Understanding and Dealing with Online Harassment

Haters Walk on Water“Fatties Gonna Fat.”

That’s the first message I ever received from an internet troll. I had two immediate thoughts: What does this even mean, and who has enough free time to send this kind of nonsense to strangers?

Now, over six years later, I’ve become an expert in online harassment the hard way. There are forums devoted specifically to hating me, and the largest has over 4,000 members. Websites exist with the sole purpose of ruining my reputation, and there are coordinated efforts to convince people to cancel bookings and abandon partnerships with me. Map routes from my home to the places I work out have been published online, along with my home address and telephone number. Trolls have shown up at events I attend, including at speaking engagements and triathlons. They’ve taken pictures and videos and harassed me, the event organizers, and other participants. Once they even tripped the fire alarm during a speaking gig.

It’s one thing to have to deal with the trolls who inevitably show up in every comment section and social media platform, but the stakes are raised even higher when you become personally targeted for harassment. Here is what I’ve learned about trolls and harassers, and how to deal with them.

Click here to read my full piece about this over at Better Humans!

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5 thoughts on “Understanding and Dealing with Online Harassment

  1. Absolutely loved the article but I couldn’t give you any claps or even read the responses because I’m not a member of Better Humans. (I used one of my three free articles to read it.)

    I think this is an important topic and it would be great if as many people as possible got to read and respond to it.

    1. Hi Mary,

      Thanks for using one of your three free articles this month to read my piece, and thanks for the kind word, I’m glad that you loved it!

      As far as the membership goes, I just wanted to provide some clarification. It’s not just for Better Humans, but for all of Medium. For those who aren’t sure what Mary is talking about, the membership is $5 per month (which I absolutely understand is not affordable for everyone.) Memberships allow authors to be compensated for the time and expertise that go into creating articles that people want to read. (I was compensated by Better Humans, some authors are compensated directly by Medium through choosing to publish their work behind the pay wall.) Non-members get to read three of these articles per month for free. If people can’t afford to, or don’t want to, pay $5 per month for the membership and they are out of articles for the month, they have the option of just waiting for the next month to read it. Interacting with the article is restricted to members, but anyone can read the article for free – though they may have to wait a bit to do so.

      In this way, people who can’t afford to, or don’t want to, pay authors whose work they want to read still have the opportunity to consume our work for free, and those who can afford to are able to support us so that we can pay our bills and continue to produce content that people love.

      I have a similar membership to my blog, it allows people who get value from my work to support me so that I can do more, and they get some perks for that (discounts on my stuff etc.) https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/voluntary-subscription/

      Thanks again for taking the time to read the article and comment here, I appreciate it!


  2. “What does this even mean, and who has enough free time to send this kind of nonsense to strangers?” I could tell you, but this is a fairly kid-friendly site, right?!

  3. ‘This is a common tactic of trolls who are trying to harm you professionally. They will simply continue to state the falsehoods with an air of authority, regardless of the facts. As York University professor and researcher Erec S. Smith pointed out, “intelligent trolls know they are wrong but continue to push their fallacious arguments to tally a victory — even if the victory is empty and wrought with falsities. A troll’s goal is not virtuous in a traditional sense. A troll’s goal is the acquisition of power and the dismissal of truth and ethics. Add this attitude to the universality and anonymity of the internet and you get the rise of alternative facts and the demonization of empirically based facts.”’

    This. This sucks.

  4. The modern day form of gossip as fact affecting peoples real lives. We have entered 1984 territory now. Truth is the first casualty of war? This unnamed war started over a decade ago, we may be the last generation to see. SEE the truth of anything… disappearing in the rearview mirror. That so many people need to hate so badly is sad. And scary.

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