Drawn to Pain
Why do negative comments have so much power over us?
(Content warning: strong language)
The morning after the TechCrunch announcement that I had sold my KyleBrush brand to Adobe, I made the mistake of logging into Twitter for my usual check-in with followers and followees.
Some things I found in my ‘@’ notifications:
f**k u kyle webster i’ll make my own brushes.
F**k Kyle Webster for selling out.
hey kyle way to d**k over your fellow artists.
Kyle T Webster should be f**ked with a railspike.
There were dozens of comments like this. The last one is particularly disturbing (and violent) and it gave me a stomach ache, bringing up nasty memories of threats and physical injuries from the bullies in my life.
On the flip side, there were many, many more positive comments— hundreds of them on social, in my inbox, etc.
But which comments did I linger on and read repeatedly? The negative and hurtful ones. I let them burrow in and set up a huge camp in my brain for weeks.
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Why do we allow the negative and pessimistic comments from others to take up more space in our psyche?
I’m no psychologist, but I suspect it comes down to our desire to be liked by our fellow humans (unless we are sociopaths). Most of us would prefer it if others thought highly of us, or at the very least, didn’t despise us. It comes down to survival instinct, perhaps; smile, be agreeable and don’t offend, and there is a better chance you won’t get kicked out of the tribe (or worse).
So, if we *think* others are displeased with us, it makes us uncomfortable and it is difficult to put it out of our minds, even if the number of people who have a bone to pick are insignificant and greatly outnumbered by those who like us just fine.
Thanks to the internet, total strangers can lob insults and threats at us for little or no reason at all. In fact, as social media has taken over, death threats between fans over which storylines in any random beloved franchise are “cannon” are now seen as perfectly normal.
But as common as all this negativity and animosity has become, we haven’t evolved quickly enough as a species, psychologically speaking, to *not* feel the sting of each and every one of these personal attacks.
Worse still, even if we know that the “Comments Section Road” will lead to suffering when we see the beginnings of a pile-on, we often read on to the bitter end out of some overwhelming sense of almost masochistic curiosity.
What to do? How do you take away the power of these comments?
First and very importantly, you must know and accept this about the vast majority of comments you receive online about you or your work: the people writing them have never had the pleasure of getting to know the real you. They are not your family members or friends, or even acquaintances. To them, the entirety of your being is comprised of a brief bio with a profile picture — nothing more.
Are they insulting your character, your integrity, your true self? Of course not. They are literally attacking some pixels and a few words on a screen—not a human being. Not YOU.
Let this sink in and acknowledge it as an absolute truth.
Second, try this:
Create a folder on your desktop, your tablet, or your phone that reads, “Proof.”
Find any email, tweet, post, comment or message from somebody who has thanked you for something you have created or written something positive about you/ your work.
Copy and paste these positive notes into your “Proof” folder.
Read as many of them out loud as you can any time you are letting the trolls get to you.
Repeat as necessary.
Even if you only have a handful of these friendly comments, remember that they are of huge importance because they are undeniable proof that your actions have had a positive impact on others.
And isn’t that the whole ball game?
This is not only helpful on a personal level, but on a creative and business level. If you know your work is bringing a smile to people’s faces or is helping them in some way (you have proof!), then it is probably work worth doing. So keep right on going, stay on track, and …
f**k the trolls.
Thank you for reading. If you like what I’m doing with this newsletter, please share a link to this or any other issue with your friends. It’s the best way to help me grow and to keep me writing.
👇Resources are below, as usual. Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other, remember to be kind, and I’ll say, Ciao for now.
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