About a year and a half ago I first discovered subscription boxes – monthly subscriptions in which you pay a fee and get a box full of goodies in the mail, often themed in some way and/or aimed at a certain type of people (ie. “Marvel Collector Corps” is designed for people who love Marvel stuff and are fans of Funko’s collectibles). I fell in love with the idea, and while looking into some of them I discovered “unboxing videos”, which are exactly what they sound like: someone gets their subscription box, records as they open it, and uploads it to YouTube. To the outsider it sounds absolutely ridiculous, but as with the trend of game-lovers watching videos of other gamers gaming, it’s a popular type of video that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.
After subscribing to a few boxes I decided to try making some videos of my own. I thought it sounded like fun, and at the time I thought that it would be a boon to my social network, possibly help me sell a few books. Things didn’t really go that way at all – the YouTube channel turned out to be the most popular aspect of my network, but that popularity didn’t spring back in the other direction – but it was a lot of fun, and so I’ve stuck with it for over a year and a half now and have no intention of stopping any time soon.
Here’s the thing though… There’s a lot of fun to be had on YouTube, and I’ve collected some pretty awesome followers and met some fellow collectors who are tons of fun to talk to, but there’s also something else on YouTube (and the internet in general) that isn’t so great: the assholes. And I use the profanity because that’s all they really are: assholes who have nothing better to do with their time than to torment people they don’t even know. It’s a plague that isn’t going to go away any time soon, and if you’re going to be in the YouTube game (or any game that really puts you out there on the internet), you’ve got to accept that sooner or later you’re going to have to deal with them.
Me, personally, I’ve got a three-step system, and it goes thusly:
Step One: Give yourself time to think and make sure that you’re not actually overreacting to something innocent.
The other day I got a comment on one of my videos that, at first glance, looked like a grammatical failure to randomly insult me:
“your fat just walks away”
I saw the comment pop up on my phone and my first thought was, okay, we’ve got an ass here; some loser with no grasp on the English language is trying to tell me that I’m fat, and as a result he’s just walking away from my channel. That was my first impression, and I was pretty sure of myself for about the first twenty minutes. But then I started to think about it and something about the structure of the sentence felt very familiar to me. It niggled away at my mind until finally it came to me like a slap upside the head.
It’s a Doctor Who quote. In an episode of Doctor Who there is a company that claims their pill will melt the fat off your body nightly, but what really happens is that your fat is used to incubate little white creatures called Adipose, which then detach themselves from your body while you sleep and make their way back to the company headquarters. The company’s motto is “Your fat just walks away”.
In that particular video I had shown the Adipose Funko Pop I had gotten in my most recent Pop shopping haul. It was a video from several months ago, so that’s why I didn’t think of it right away; I actually had re-watch the video to ensure that it was, in fact, the one with the Adipose in it.
Now it all made perfect sense. This was just another Doctor Who fan, quoting an episode that was related to something I’d shown in my video. Completely and totally innocent, and yet, if I’d been overly emotional and taken immediately to the comment section to fight back against what I’d initially perceived as a slight against me, I would have ended up looking like the ass. This is one reason why it’s always important to step back and let yourself breathe before reacting to something: you may realize later that you’ve completely misconstrued the situation.
Step Two: Kill them with kindness and/or completely rational discussion.
When you’re absolutely sure that someone has slighted you, or is calling you out, or otherwise being a complete jackass to you, first try responding to them in a completely rational way that disarms the situation.
For example, I had one YouTube user feel the need to comment on one of my videos to let me know “your voice is so annoying”. I got a laugh out of it first, thinking that if it was so annoying surely he would have just exited the video instead of taking time out of his own life to let me know that I’m not his cup of tea. And so I gave him a perfectly reasonable and rational response: “You’re perfectly welcome not to listen to it. Cheers!”
This particular user chose not to continue the conversation, which is preferable but also fairly rare. So let’s look at a different example.
In one video I talked about the GameStop Black Friday Funko Mystery Box sale, in which GameStop sold special mystery boxes full of Funko collectibles, each one containing a special exclusive Funko Pop. I (and a rather large portion of North America) were extremely frustrated with this event because due to distribution errors and a lot of dishonesty on the part of store employees, their “1 in 5 chance” claims did not hold water. I personally purchased 15 boxes, and 9 of those boxes had the same character, which is extraordinarily improbable. On that video I got several comments from angry collectors basically insinuating that I deserved what I’d gotten because I was some greedy harpy who’d gone into the store, snatched up all the boxes, and kept anyone else from getting any. To these types of commenters I gave calm, rational details about the nature of my purchases: I’d bought 5 boxes (which was the store limit) and my husband bought 5. Several hours later, near the end of the day when lots of people had gotten a chance to purchase theirs, we returned to the store, realized they still had tons, and bought 5 more. And just for the record, we returned to that same store several weeks later and they still had boxes left, so I hardly screwed the system and kept others from enjoying it.
For my rationale I got two different kinds of responses. I received several apologies from people who thought better of themselves and my explanation and went on to have nice, nerdy conversations with me. And I received a few responses from people who more or less told me to shove it up my ass and proceeded to insult me further. These types of people lead me to…
Step Three: Cut your losses and thus cut their power.
I know that people can get extremely emotional, and we’re all prone to look like morons on the internet when we’re emotional. That’s why I have ‘Step Two’: I like to give everyone the chance to turn around and change their mind and possible even become a fan. However, as has been said by many nerds over the years: “Everybody gets one.” If I’m kind and calm to you, if I give you a perfectly reasonable and rational response to your rudeness, and you continue to come at me like a raging bull, the door is now closed.
As in with the example above, I had a few people who responded to my explanation of the Mystery Box purchase process with further aggressive attitudes, and those people have yet to receive any further response from me. If they post further rude comments, those will receive no further response from me. Even if they pepper every one of my videos with cruel insults and angry rants, they will receive no further response from me.
Because the truth, the real truth of it, is that people like that are just looking to work you up; it becomes less about actually having some kind of issue that they want to express, and much more about seeing how much they can frustrate you, whether or not they can make you break down. They want to draw you into a battle, make you the emotional one, turn you into a train wreck so that everyone can see you’re actually the total mess they said you are. And now they have power over you. You’ve lost control, and you can’t get it back because you’ve proven to them that they can push the right buttons and that if they torment you long enough you’ll eventually snap and give them the exact reaction they’re looking for.
But cut the entire process at its source, and you’ve cut off their power. They want the response; the greatest counterattack you can perform is to not give it to them.
Some YouTubers (and bloggers, and other content creators) will even go to the point of deleting these types of comments all together. I personally think that this is another form of defeat. Although you haven’t engaged directly, you’ve shown the offender that they bothered you enough for you to take the time to remove their words from your space, and chances are that this will simply spurn them on to make even more nasty comments. So I, myself, leave those comments alone. Some may say they hurt the mood of the channel/post/whatever, but personally, the way I look at it is that when someone says something nasty to me, all the followers who actually enjoy my channel see that comment and think, “Wow, that person is a douche.” And just imagining that makes me feel vindicated.
It can definitely be a difficult thing for some people to deal with assholes on the internet, but I’ve long since realized that, while I quite enjoy knowing that people enjoy my channel, I couldn’t give less of a damn about what some random jackass stranger on the internet has to say about me. There are a hell-of-a-lot more important things to be going on with in life.