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The virus of hostility – experiencing an online existence

hostility is a virusThe advent of social media has opened the doors to anyone and everyone with a computer to become a part of the conversation- business practices have become more transparent, marketing strategies have been shared publicly and a new networking vehicle was born. An advantage of the television and newspaper media is that for the most part, to get your voice heard, you have to fork over money and there’s a paper trail of who you are- not so with the Internet. Many shady things go on when online from flaming to downright dirty tricks.

This article was first published here on April 02, 2008.

Believe it or not, in college I took a class about Internet behavior and on day one, the professor confirmed (less directly than the graphic below):

online reputation management

Behaviors that I have personally witnessed online range from:

  • passively antagonistic comments by competitors (don’t we all have one of those floating around our blogs? If not, you’ll get one soon!)
  • flaming comments, baiting behavior, etc.
  • nasty blog posts about you
  • competitors leaving nasty comments anonymously on blogs (people, remember that the administrator can see your IP address and compare it to other comments you’ve left- not smart)
  • blacklisting your email address so all your emails bounce
  • creating fake usernames across the web with your email address
  • flat out impersonating you
  • studying your marketing and copying it then badmouthing you

The best way to get ahead of your online competition is NOT in an underhanded way, it is by working hard to be being a leader and raising the bar with your own marketing efforts. Most of the time, your hostility is not as anonymous as you believe it to be. Chances are that your defamation efforts are actually destructing your own reputation… there’s nothing illegal about local competitors coming here to the national stage and being under-the-radar ugly but people should be careful not to defame others through slanderous statements or acts (such as submitting your competitor’s email to porn sites).

The Internet is a wonderful marketing tool but can also be a shark pool where hostility infects those within- what has your experience been since you jumped in?

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Missy Caulk

    April 2, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    I’m first, at least it looks like I am, thanks to Twitter, gotta love. It no room for nasty in my book, but I do enjoy differing opinions. I just move on if I sense hostility too few hours in the day to get bogged down.

  2. Vicki Moore

    April 2, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Although I’ve wanted to respond several times with vitriol and spit, I’ve – so far – been able to make my point without stooping to that level. I completely understand how anonymity makes us brave. But if you’re a jerk in person, you’re probably a jerk online too. There’s just no need for that stuff.

  3. John Lauber

    April 2, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    I heard a line the other day that relates. There are only 9 or 10 mean people in this world. The problen is they keep moving around. Doubly true on the internet I would say.

    So far I personally haven’t seen it. Though I’m newer to the Social Media scene. I’m sure it will happen at some point, but I can only control my own actions.

  4. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    April 2, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    @MissyCaulk- sometimes if it’s directed at you in a way that has a direct effect on your daily acts, it doesn’t matter if you have a positive attitude… if your emails all bounce or your website is scraped as porn, your reputation is being smeared in a way that is excrutiating to repair. As for flaming, it’s definitely better to do what you said and just move on!

    @VickiMoore- there are more people online behaving as jerks that are actually nice people in real life… give someone a microphone, an audience and the ability to disappear and not live with consequences and you’ve got an internet dickwad.

    John- that’s the ONLY way to maintain a career is through controlling your own actions and being positive.

  5. Jonathan Dalton

    April 2, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Oh, the hell with all you Pollyannas.

    Wait … what was the question?

    Great post!

    No, that’s not it either.

    Call this the extension of talk radio. Just because you have the ability to dial a phone does not make you an expert on a given topic. Same for the Internet. You really want vitriol? Check out the comments that most newspapers now allow at the bottom of most online stories. It’s pathetic to behold.

  6. Vicki Moore

    April 2, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Jonathan – OH! I’ve seen that. Holy cow! I don’t they’re monitored at all.

  7. Thomas Johnson

    April 2, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Newspapers. They still have those?

  8. Matthew Rathbun

    April 2, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Yeah, the funny thing about this? I’ve written a similar post and got attacked for “unrealistic views.” As if to say that asking for civility on the internet is too much to ask. There are people who simply have such low self esteem that they need to belittle, attack, cause rumor, drudge up mistakes and slander others to feel they are worth the air they breathe.

    These people find one or two others that are simply enough to agree with them and the mental midget now becomes the drunk redneck in the bar who thinks they are ten feet tall. All the while they don’t know that these folks who “agree” with them are using them as a puppet to speak their minds and dodge responsibilities.

    I keep saying that I am going to develop a posse and each time I see a nefarious monosyllabalic hater, we’ll all go deluge their blog with just how moronic they maybe. The problem is that counter-actions make us drop to their level and then we all get nowhere. Taking the highroad had generally worked well…or at least let me sleep better at night.

  9. Ryan Hukill

    April 2, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Yeah, it’s always amusing to see how tough someone is behind a keyboard. Love the graphic by the way… reminds me of a few bright ones I’ve stumbled into from time to time.

  10. Ines

    April 2, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    This goes hand in hand with what I wrote about on-line reputations – to think that someone has so much malice in them that they can’t find something productive with their time is really sad. Some people will even do this for fun and think nothing of it.

    “Chances are that your defamation efforts are actually destructing your own reputation”

    That describes exactly how I feel – I believe in the power of intention and….”what goes around, comes around”

    Thank you, my friend! 😉

  11. Bill Lublin

    April 2, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Lani – I love the graphic- what clarity! Talk about full transparency –
    Matthew – I’m in for the Posse – I hate bullies, and the biggest bully of all is the coward who doesn;t even have the courage of their convictions – Reminds me of people who would call our office to complain about a new neighbor who might have been ethnically different from the current composition of the area – and would never have the courage to identify themselves –
    Ines – You’re right, this was a great complement to your earlier post –

  12. Wade Young

    April 2, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    I’ve been treated well on the net, but I’m not hanging out in rough neighborhoods. I will say that I think this type of thing has always gone on. People are willing to treat people terribly on the phone if they are just fishing for information and don’t really plan on meeting with the person in the flesh. I know that happens to real estate agents who get calls from people digging for information who do not plan to actually use the agent’s services. People act badly when they think no one can see, which is unfortunate for all of us. However, I’ve been treated well on the Internet, for the most part. The web does bring out the best and worst in people. We’ve always had vandals, but now they don’t just damage property — they are electronic vandals.

  13. Jay Thompson

    April 3, 2008 at 8:43 am

    Huh. I’ve never run across any sort of nasty behavior on the Internet. Maybe I need to get out more. 😉

  14. Maureen Francis

    April 5, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Lani, when I went to college we still used typewriters. 🙂

    I’ve seen most of this activity but it is interesting to see it being analyzed. Reputation management is key and we can do no better than remembering the Golden Rule before we push “send.”

  15. Sue

    April 5, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    It does do alot of damage to the person’s reputation. We all get angry and then its time to step away from the keyboard, not go down into posterity with unkind words written in the heat of the moment for all to see. Its also a big waste of time and energy that could definitely be channeled in a more positive direction and maybe sell an additional home or two. Heck, go for a long jog or walk.

  16. Dawn Delgado

    April 22, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Since starting my own blog (not about business, just personal), I’ve come to realize a few things. You always need to be aware of what you write because people are looking, but if you can’t be yourself… then why blog at all? Also, I think it’s a great tool for all us to learn from one another. If someone wants to be a “total dickwad” then let them be. They are bad people and normally what goes around, comes around. Since working for The Dept. of Homeland Security, however, I do need to realize that this will affect my clearance and job if I do anything that would reflect negatively on myself, etc. I think often times people don’t thing before they speak. This happens on blogs as well. My strategy is to just be me and f anyone that has anything bad to say, unless it’s constructive criticism!

  17. Jeff Dowler

    January 12, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Lani – this was excellent. I don’t think that folks who are really being destructive give a hoot about their reputation. Indeed, they thrive on being malicious and causing pain…and the Internet makes this so easy to do. I suppose one should handle many situations as if we were talking to that person live, in front of others, or refuse to bow down to their level. Sadly, some actions taken by others behind our backs CAN truly cause a great deal of angst and be damaging in ways we perhaps cannot even imagine. There aren’t too many repurcussions for bad behavior on the Internet.

  18. Coleen DeGroff

    January 9, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Lani – LOVE the graphic. Bullies in real life are most likely bullies online as well. My hunch is that people who lose their ever-loving minds online by posting denigrating comments about people they disagree with are the same ones in real life who talk down to waiters and waitresses. In other words mean people are consistent.

    Problem is that online these actions are amplified greatly to everyone’s detriment.

    Be nice people. And if you can’t be nice then for God’s sake step away from the keyboard.

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