'No Response is the Best Response on Social Media' - A Discussion Worth Having

When it comes to social media, even the kindest people can fall into a troll’s trap and reply in an unconventional way. But what’s the solution, then? It’s easy… just ignore the people looking for any trouble.

Award-winning journalist, Estelle Erasmus, wrote about the one time she evaded trouble online by simply not entertaining the other party. Confused at whether she did the right thing or wrong, she turned to a variety of experts.

As per educational psychologist, Michele Borba, the most powerful response in many cases is “no response.” She explained that the person on the other side mostly does such stuff for attention and if Erasmus would have gone low and issued a hurtful response, only her credibility would have been tarnished.

As per Cyberbullying Research Center co-director, Sameer Hinduja, responding to someone with ill intentions makes it look like the person truly cares about the troll’s opinion.

However, if the person looking for trouble is someone important to you, the best approach here would be to converse with them privately rather than ignoring them.

According to a San-Francisco-based therapist, Ulash Dunlap, one must strictly refrain from issuing a response without giving a second thought, and if you find someone devaluing or bullying you, you should just end the conversation politely. Dunlap also stressed the importance of realizing how the person on the other end isn’t aware of your life experiences if they don’t know you.

Borba recommends not shaming someone and that you should find a respectful way of expressing that you don’t agree with a certain person’s takes instead of negating their points.

Erasmus and Borba also discussed the concept of “redirecting the power,” with the latter explaining that bullies are often craving power, so the best response is no response at all, or if it’s necessary, one should rope in an influential person or group to support their stance.

Writer/editor Laurie Easter recalled the time a distant relative of hers passed a snarky remark on finding out that she had landed a publishing deal with a university press. Laurie didn’t fire back because she thought her relative was just being jealous since she used to be an aspiring writer too.

Borba also brought up how saying mean things online is much easier than saying such stuff face to face.

Hinduja added that one should focus more on resilience and refrain from name-calling, hurling insults, and adopting passive-aggressive behavior. He also suggested muting or blocking someone if they are being unnecessarily disrespectful.

Erasmus revealed that if she genuinely wishes to clarify someone’s point, all she does is ask probing questions instead of accusing them of making things up. What’s important here is to make sure one’s probing questions are clearly reflecting their interest and curiosity in the matter in question.

She rounded up this thoughtful discussion by raising an interesting question - if you wouldn’t share your deep dark secrets or even harmless thoughts while walking among a heavily crowded place e.g. Times Square, why would you do it online?

Read next: Research reveals increasing toxicity of social media platforms due to trolls and the personality traits that give rise to it
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