4 Tips For Dealing With Difficult People on Social Media

By Rachel Thompson

One of the most positive aspects of social media is chatting with people you normally would not. I refer to social media, especially Twitter, as the great equalizer — I’ve had conversations with many famous authors (Susan Orlean, Anne Rice), actors (Jeri Ryan, aka 7 of 9), and musicians (David Poe). But you also meet many regular folks who are on social media to learn about you, the author.

Photo purchased from Vectorstock.com

Most of the time, people are very positive, supportive, and we have great conversations. Occasionally, however, they’re not. They can come across as childish bullies, trolls, or worse, stalkers. It’s an uncomfortable position to be in, right? Particularly as authors — we never want to deliberately offend.

So what to do? Here are a few options in dealing with difficult people on social media.

1) Give them a wide berth. This is your best course of action if you’ve got someone who is making rude comments. Let them have their say — many times, people simply want to be heard. I personally don’t block right away — if someone is making the effort to engage and interact, the least you can do is hear them out. Who knows? It could end up being a great discussion! Just because someone disagrees with us doesn’t mean we need to block them. We all have different views and backgrounds. We will not see things the same way. Count on it.

While it can be tempting to engage in a ‘flame war,’ don’t! There is never a winner.

If the discussion degenerates into name calling or insults, then you need to take one of the actions below.


2) Mute them. An option unavailable on Twitter itself and little-known by many: muting. Many mobile applications (Tweetbot and Tweetcaster) offer a MUTE option — this is a kind of oh, passive way of silencing people that you find annoying or troublesome without actually having to unfollow or block. Someone who spams nothing but links to their own work, for example, is someone I would put on mute. Muting someone means their tweets will no longer end up on your timeline. Blissfully quiet and they don’t know! This way, you don’t offend them and they can continue to chatter away.

Keep in mind, muting only hides their tweets from your timeline. You will still see any mentions or DMs from them. If you don’t want to, read on.


3) Unfollow. Not the most extreme action you can take, unfollowing (or unfriending on Facebook) is a valid option for someone you just don’t want to associate with anymore. I find that the occasional unfollow can create a question in someone’s mind (Hmmm. I wonder why she unfollowed? Is it my constant spamming that did it? Maybe I should change my ways!)….in a perfect world. People may contact you, asking why you unfollowed, or they may not notice at all and it’s a done deal.

We can’t be afraid of someone being offended if we unfollow, but I find that many people are anxious about it. Don’t be. Your social media is what you make it. Keep in mind, someone you don’t follow can still tweet mentions to you; however, they will not be able to DM (direct message).


4) Block. I generally only reserve blocking for three reasons: 1) If you’re rude, trolling or name-calling, you’re gone, 2) No spamming or bots, and 3) keep the mouse in the house cuz #ewww. I recently blocked someone on Facebook who was name calling, cursing at me, and repeatedly made threatening statements. I typically don’t mind cursing if it’s appropriate, but this wasn’t. I gave her a warning: ‘please be polite on my wall. I encourage your point of view and polite discourse. But threats or name calling must stop or I will block and report you.’ And sadly, I had to.

Many people won’t even go that far: they simply block right away. As someone who is sensitive to letting people have their say, I didn’t want to go that route immediately. Ultimately, you have to do what feels right to you.


I hope this gives you a better understanding of the options available to you in creating an interactive, engaging stream. Some people never block anyone, ever, and that’s their right. I encourage you not to be afraid of trying these options to manage your social media — what’s great about social is we all curate our own streams or walls. Make yours exactly what you want it to be!