How to Handle Cyber Hecklers

If you have ever shared your opinions online, whether in a forum, the comments section, or on a social networking site, you’ve likely encountered people who like to pick fights. Often, it seems like they have nothing better to do than to ruin your day with thoughtless comments, name-calling, and juvenile provocations. Ever wonder why they behave this way and, more importantly, what to do when you encounter one?

Here’s what we’re here to help you figure out.

Cyber-heckling: Welcoming You to the Web

First of all, whenever you write on the Web, keep in mind that you will sooner or later meet people who simply do not agree with your opinions.

Wherever possible, always agree to disagree, and remember that it is not your job to ‘educate’ people. You do have the social responsibility to spread awareness about new things and provide channels for your readers to educate themselves. But that’s about it.

Don’t force your opinions or judgments onto others because that’s how fights get started in the first place.

Why Do Some People Behave Rudely Online?

The truth is, these ill-tempered people exist both online and offline, but they are bolder when shielded behind a computer screen, i.e., anonymity. Being anonymous encourages boldness (not bravery – there is a difference), which in turn diminishes a person’s accountability for their actions.

Cartoon depicting online anonymity

Simply put, when you are hiding behind a fake name, you don’t act like your normal self. You may use profanity more willingly or join in with the community’s staple jokes, calling people names that you would otherwise not do in school, at a restaurant, or at work. This behavioral change is separated by a very fine line. It’s so fine that you can toggle this behavior on and off like a light switch.

Two Faces of a Coin

When posting in a familiar community where our comments are tied to our real identity, we tend to be more polite, cautious with our words, and encouraging. This is our neutral, politically correct mode. But when there is no one to police how we phrase our sentences, we might be more upfront and confrontational, similar to when we post in large communities like on YouTube or popular blog sites. With a username like Ninja_twinkletoes, you might feel more inclined to let the four-lettered words fly.

It’s similar to how our personalities change when we drive. To illustrate this point (and my love for Disney), here is a cartoon made more than 60 years ago called Motor Mania, depicting a similar personality switch that happens when one gets behind the wheel.

So What Do I Do When I Am Cornered?

Most cyber-hecklers are just seeking attention. If you encounter one, do not give them the time of day. By responding, you are giving them the attention they seek and encouraging them to continue their behavior at your expense. Just ignore their actions and responses, even if they start name-calling. You can easily spend your time on better things.

If you feel like you’re going to lose your temper, take a break and cool down. Give it a couple of days for the heat to dissipate, and if the person doesn’t come back for more, be gracious enough to leave it at that. It is easier to walk away from a confrontation on the Web than it is in the real world.

Capslock War

In the rare occasion where the commenter has a hidden agenda or a grudge against you, what do you do? Well, you can join in the screaming match and CAPS-LOCK the person to a virtual death or be the bigger person. Try to understand why they said those hurtful things in the first place before confronting them.

Capslock key on a keyboard

At times, the whole commotion could have arisen from a simple misunderstanding. The problem with written communication is that we don’t get to use the tone of our voices to relay our message. Things can be taken out of context very easily, which is why it is crucial to write with your audience in mind; be sensitive to how they may perceive your words. Also, as the reader, give the writer the benefit of the doubt when their sentences can go either way.

We are usually nice people offline. There’s no reason to be mean online.


Bigotry – a stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own ( – is prevalent on the Internet because of one simple truth. We may have the infrastructure to communicate with one another halfway across the world, but society, at large, may not have the maturity to handle all our cultural differences on a global scale yet.

Thus, the next time you want to post a comment, put some thought into it and be sure to pick the right words to express your sentiments, rather than resort to heckler-style commenting.