Dealing with digital cruelty

For instance, maybe you have an unconscious worry that you’re somehow not good enough. Professor Suler said it was not uncommon for some digital luminaries (bloggers, social media power-users) to harbor such worries because one motivation, be it conscious or unconscious, is that they want to be liked. “They want to be popular,” he said, adding that it’s a goal easily pursued on the Internet. “It’s all about likes and pluses and favorites.” Yet if someone says something cruel, he continued, “it activates that unconscious worry.”

But let’s say the negative comment fails to induce self-psychologizing. Perhaps it can help you learn something about your work.

“It’s easy to feel emotionally attacked from these things,” said Bob Pozen, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Business School and a senior research fellow at the Brookings Institution. But he said that doesn’t mean that your critics don’t have a point…

Some people think of their online life “as a kind of game with rules and norms that don’t apply to everyday living,” he wrote, a game for which they do not feel responsible. If bloggers and people who use social networks keep this concept in mind, he said, “they will see the psychology” of aggressors, and their comments may be easier to take — and possibly ignore. Sometimes it’s smart to do as Ms. Williams ultimately did: disconnect.