What to Do When Someone Writes About You on the Internet
If it’s not slander or libel, take it as a win, and move on.
“If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” — Anne Lamott
Writers should be able to write about their experiences and the people they’ve encountered in their life. But you may feel differently if you’re the subject of a piece of writing and isn’t complimentary or 100 percent true.
What do you do when you’ve been bad-mouthed on the internet?
Let’s say you acted honestly and respectfully in a situation, but the writer misinterpreted your actions, and as a way for them the process their feelings, they’ve not only written about what happened; they’ve written about you in very unflattering terms. And it’s obvious they intend to make you look bad and cause you some pain.
Take a step back, look at the piece impartially, and read between the lines.
Is what they’re expressing is less about you and more about the writer’s own issues? Sometimes the things that bother us most about others are traits and qualities we have.
People will write about others to protect themselves from looking closely at their own behavior and possibly finding fault. Is it your responsibility to stay out of the way and let them work through their issues in their own public way, or should you take the article or blog post as the mother of all insults and retaliate?
Don’t write a nasty comment on their post.
It’s difficult not to react when you think that an ex-friend or partner is lying, being unfair with their words, and aiming their negativity at you. When you respond negatively or try to explain, you look bitter, and you inadvertently prove their point.
You don’t want to make the situation even worse.
Think twice about writing a retaliation piece.
Should you fire off your own article? It can be cathartic to pour all your emotions into a response piece, and if it will make you feel better, then go ahead and do it.
However, consider not posting this piece or waiting a few days when you’re not as emotional before publishing it. You don’t want to make the situation worse or start a feud of words.
Taking someone to court is an extreme reaction.
If you decide you want to take legal action, you need to be able to show that you’ve been slandered. This can be extremely difficult to prove especially if they’ve changed your name or haven’t included any specific details.
If you claim the things said are damaging to your reputation or career and don’t have any concrete evidence, your case will be dismissed.
Sometimes no matter how offensive or mistaken you think someone’s writing is, if they’re not using your real name and/or writing personal facts that can be verified as unique to you, then there’s not much you can do.
Learn to be cognizant of your own writing.
Writers write about the people in their lives and the experiences they’ve had all the time. The trick is to disguise it so that no one can prove it’s about them.
With a journalistic piece, you can’t fictionalize details, nor can you do composite characters. It’s a fine line in creative nonfiction between being truthful and putting your integrity as a writer at risk.
If someone negatively writes about you, remember that old expression, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Don’t focus on the negative aspects of the writing but look at the positives — you made an impact and caused them to feel something.
“There’s only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” — Oscar Wilde.
So, if you’re being written about and it’s not obvious slander or libel, don’t waste your energy being insulted or angry — brush it off, and take it as a compliment that they included you in their words.
The more prolific and well-known you become, the more likely it is that you’ll be talked and written about, so learn how to take it with grace now and take away its power to hurt you.