out-of-line social media comments are, we can choose to learn from them." Personally, I don't see any reason to subject ourselves to "nasty" or "out-of-line" social media comments, and I don't see what could be learned from them...except which people to avoid.

    That's why I no longer "do" Facebook. I realize, of course, that I'm in a small minority. However, I've read a lot of negative comments about FB and think my group of ex-Facebook-members is growing.


  • Carola Finch profile image

    Carola Finch 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thank you for your comments.

  • ComfortB profile image

    Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

    A great hub with great tips on how to deal with criticism on Social Media, something we've all been touched by. Congrats on the HOTD award!

  • profile image

    eunice stuhlhofer 4 years ago

    Informative hub Carola. Voted useful!

  • profile image

    Benjamin Chege 4 years ago

    Great Hub Carola Finch!! I also think some people feel secure behind social media, as they are able to operate under fake identities and get away with the wrongs they do online. However, I agree with you that one should respond quickly to the false statements said about you on social media before they go viral.

  • Jatinder Joshi profile image

    Jatinder Joshi 4 years ago from Whitby, Ontario, Canada

    Nice post. I had a person who posted a very nasty personal attack in his comment on the post that I had written. Like you suggested, I first researched where he came from, and then put my own comment which read something like, "Thank you for your considered opinion. I would highly appreciate comments that are relevant to the subject rather than being leveled on a personal level." It worked.

  • Carola Finch profile image

    Carola Finch 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks for your comments, people.

  • thumbi7 profile image

    JR Krishna 4 years ago from India

    I didn't have to face so much criticisms so far online. But I had my share in my personal life where criticized behind my back. However it did not have any impact on me.

  • TrudyVan profile image

    TrudyVan Curre 4 years ago from South Africa

    So True. Keep true to yourself and you should be ok. voted up

  • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

    Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

    Informative, useful and highly appreciable. The contemporary world are so immersed in Social sites. Lot of issues are there. A good study on the proper use and misuse of these sites are a must. You have done a good research and wrote well. Thank you for sharing such a useful content. Voted up and shared on my FB for great publicity and education.

  • cozytown profile image

    cozytown 4 years ago from Mechanicville, NY

    So useful. I have get thicker skin! Thanks for this.

  • Carola Finch profile image

    Carola Finch 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    I think that people forget that there is a human being on the other end who has feelings. Bet you they would scream blue murder if someone treated them that way.

  • CarlySullens profile image

    CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

    Unfortunately, me too! People have said the meanest cruelest things to me online.

  • Carola Finch profile image

    Carola Finch 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks. I have had more than my fair share myself.

  • CarlySullens profile image

    CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

    Great hub! Voted up and shared. I think all of us who have an online presence has had social media criticism.

  • Carola Finch profile image

    Carola Finch 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada


  • Seafarer Mama profile image

    Karen A Szklany 4 years ago from New England

    Very clear hub about responding to those who make comments in response to a social media writer's article. Enjoyed the inclusion of the video.

    Voted Up and Useful. :0)