Everyone has an opinion in the online world, but that doesn’t make cyberspace a free for all

Feedback, both positive and negative, goes with the turf of writing a column. But some people confuse adding to the debate with plain abuse.

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 February, 2016, 12:42am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 February, 2016, 12:42am

One of the pitfalls of writing a column like this is you open yourself to attacks online by all the haters and trolls on the prowl in cyberspace. They are legion.

It happens to me a lot, but I’m fortunate to have a bunch of very supportive readers who constantly encourage me to explore topics that may be a tad too sensitive for the mainstream media and can provoke extreme emotions in some people.

It also helps to have a thick skin, like the one I’ve developed after so many years in the profession, plus there’s a sense of smug satisfaction in seeing people ranting about how much you suck while faithfully reading every single piece you write.

I honestly enjoy all the feedback, positive or negative. Many of the readers who post their comments on our website are intelligent, well informed and highly opinionated, a recipe for lively discussions.

Even the habitual trolling can be fun as long as it sticks to the subject matter. It’s when some spiteful types think they have a right to get really personal and judgmental about the characters, personalities, achievements and private lives of writers, whom they really know nothing about, that we have a problem.

There’s no doubt that anonymity provides faux courage, and people assume that using aliases to post hateful messages online gives them carte blanche. In that sense, at least those who link their social media accounts to their comments have the guts to stand by what they say and are relatively open to being scrutinised and judged themselves.

So how do you deal with abuse and bullying on the internet? You can look to some celebrities for inspiration, as they get a lot more hate as well as adoration than us humble hacks.

Here’s how Hollywood actress Gabourey Sidibe puts haters in their place for making fun of her weight: “To people making mean comments about my [Golden Globes] pics, I mos def cried about it on that private jet on my way to my dream job last night.” You go, gal.

Canadian actress Jewel Staite posted a photo of herself in a jacuzzi with a glass of champagne in one hand and her smart phone in the other with the message: “This is me reading your mean tweets.” Ouch.

At the end of the day, opinions are like rectums – everyone has one – but at least some of us are getting paid for them.

Thanks for clicking, anyway.

Alex Lo is on leave.