Online Haters and Trolls: 5 Ways to Handle Them

This year, we’ve seen a spike in “haters” and “trolls” on our various social media channels at our church.

Haters are people who love to jump in and drop negative comments in discussion, but they’re not looking for a reaction. Trolls are folks that are always looking to pick a fight (sometimes about the same thing!) because they are looking for attention.

Dealing with these negative people needs some thought and leadership by your team.

Here are five principles I operate with when dealing with our haters and trolls:

1. “God’s mercy and grace give me hope—for myself, and for our world.” —Billy Graham

We live in a broken world and people have issues that sometime spill out onto your social media streams. When a hater decides to spew their venom, slow down and let grace be your first response. This person is broken (like you and me) and needs grace to heal them. How can you extend grace to them in this moment?

2. “People protect what they love.” —Jacques Yves Cousteau

Social networks are nurtured and loved. You need to protect the people who interact on your social channels. If a troll is attacking another member of your community, you need to step in and publicly rebuff the hater. Let their negative talk about you or your church roll off your back (more on this later), but step in to defend your people. Personal attacks are not OK.

3. “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?” —Abraham Lincoln

Sometimes haters are really just passionate community members in disguise. It takes discernment, but consider that this person who is causing trouble could just be looking to have more influence in the community. I’ve engaged these folks with private messages to seek to understand them a little bit better. See if there is a way to draw them in rather than push them away.

4. “For too long in this society, we have celebrated unrestrained individualism over common community.” —Joe Biden

Resist the temptation to step in and sort the person out. Take a pause and let the community react. If people are spewing negative stuff about the church and not individuals (see above) … let the community rally around and respond. Watch and see what happens. These negative people present an opportunity for your community to define what’s important to it. Monitor the situation, but don’t step in at first.

5. “If you are really effective at what you do, 95 percent of the things said about you will be negative.” —Scott Boras

Haters gonna hate. Trolls gonna troll. Let it roll off you. If people are smack talking something you are doing as a church, take it as a compliment that people are noticing. I had a mentor when I was first in ministry that believed if 10 percent of your church wasn’t upset with you at any given moment you probably weren’t doing anything. Don’t get your knickers in a knot … move on to the rest of the mission. It’s too important to spend too much time on the haters and trolls.

What about you? How do you deal with negative people in your social media channels? Leave a comment!  

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Rich Birch
Rich serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. He blogs at UnSeminary.com and is a sought after speaker and consultant on multisite, pastoral productivity and communications.