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Negative Comments - Why People Are Mean

Updated on May 1, 2012

Choosing Anger

Maybe it’s because I was raised well. Or maybe it’s because I believe that you should treat others how you would like to be treated. Maybe it’s my sense of spirituality, or maybe it’s just plain old common sense.

But it just doesn’t occur to me to attack people.

If I read a blog, editorial, or HUB expressing a contrary point of view to mine it just doesn’t cross my mind to comment to this person with anger. I don’t choose anger.

Obviously, we can’t all agree on everything. I am not talking about why we are all different or why we disagree. I’m talking about why some people react to those differences with anger and rage.

"Why Can't We All Just Get Along?"

Rodney King, you’re singing my song.

According to “O”, The Oprah Magazine, people are mean because they hurt.

According to there are other reasons too, such as fatigue. The site also mentions the misguided notion that the mean person believes no wrong is being done because they are “toughening up” other people by attacking them.

I believe there's definitely useful information in these ideas. But I believe there is a central reason at the core of attacking. And I believe that reason is identification.

We live in a society where bashing occurs. Bashers are people that physically and verbally abuse & attack others because these people are different. They think differently, act differently, look differently, or say something contrary to the way the basher thinks.

Or do they…

As of the writing of this article, on this site alone I’ve posted about 100 HUBS. I have received 300,000 pageviews, 2500 comments and about 500 emails. Most of these have been positive. By positive, I mean that they were polite, meaningful, and contributed to the conversation. They were from people that actually read the article, and then discussed it in comments. They didn’t all agree with my point of view – it would be absurd to think they would. And that’s fine.

Only a small handful have been negative. By negative I mean rude, mean, harassing or accusing. Most say something proving they didn't read the full article, or that they didn't understand it, or couldn't comprehend it.

Instead of saying – “I read your opinion and would like to offer mine,” they choose instead to angrily attack. They think they need to put you down in order to feel justified. They think there is only right and wrong, and for them to be right they have to make you wrong. And they choose to let you, a total stranger, know this by attacking.

But Why Attack?

Why would anyone attack? I feel it’s because they believe they’ve been attacked. Even though the article wasn’t written to them, they perceived it in that way. Instead of reading it as a stranger’s article, they read it as a personal attack. So they attack back.

And that’s a scary thought.

Why would this stranger personalize my article to the point where they actually feel anger? Often they don't actually understand what I wrote. Not only do they superimpose this personalization, but they also skew the meanings and decide the article says something it does not. The personalization goes that far: they actually ignore the facts to force something to be about them in a critical way, so they can attack it.

We read about celebrity stalkers in the news all the time. Jodi Foster, John Lennon, Geri Halliwell, Rebecca Shaeffer, not to mention all of the other violent stalking stories we read about in the media all the time.

We are usually horrified by these people and wonder what in the world would possess someone to feel connected to a complete and total stranger in such a strong way, with such deep emotion.

According to the stalking behaviors website one of the five categories of stalker profiles as described by Mullen (& colleagues) is “The Rejected” who experience anger and loss.

The Attacking Commenter

Let’s bring this back to the bashing commenter. The delusion of a personal connection to the article, the decision to lash out with anger at the author and the work instead of choosing to contribute in a healthy way, is a precursor to that stalker profile.

Of course I’m not saying everyone who leaves you a mean comment is going to stalk you. That would be like saying that everyone who has ever had a little cough is going to have full-blown lung cancer. But I am pointing out that coughing can be a symptom of a very real and severe sickness, and therefore it should be monitored.

Think of it in this way: I know nothing about airplanes. I have no desire to learn avionics and I have no connection or feelings about anything regarding airplane engines. If I were to come across an article about airplane mechanics I would think to myself, this has nothing to do with me, and I would move on. I wouldn't read it and look for hidden meanings and it would never cross my mind that I'm so important that this total stranger is speaking to me. I'd just leave.That would be the logical conclusion.

The connection between the article and the angry commenter is not logical. It passes through the illogical with repression, guilt, and turmoil and then lands somewhere outside of reality. 

Sometimes this is an easy association to spot. For example, someone who attacks an article about why you shouldn’t forgive a cheater is either a cheater or the cheatee. They are defensive and embarrassed. They have experienced things they associate with the article. They are toxic over it, connected to the material, and then they personalize the information and apply it to themselves even though the article was not written about them. They can't disconnect, because they are connected in their minds through thoughts, experiences, and an inability to realize everyone isn't talking to them.

Almost anyone who angrily attacks an article about gay rights has repressed tendency. Period. They may claim they have nothing to do with this article, but clearly they don’t think this article has nothing to do with them. If it had nothing to do with them, they wouldn't attack it.

People tend not to have such emotional connections with subjects that do not pertain to them.

Whether the connection is an experience or an intellectual investment, they have a deep rooted connection to the subject matter whether they admit it or not. Someone who’s never been affected by cheating is most likely not going to choose to lash out over an article about affairs. Someone who is not struggling with their orientation isn’t going to be so emotionally charged that they can’t just walk away from an article about gays. The attacker has a connection, a vested interest. And then they turn that into the delusion of personal connection. It is from that delusion, that the desire to inflict pain arises. 

Sometimes the connections aren’t so clear. But the inner turmoil that leads to the delusion of a personal connection is what prompts the attacker in his head to attack back.

False Illusion of Anonymity

Often the people that want to hurt a stranger online would not react that way in person. Something in their brain fears outing. Something tells them their attack is not admirable so they hide. Otherwise they'd sign their names and say who they are. They don't because somewhere inside them they know that something is very wrong with what they are doing.

If you were at a restaurant with your neighbor discussing a certain topic, and someone overheard you, and personalized your conversation to the point where they became angry, they most likely will not attack you. They will hold their tongue as if a part of their brain is capable of knowing that their reaction and behavior is not acceptable.

However, give them an anonymous comment box and they feel free to let that irrational attack loose. Some people would call this cowardice. Some would say it just marks the level of maturity the person has reached: a child does what he thinks he can get away with, whereas a mature and fundamentally good adult does what's right no matter the consequences.

Hubpages provides comment moderation. This means that a Hubpage writer can set their comments to wait for approval before being posted. Additionally, all comments appear to the author with the IP address of the submission.

It’s not difficult at all to trace the IP address, locate the city of origin, cross reference it through a statistics and hits counting site to other hits, and even trace their other activities online. Some IP Tracking services are free offering limited searching abilities. Some are expensive, upwards of $15,000 a year, with advanced services that pull associated email and billing information. They can easily surface things such as if an IP is a mask, and what IP used that mask at that specific time mark. Or, if the IP is from a public location, and collect sign-in or even server information from that host.

It is also relatively easy to submit a harassment complaint to the originating IP provider, and if worse comes to worse acquire a police report, and then request the district attorney in their jurisdiction consider criminal charges for activities involving threats, slander, and stalking.

Dealing with the Downers

I continue to be someone that doesn’t think to personalize the work of a stranger who’s never done anything to me. It still doesn't occur to me to do something secretive or anonymous, or to engage in bullying or angry comments over something that I simply disagree with. I don’t feel the need to lash out with anger at a stranger. I’m the adult, the rational person that tends to walk away.

Even though I know that negative self-involved commenter is wrong, I admit it: it is still something that bothers me. Mentally unstable people scare me. Delusional people scare me. Stalkers and obsessive angry people scare me.

I may feel sorry for the person but I don’t deny that it is upsetting. I think anyone that invests careful time and thought into an article are bothered by strangers commenting and exhibiting truly defective thinking and behavior.

Should You Post Negative Comments?

Absolutely not.

Again, I want to make it clear that I am not talking about someone who disagrees and offers a healthy viewpoint, demonstrates that they actually read and were capable of understanding your article, and has taken the time to compose a useful comment discussing an opposing idea.

I'm not even talking about heated discussions where people feel passionately about the subject and become emotional while discussing it. If you write those kinds of articles, you are often inviting those kinds of exchanges. Some people enjoy debate. There's nothing wrong with that. It's fantastic to feel deeply about something, and it's intelligent to want to share your opinion and read other's opinions. I'm just not talking about that kind of exchange.

I’m talking about a comment that bashes, lashes out, and resorts to name calling. I'm talking about comments that show the reader didn’t understand or didn't bother to read the article, but imagined a self-important connection to what they have decided the article says. I'm talking about truly negative comments. 

My advice to Hubbers is to delete those negative comments. They don't add value, they don't help make your space something healthy. They only detract by pulling things down to the turmoil and shame of the commenter. And I don't think you're doing the angry stalker commenter any favors giving them a venue. Ignoring an angry unstable irrational person is surely the better choice for everyone involved. 

Look at it this way: if a comment made you uncomfortable to read, then it probably wil make other readers uncomfortable too. You do not owe this angry person anything: not airtime, not an explanation, not a forum for his rage or his guilt, not directions to a therapist... nothing. Your article is YOUR article. You are allowed to keep it positive. You are allowed to make it a place where people can discuss views in a healthy way, and you are allowed to deny any commenter who wants to ruin that forum.

I think Hubpages is a great forum where we can publish our work and create something that contributes positively to the internet. Negative commentors create the exact opposite. They're worse than spammers in my opinion. They are the bullies, the detractors, the insignificant pimples that your work does not need. They need not see any light. 

Dave Mason - Disagree

If you liked this HUB please click the Thumbs Up.

All text is original content by Veronica.

All photos are used with permission.

All videos are courtesy of Youtube.


Submit a Comment

  • Tara_in_NE profile image


    7 years ago

    O.M.G., the political message boards are the worst. Especially the major newtork blogs. Holy smokes - want to see a glimpse of what society has become? Enter one of those if you dare, and at your own peril.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from NY

    Thanks very much suzettenaples. The negativity and mean spirited people are the reason I stopped writing for Hubpages for the most part. Although they compromised such a tiny percentage of the feedback I was receiving, I just wasn't willing to deal with it. It was too upsetting.

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 

    7 years ago from Taos, NM

    Very good hub! There is no reason for any one to be nasty to another person or hub. When I have run into mean people, I'm told I have to develop a tougher skin. No I don't - they don't need to be nasty. Most angry people are insecure and immature - they don't have the maturity to agree to disagree. Sometimes they never are able to get to that point and sometimes it takes some people longer to mature. That's why I try not to give up on certain people. There is always the hope of growth. Thank you for writing this hub - it makes us stop and think.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    I personally think that they are handing over responsibility of their actions onto the other person. The saying goes we are resposnible for our own action. Be nice to them and then avoid them like the plague. It is not right to befriend people who do ont behave in a friendly manner. Ignore them and avoid them like the plague. Make sure that you are not on they're minds.

  • agvulpes profile image


    9 years ago from Australia

    Veronica, sometimes when we are pulled out of our comfort zone and made to face reality it may cause us to emote in a manner that they may later regret.

    Very thought prevoking Hub. Thumbs up.

  • William F. Torpey profile image

    William F Torpey 

    9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

    I haven't run into much of this on HubPages, but whenever I find people irrationally attacking me or someone else I immediately recognize that the attacker has some kind of emotional problem, generally something that resembles an inferior complex. Whether it's on the Internet or in person I find the best solution is to ignore it. I'm not a psychiatrist, and I don't have office hours.

  • mythbuster profile image


    9 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

    Thank you for this insightful hub. We can disagree without being abusive.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY

    Thanks acco and dse.

    I have reacted differently over the years to this. I dealt with the hurt in different ways, getting sucked into inane battles and finally learning just not to even finish reading a comment that's valueless like that.

    Jamie Kennedy produced a documentary called Heckler that really explores the idea of critics, negative comments, and the anonymous mean commenter online.

    Even while speaking directly to some of these insane people and explaining to them that it's fine you didn't like some movie or whatever, but that your comments were mean, attacking, and personal, and he's human, and this hurts - these people were STILL being mean. It's truly disturbing that people will take the time to go out of their way not to express a valuable opinion, but to just plain be mean.

  • profile image

    DSE 901 

    9 years ago

    I've always wondered why so many people lash out in anger. I tend to take negative comments personally, but I've had to just separate myself from the attacks. Otherwise I get defensive and just feed into their arguments. Sometimes people just want to antagonize others, regardless of what they're talking about. I think there are occasions where attackers are mentally unhinged though and that's a scary thought. Thanks for this thoughtful and informative hub.

  • accofranco profile image


    9 years ago from L Island

    and i would love to extend my regards and warm gratitude to all of you guys who helped to nurture me here on hubpages, i owe you all. i don't want to mention names for certain reasons best known to me, but you guys know yourselves, i greet you all!!!

  • accofranco profile image


    9 years ago from L Island

    Some do it to hurt and bring others down, but we all must try to be ignoring such comments anyway. like myself, i know i once hurt some peoples' feelings through my hourly posts, and i am using this opportunity to ask for all your forgiveness, i was only growing and learning the environment then. thanks.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY

    Thanks so much C.S. Alexis. I am glad that point worked through. Really - so glad you can't shit/alt/delete a bomb out there.

  • C.S.Alexis profile image


    9 years ago from NW Indiana

    Big Thumbs up to your hub here. I think you hit the nail on the head when you suggest IDENTIFICATION as the culprit. It is damn scary, Thank Goodness they cannot drop bombs with each letter printed from their keyboards eh?

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY

    Laughing Mom

    Thanks. I'm with you. If I don't have something nice or consturctive to say, I just leave. It doesn't dawn on me to lash out, just like you.

    Thanks for reading.

  • Laughing Mom profile image

    Laughing Mom 

    9 years ago

    You've said it all very well, Veronica. I really like how you addressed it, positive but firm.

    I don't see any reason to tear someone down. I personally think anyone who does is doing it to make themselves feel bigger or better.

    I try very hard to find something I like about every hub I read. Even if I don't agree with the point of view, maybe I like the writing style or a picture. If not, I will just leave without making a comment at all. Not that I expect everyone to be like me, but it would be nice if everyone were respectful of others.

    Thanks for writing this.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY

    G-Ma - thank you so much. I see you exactly that way, too. xoxo

    trish1048 - Thanks for the thoughts. I agree, and I stay away from religion and politics but other subjects seem to invite the same type of problem - the hubs on cheating, tipping, and gay rights.

    Agreed on the forums. And it's not just here. Quite a few times I've gotten involved in a tv show or a channel - (TLC decorating shows) and peeked in the forums to try to find out more info on a designer or something, and couldn't even believe the viciousness, all in the veil of anonymity. I do not understand why someone signs into a forum with nothing of value to add, but instead just to ridicule a person.

    I wonder if the world was like this before. Or if the internet has changed everything. Or if it's just that it's a different planet now. When I was in school 30 years ago we didn't have the bullying problem people have now. Is it a meaner world?

  • trish1048 profile image


    9 years ago

    Hi Veronica!

    Wonderful hub.  Very well written and informative. 

    I've been fortunate that I haven't experienced bashers in my hubs.  Just an occasional spammer, which I promptly delete.

    The forums, well, that's another story.  I don't go out to those often, but I sure have seen how nasty and ugly people can get, especially when it comes to religion and politics.  Since I am not well versed in either, I more than likely wouldn't comment anyway.  There have been some that I read and after a page or two or three, I just leave.  Although, I have been tempted several times to simply post a comment that says who pooped in your cereal? It simply amazes me how worked up people can get.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • G-Ma Johnson profile image

    Merle Ann Johnson 

    9 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

    Very sad that someone has bothered you...

    Annoy. quote:

    "There are those who open their hearts to others...

    Who never think twice about giving of themselves...

    They are the wonderful people who make all the difference"...

    ...and I see you that way...G-Ma :O) Hugs

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY



    I got my feelings hurt on the forums more than once and made the decision not to return months ago. I thought it was just me - I am extremely thin skinned and over sensitive.

  • eovery profile image


    9 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

    Veronica Nice Hub,

    I wanted to write something like this, but couldn't get the thoughts together. You have brought a lot of this to light I haven't had trouble on hubs, but the forums are ruthless. I think hubpages should discourage negative forums, yet people have freedoms of speech. Therefore, I stay out of forums, because I have seen even some of the "greatest hubbers" get out of control and ruthless.

    The thing about hubpages, that we all need to help each other out, almost like a family. I guess you could say, the forums let people hash things out, and not do it on the hubs. But those that do it on the hubs, I think need to use discretions. There are some that like to have fun with comments, but they are usually done with some discretion.

    Keep on Hubbing!

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY


    Perfect analogy about the road rage thing. You're absolutely right.

    I couldn't agree with you more about the timeless kindergarten lesson, if you don't have something nice to say...

    I really appreciate your comment.


  • Gerg profile image


    9 years ago from California

    Thoughtful hub, Veronica. I agree that with the sense of anonymity a person can feel while alone at home, typing into a box, they may feel more empowered to express whatever rage they are holding in. Similarly, there are people who act out in rage while driving, under the misguided notion they are also alone, separate from others in their car.

    But beyond that, I've always maintained that basic human respect and dignity dictates that a rational, mature person should be able to stop, think, take in a deep breath and remember some of those Kindergarten lessons we all learned, like "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all!"

    Thanks for your always wise words.

  • cindyvine profile image

    Cindy Vine 

    9 years ago from Cape Town

    Hi Veronica, good hub. Luckily, I haven't yet experienced any nast comments on my hubs. Just had my hub on female foeticide flagged as porn and sexual content when the only thing naked was a foetus. And despite emailing HP and asking what I must change to get the site back up again, nobody there has bothered to reply. Oh well! I have noticed in the forums though that people can get quite nasty with each other and make personal attacks. Send me those questions we talked about, or how do you want to work it? Happy Easter!

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY


    Thank you so much for that comment. I appreciate your linking, your input and your sharing your talents, exposing yourself to the "venom" as you so eloquently put it. You are one of those people that makes the risk worth while.


  • profile image


    9 years ago

    One of the most difficult truths I've had to come to terms with while putting myself, my writing, even my image on the Web, is that there are people who will irrationally respond to you out of their own personal anger and spite; their own distrust, or their own illusionary connection to you and the things you write, do, or say.

    Sometimes those responses can be positive; you can make new friends, meet new people, engage them in discussion, and share yourself with them. I like to think I search for those people. On the other hand, there's plenty of the opposite to go around. When I started freelancing and blogging I uncovered those people pretty quickly. Even now I periodically resist the urge to ask my editor "how do you deal with these people? How do you feel good about what you do while they're there shouting about how horrible you are and that you should stop?"

    Even though I already know the answer: You feel good about it because they think you should stop. And because there are all those other people who may not have said anything who enjoyed it. That's not to say it doesn't get me down from time to time.

    I'll link this around - it's a good guide for anyone who puts themselves on the Web, or in public anywhere. Everything we write is a part of ourselves, every video we shoot or photo we take, and in some small place it's good to have affirmation that we did a good job, look nice, or sound professional - the flip side of course is that in a very different place it can be damaging when someone reacts with venom and malice against us.

    Thank you again - for getting this out, and for sharing it. The seedy underbelly of the Web that lives in YouTube comment threads and the depths of Digg discussions are by no means representative of the rest of the world, or all the people anywhere with something to say.


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