Understanding Cyberbullying in Your Freelance Writing Career

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Whether you’re writing for yourself or someone else, putting your words online can feel like a very personal thing. Though publishing your work is exciting, it can also be nerve wracking. Depending on where your writing is published, millions of people will have the opportunity to see it.

Unfortunately, the phrase “everyone’s a critic” comes to mind rather quickly. While it’s likely that most people will enjoy your work and offer positive, encouraging comments, your writing might not be well-received by everyone. But, even that shouldn’t get to you. It’s okay if someone doesn’t agree with what you’re saying, or even if they don’t necessarily like your style.

But, there is an obvious line between disliking your work and bullying you for it. Cyberbullying is becoming an increasing problem for web writers. If you have your own personal blog where you’re sharing your thoughts and opinions, receiving extremely negative comments, criticisms, or even threats can be devastating. Even if you’re a ghostwriter and you’re checking on a published article, seeing comments that are brash and angry in nature can quickly make you feel like your work doesn’t matter.

The more you understand about cyberbullying, the more you can protect yourself. There is nothing wrong with constructive criticism when you take it the right way and apply it toward your writing. But, as a professional freelancer, bullying can cut deeply, even if it’s from someone on the other side of a screen.

Let’s look at some of the obvious signs of cyberbullying, and how you can protect your emotions while taking care of your writing now and in the future.

What Does Cyberbullying Look Like?

Typically, when people think of cyberbullying, kids and teenagers may come to mind. But, it can happen just as easily to adults when you’re putting anything about yourself or anything you’ve created on the Internet.

There are different forms of cyberbullying. Recognizing them can make it easier to ignore certain comments or things being said. Knowing the signs of online bullying can also make it easier to know what your defense should be. Some of the most common forms of cyberbullying include:

● Harassment

● Cyberstalking

● Tricking

● Negative talk

● Exclusion

● Dissing

If someone is doing any of these things to you online or criticizing your writing with harassing remarks and negative talk, you’re a victim of bullying. That can be a harsh reality to come to grips with. But, when you recognize it, you can fight back against it in whatever ways work for you.

The Difference Between Bullying and Constructive Criticism

Whether you’re just starting out as a freelance writer or you’ve been in the gig economy for a while, you should understand the importance of constructive criticism. No writer is perfect. There is always going to be someone with more experience, more ideas, or even better content. As a writer, your goal should always be to consistently grow and get better throughout your career. You can improve your writing by learning from others. Sometimes, however, that growth comes through criticism.

Constructive criticism is meant to encourage you. It’s a way to give you information so you can observe something you wrote from a new perspective. In the end, whoever is offering you constructive criticism is trying to benefit you. They likely see your potential and want to make your writing better, because they know you can do it.

Those who offer constructive criticism may also be able to help you out in areas that you’re unfamiliar with. Maybe you’re a great writer, but you don’t understand much about SEO or content strategy. If you don’t, your publications might not be getting seen as much as they should. Someone offering constructive criticism might tell you that your content needs to be more SEO-friendly or offer up suggestions on keywords to use so your writing reaches more people.

Bullying is different.

When someone leaves a comment on your writing or talks to you directly about it, any criticisms should ultimately be meant for your good. When someone is bullying your work, there are a few characteristics that will stand out:

● The words are demeaning or what to show a sense of power over you

● The comments are a personal attack, rather than reflecting on the writing

● The “attacks” are being repeated over and over again on everything you do

Ultimately, words of bullying will have no positive construction to them. Someone who is bullying your work doesn’t want you to get better. They want to bring you down as a writer, and perhaps even as a person.

How to Stay Strong and Handle Harsh Words

No matter how old or how experienced you are, cutting words hurt. Even if they are from someone you don’t know and will never meet, seeing or hearing negative comments about your writing can quickly send you into a downward spiral. Cyberbullying may not only hurt your feelings but it can harm your career if you start to second-guess your writing.

There are some things that will be easier to brush off than others. But, with the right frame of mind and with the right tools and resources, you can stand firm in your writing skills and keep cyberbullying from affecting the way you work.

First, it’s important to have a secure space to work where you feel comfortable. If you work from home, create an office space for yourself that helps you to feel strong, safe, and secure in what you’re doing. You don’t necessarily need to have a separate room in your home if you don’t have space. Even a corner desk or just a small area that is dedicated specifically to your work can make a difference. The right office space can help to inspire you and make you more productive. Keep these tips in mind for your space, to make sure it helps you to stay comfortable and motivated at the same time:

● Use as much natural light as possible

● Have comfortable seating

● Keep it organized

● Utilize live plants

● Choose a productive wall color like yellow or green

Having an office space that makes you feel relaxed and safe can work as a sort of ‘sanctuary’ when you’re dealing with cyberbullies.

It’s also a good idea to have some knowledge of the digital resources and tools at your fingertips. Things like Zoom, Slack, Bit.ai, and even Google Drive can help to keep you connected if you work as a part of a team, or even with other clients and writers. Having that constant connection, communication, and support can make you feel more secure. You can ask other members of your team or other writers for advice on how to handle Internet bullies, or even ask for suggestions on your writing when you know you’ll get constructive responses instead of negative comments.

There is no way to stop cyberbullying completely. When it comes to kids getting bullied online, blocking certain individuals or monitoring how they spend their time on the Internet can help. But, when someone is attacking your work, it’s a different story. Unfortunately, developing a thick skin is often part of being a writer with published work. Make sure you have a safe place to write, a strong conviction in what you do, and a support system to back you up. Cyberbullying may be here to stay, but you get to choose how you respond to it and how you let it impact your career.

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