Why Self-Care Is An Important Part Of Standing Up To Online Harassment


Online activist spaces are increasingly becoming subject to anti-feminist trolls and MRAs (Men’s Rights Activists). Feminist forums, Facebook groups and twitter are all common playgrounds for these trolls. While it may be easy to brush off the odd comment, persistent trolling can really take a toll on one’s emotional well being and self-esteem.

A recent feature on the Guardian website has outlined in depth that this phenomenon is not just a handful of negative comments, but a real and very motivated movement to try and stop the amplification of voices that are different, especially that of women. The website examined 70 million comments left on the website since 2006, and found that out of the top 10 most abused writers, 8 are women and the 2 men are black.

Many of us are familiar with Anita Sarkeesian who came to mainstream fame through the most unfortunate means – the Gamergate controversy. This was a movement made up of angry gamers (mostly male) who decided to hit back at female gamers, developers and those who were questioning the sexist tropes of female characters found in many games (which is one of Anita’s core messages). And we’re not just talking a few mean comments here and there. Anita had to cancel a speech she was going to give at a Utah university due to a disgruntled anonymous gamer threatening a mass shooting if she went ahead. Her personal details were also leaked online and she had to call the authorities.

This is a fairly new phenomenon which means law enforcement and government don’t have the tools to help people deal with this. It is just an unhelpful when the general consensus becomes “out of sight, out of mind”.


“How should digital news organizations respond to this? Some say it is simple – ‘Don’t read the comments’ or, better still, switch them off altogether. And many have done just that, disabling their comment threads for good because they became too taxing to bother with,” says the Guardian piece regarding journalists dealing with harassment.

If you look at Anita Sarkeesian’s Youtube Channel, she too has disabled comments. There are new laws being written and proposed which will better assess and crack down on cyber crimes, but in the meantime, how do individuals deal with the personal and emotional ramifications?

Often, mean comments can escalate to stalking, doxxing, or even rape threats. No matter what the type of online abuse, it is vital to take care of yourself. Being a social justice warrior can be exhausting. But burning out is not going to help you smash the kyriarchy in the long run. Self-care is different for each individual; find what works best for you. Try some of these ideas to help you regain strength in the face of hurtful online trolls.

  • Connect with your friends: Abuse from online trolls can make you feel isolated. Engaging with like-minded woke friends can make you feel less alone. Social support is so important for building resilience. Whether you have friends online or IRL (in real life), call, text, video-chat or e-mail them when you need support. Sharing the hurtful and oppressive comments left by trolls (with supportive friends who will not undermine your experiences further!) can be helpful in terms of processing the pain, and validating your feelings.


  • Do things that make you happy: Engage in activities that lift your spirits, and maybe try some new ones too! What about an online yoga class to de-stress? Learn a foreign language for fun! Or try a new online game, like Bingo. When you feel beat down from negative and misogynistic comments, even the smallest win can boost your mood, and bring a smile to your face!
  • Know that your frustration and anger is valid: Often trolls will tone police or gaslight you as an attempt to derail your argument. This can make you second guess your own anger towards oppressive behavior, as well as your lived experiences of oppression. Try to remind yourself that you have a right to be angry and frustrated when you or others are on the receiving end of sexism or racism. Your pain is legitimate, and you have a right to express it.
  • Be kind to your mind and your body: Sometimes you just need to power down! Both literally and figuratively. Turn off your computer and relax! Read a funny book. Take a long, hot bath to relax your tense muscles.
  • Reassess your current capacity: It’s okay to be exhausted with the onslaught of internet abuse. If you need to take a hiatus from potentially harmful online spaces, it does not make you a bad feminist! You are not being selfish, or abandoning the fight. You need to make sure that your activism does not come at the expense of your own physical and psychological well being. Take some time off, and rejoin online spaces when you are re-energized! As Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgent, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”



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