Online harassment: 5 steps to take when facing an onslaught of trolls

social media, well-being

strong and resilient black woman

Well, it finally happened… I got ratioed on Twitter.

If this is the first time you’ve heard the term “ratio” or “ratioed” in regards to social media, you probably have no clue what that might mean. But, explains it perfectly so I’ll let it do the talking:

“On the social media platform Twitter, a ratio, or getting ratioed, is when replies to a tweet vastly outnumber likes or retweets. This means people are objecting to the tweet and considering its content bad.”

Needless to say, getting ratioed isn’t a fun place to be at. In fact, it can quickly (and often does) turn into online harassment and bullying.

So, you might be wondering… “what’d you say or do to spark the online harassment?

Truth be told, I really thought the first time I’d get ratio’d, it’d be for admitting my love of Ewoks — yes, the anti-fascist murder bears seen in Star Wars. Or, maybe it would have been because I had the audacity to say Batman is better than Superman. Either way, I always thought that 1) being a woman online and 2) having strong opinions about things with really passionate fans would have been the thing to do the trick.

Instead, it was for supporting freedom for the people of Cuba who were set to march on November 15th or, as it’s also known, 15N.

Specifically, it was for sharing the picture of myself attending a Freedom March for Cuba (see below).

I am the daughter of Cuban refugees. I’ve seen firsthand what generational trauma looks like for families fleeing a tyrannical government. How having to give up your home, of losing it all to keep your family safe can irreparably change people.

So, I posted a photo of myself in support of the marches in Cuba for libertad (freedom), and then it happened…

A pro-Cuban government account — or big communist account I’m not quite sure — must have tweeted out my photo because within a matter of minutes I started getting inundated with people calling me a “gusano” which means “worm” in English. It was a term Castro used to dehumanize dissenters and those in exile. Now, it’s used by people who idolize the likes of Castro and Ché as a weapon of the tongue against Cubans who left the island. It’s an ethnic slur. It’s hate speech.

But wait! There’s more…

I also received plenty of the ever-classic, “I’m just upset that Castro took my family’s [insert plantation or sugar cane farm] away.” Which, considering how they say that to just about every Cuban exile, would give me the impression that there were enough plantations on the small island to rival the South. Laughable to say the least.

My favorite type of comment I received though? Being accused of being an “actress for the State department.” Like, where do I send that invoice to? (ATTN: Secretary Blinken)

Regarding the online harassment I faced, I do have a confession to make…

At first, I engaged back with them.

Yes, there were times I was snarky. Other times, I truly tried explaining that slavery was abolished well before my grandparents or even great-grandparents were even born, that one of Castro’s many homes was an actual plantation.

I really thought I could handle any online harassment that came my way.

But it just was fuel for the fire.

With every response, I’d receive 3 more and then some of my other posts started being targeted by this group. It was a hydra of very angry communist-leaning trolls.

Prior to this event, I had successfully used my wit to spar with any hate I might have received online.

There’d be times when my fiancé would ask me why I even wasted my time responding to people who just enjoy playing devil’s advocate or who are obtusely-contrarian or, let’s face it… just plain jerks.

At first, I wasn’t sure why I’d do it. I just knew I got a sense of thrill when I’d put a troll in their place, excitement when it was clear that they couldn’t take what they could dish out.

And then it hit me.

Being severely bullied as a child, engaging was a way for me to regain my voice. This was a way for me to stand up to bullies and it made me… proud. The thrill came from feeling proud of myself for having the courage I once didn’t have.

But this time, I seem to have forgotten that I was responding in the way I would if it were a 1:1 dialogue. This was not that by any means. It was more like 50:1. This was the bus ride home when kids decided it’d be fun to shove me around and laugh when I started to cry.

So, what does this have to do with business? What does this have to do with you?

As your business grows, as you step into a truer version of yourself, as you become more easily visible, you probably will experience harassment online at some point.

    If you haven’t already experienced online harassment, that is.

    Here are the steps I took to deal with it (after I realized that it wasn’t worth it anymore – whoops!)


    1. Mute

    Mute notifications for the post that might have been hijacked.

    2. Throw a block party!

    Bring on the block party! Block, block, blockity block block. Especially those who are just bullying you and have no interest in having an actual conversation.

    For egregious comments, please report it to Twitter.

    3. Put your account on private or protected-status

    If people are starting to hijack other posts, as can be expected when an account sends their followers to target another account, then consider putting yourself on private, temporarily. On Twitter, “private” is actually known as “protected status” — it allows current followers to still see your tweets but anyone else who may want access to them will have to ask you by sending a follow request. Do not accept it!

    I’ve. got to admit, this can be tricky to find so in order to place your account in protected status, you’re going to want to check out this article.

    4. Remove the focus

    While on Private, delete the post that the online harassment is centered on.

    Now, this might be super difficult for you to do. I know it was for me. But, I knew that in order to make it difficult for more and more of the trolls to find me, I had to do it.

    5. Finally, wait.

    Good news: people’s attention spans are pretty lousy. By giving time for some of the dust to settle and the stink to wear off, chances are that they will move on.

    Bonus: Take this into consideration

    If the harassment you’re receiving is particularly bad and it’s fairly easy to find where else you might be hanging out online — for example, your usernames are the same everywhere — then you are going to want to consider making other social accounts (e.g. Instagram) temporarily private as well.

    Is it overkill? Maybe. But you need to protect your mental health. Even if you think you could handle it – hell, I did – everyone has a breaking point. For me, it was when I thought back on middle-school Janine who was bullied relentlessly. That’s when the waterworks were triggered.

    So, approximately 48 hours later, how’s it going for me?

    I actually disabled protected status on Twitter and went back to having a public account 12 hours after I decided to shut things down.

    And it’s worked!

    I did get one comment from someone I had missed a block of who essentially relished the fact that my tweet was deleted. And you know what I did? Blocked ’em.

    You know what else I did? I actually reposted that same picture that got so much hate with the caption, “Putting this back up because bullies shouldn’t win.”

    When experiencing online harassment, you need to take care of yourself.

    Don’t wait like I did.

    Once it seems like you’re getting negative comments every few minutes, it’s time to take action.

    If there was one thing I could change other than not having engaged it would be that I had placed myself on private earlier.


    Because in having to block people, you likely will be exposing yourself to the nasty stuff they have to say and it can hurt. It can. After all, you’re human and likely a conscious and empathetic one at that.

    Take care of yourself out there.


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