Dealing With Stupid People Online – What are your strategies? – Ignore, engage, insult?

So lately I’ve been encountering a lot of stupid people online. And I’m testing out different strategies for how to deal with them.

The intent of this post is to collect as many strategies and thoughts in one place about how to deal with stupid people online. Because there are plenty of them. And, because the more successful you become, the more of them you will encounter.

So what makes a stupid person?

As I use the term, a stupid person is a person who meets one or more of these characteristics:

  1. Rather than positively contribute to a community, they prefer to attack people who are smart and successful
  2. They have a hard time thinking outside of a binary mode (either you are for us or you’re against us)
  3. They are closed to complexities and possibilities that take a little brain work (i.e. stick to simple and obvious)
  4. They spend their lives wishing they were someone else (often letting jealousy take root)
  5. Instead of acting, they wish

Some examples of stupid people

In the last few months, I’ve been dealing with a lot of stupid people. One such person decided to accuse one of my writers of contributing blog spam. The fact of the matter is that this stupid person didn’t take the time to read the article. He read the headline, which was about pain medications, and using the principle of induction, assumed that the article was another instance of blog spam. In fact, the article was written by a professional psychiatrist who has a genuine interest in helping people with chronic pain. The principle of induction works a lot of the time, but stupid people use it all the time.

Another stupid person has been emailing me asking for a permanent link on the front page of College Startup for $80. That’s a permanent link…for the life of the site…for $80. I don’t think that I have to comment much on this to make the point. It is self-evidently stupid.

Another person emailed me asking for a link. When I made a counter-proposal, the dude accused me of being a little guy with a little penis. The working assumption was that he was doing me a favor by offering a reciprocal link exchange…that his site was more popular than my site. Seeing that my counter proposal had been made in full knowledge that my site was probably 10x more successful than his, and seeing that he proceeded to insult me…well, I take it as an act of stupidity (probably combined with ignorance).

Yet another person responded to a very specific ad that I posted for a writer. The position, admittedly, didn’t pay extremely well. However, my intention was to create an opportunity for someone who was looking to establish him or herself as an SEO expert. The person who contacted me has proceeded to go on a raging campaign against me telling lies about how I pay most of my writers. The fact is that most of my writers get paid very, very well. Most of the time, when I start a website, I take a financial hit for the first 6 months, for the sake of my writers. Instead of taking note of this glaring fact, this disgruntled individual has ignored the evidence and instead is taking a single advertised position out of context; a position for which she wasn’t even qualified, and now acts as if I treat my writers poorly. She tells others that I do this too. Stupid. Disgruntled stupidity.

So what’s the point

The point of all this is twofold. First, it should be clear that stupid people will ultimately fail. Stupid people either have nothing to offer others or they have more poison to offer than solid food. In either case, they will become isolated and alienated.

But the more important question that I’d like to address in the comment section is this: how should smart, friendly, good-willed people react to stupid, disgruntled, mean-spirited people?

Do you ignore? Do you engage? Do you insult (as in this post)?

40 thoughts on “Dealing With Stupid People Online – What are your strategies? – Ignore, engage, insult?

  1. you say stupid people will ultimately fail…

    on the contrary, stupid people are usually oblivious to their shortcomings and over confident and have a tendency (alas)to be pretty successful. Look no further than George W Bush for someone who has been successful despite having the IQ of a chimp.

  2. There are people out there we think are stupid, but really have agendas and end up hooking us into bad and destructive relationships. We think it’s stupid to even have agendas and go around hooking people. When I hear stupidity, I automatically think agenda. Then it’s easier to walk off.

  3. wizardofoz is a genious in my books ^^

    There are smarter people who haven’t reached the same level of education as me (uni).

    This is because I make a bigger effort than many people who are naturally smarter than me.

    I think there is nothing wrong with that. I cannot change who I am, and I shouldn’t be hated not being clever.

  4. wow, you’re the perfect example of a stupid person on the internet.

    I would go as far to say you may be the stupidest, NOW THAT IS AN ACHIEVEMENT TO BE AWED AT!!! You know why you’re stupid, because you swear! And.. and.. and.. you have a stupid head!

    Dont you wish your epeen could be as big as mine? Rightly so too. I blog, that doesnt make me a retard good sir. It makes me intelligent, no really, i swear! i can master of the art of posting things i know little or nothing about. For who needs education when you have wikipedia AMIRITE??!?

    I can be a grammar nazi AND a self-righteous internet prophet. So you ask me, why? Why do you even care if these morons email you? To which i simply reply, i dont care. Then WHY you ask me, would you reply to their emails and merely encourage a long string of stupid bullshit? To which i reply after quite a while of deliberation, “ZOMFG GO BACK TO YOUR MOMS BASEMENT NOOB, WOW IM SO TIRED OF IGNORANT PEOPLE, GAAAWWWDDD”

    Then I come to a moment of clarity in which I realise how stupid all of this is. How stupid the internet is in general. Nothing on the internet has to make sense. Nothing has to be right. The internet is not an elitist faggot only zone, where the God of grammar (ie, hitler) rules supreme over all. The internet is filled with all types of people with dubious mental ability, much like the human race. Its just nature. Learn to cope with it.

  5. i have a sister in law that does so much trouble causing,i honestly cant tell if its malicious intent,or if she juust needs to be diagnosed as something.the things she does to cause trouble almost seems genius.i consider myself to be fairly intelligent.but i just cant grasp her actually doing alot of research now and watching for signs to tell if shes really at the wheel or their a test she can take?

  6. Stupidity is a cancer that slowly kills it’s prey. The victim knows it is infected but is clueless as to how to get help and with split second accuracy, instinctually will cut off anyone who tries to help them better themselves in any way. They never grasp how helpless others who would love to help them feel in the wake of their ongoing self-centered pity party. They also never seem to shut up! Its quite exhausting to watch and often exasperating. I feel there is an epidemic of obstinate, infantile humans out here. The greatest training BY GOD is to master how to smile and nod to these emotional vampires and hold your tongue either to lash out or to help when you know it won’t be well received. I have been desperate to learn ways to keep sane while waiting for these people to finish their idle chit-chat, unnecessary tirades or alas the re-stating the obvious. I find slow controlled breathing exercises very helpful while dealing with these folks.

  7. Well, let me start by congratulating all of you smart people. Without you were we stupid people would be. Doctors, Lawyers, Politicians, Rich People, Scientist and then I thought comes to me! Are all the contributions of smart people been for the better of our world? Do intelligent people as we know them are the elite because they help us make progress in our civilization? Some of you are probably shaking your heads saying yes. But, what if I ask you to open your mind even further and ask you to see all the bad that smart people have done. Albert Einstein , sure, a genius, but didn’t he created the atomic bomb in a sense. And didn’t this creation created more hate and a world more hostile than before ; a world even closer to it’s own extermination. Don’t most of the problems of this century come from the invention of systems of production which creates an even stronger gap between the have’s and have not’s! Or the our incredible lust for entertainment and marketing which has let to incredible levels of illiteracy to the point were kids in the U.S. cannot tell the difference between a country and a continent or a state and a city. This is just a few but in general our rename and thought inteligent leaders of our times are not so open minded an wise as we may think. So, next time you look down on someone of lower intellect than you think what potential of doing evil he/she has of producing and you will find that probably less than your genius super heroe. Intelligence is over rated!

  8. Is everything alright? I have had my moments where I felt everyone’s eyes staring at me, waiting for my next move. I know the pressure may be hard to deal with, but you should find someone to talk to before you run and hide. It’s not good to hold your feelings inside, for they will eat at you for as long as you let them. Be careful, and feel free to reply to me if you need help. ^_^

  9. To start, I deal with ignorat and stupid people every day in the forbidden, dilapidated dugeon I call high school. They surround me, taking up breathing space and making life harder for good people like me. In my case, i’m not saying that it would be good to engage with an ignorant person because it’s not. But a person can only ignore someone like that for so long before they finally snap. That is how my situation is. Everyday, I go through the choice in my head whether i would like to engage with this person and let them have a piece of my mind or just to ignore them and go about my day. Almost always, I choose to ignore them, and then they forever deam me a coward beacuse I would not put up with their foolishness. In this case, I’m on both ends of the rope. If you want to engage with an ignorant person, then you go right ahead. But if you want to ignore an ignorant person, then that will work too. But you should be careful with both! ^_^

  10. It feels like eyes are looking at me, I been called at many times. I finally cracked and left.

  11. I feel the need to reply to the comment “I guess some stupid people are humble about the fact and try to learn. Others compensate for their small brains by developing aggressive and toxic behaviors.”

    Stupid people that are humbled and try to learn are definitely not the stupid ones!
    They obviously recognize a shortcoming within themselves. The fact that they take a pro-active role in trying to learn in order to overcome these shortcomings shows a level of self-awareness that many people lack.

    As far as many are concerned, someone with a mental handicap that shows a willingness to learn is much smarter, and more pleasant to be around than the educated closed-minded genius.

    The fact people are honestly willing to learn should automatically remove them from the category of stupid people.

  12. People like to stick their nose where it doesn’t belong, one of my pet peeves is with people who time and time again tell me that my website is full of spellies or grammatical errors, to that I usually say I am a designer not a freaking editor, there seem to be no tolerance for mistakes, not even on personal websites these days, I am sorry but I am willing to bet just about anything on the fact that everybody makes mistakes, everybody makes spelling errors, and it is one of the things we don’t need to constantly point out to people, and even more we do not need to put people down and call them stupid for making these errors.

    Advice for the trolls online, if you have nothing good to say, shut up!

  13. I just started a flash EDU tutorial during the last week. Yesterday, I had a relative ask for help with something and I promptly and quickly made a very fast tutorial. She was pretty adept at the process of what she was asking, and so it was more of a refresher then a tutorial, and I posted it on the site. Seems the phone rang soon afterwards, for which I’d already forgotten about the post. I was going to even remove the link to the tutorials until a had a few of them looking the way I wanted them to look. Today I check my web mail, and lo and behold: “dude, your site sucks…. you don’t know how….. until he/she used up all the character spaces! I didn’t even read the whole thing, I just Googled quickly the keywords, “people insult have nothing themselves”. It’s funny but it seems that the biggest critics are those who have the least to back them up! Just needed to vent a bit. I understand I’m not an artist or a web designer, I’m a tech, and I don’t want to be “the best designer”. I’m just trying to help people”. Thanks for giving me a place to vent a bit.


  14. There is a psychiatric condition termed Narcisstic Personality Disorder. It is characterized by a sense of grandiosity and entitlement. Those who are afflicted with this condition range from the average bully to sociopaths and evil dictators.

    The reason I bring it up here is because I see commonalities between your definition of stupid people and the clinical definition of narcissism.

    I guess some stupid people are humble about the fact and try to learn. Others compensate for their small brains by developing aggressive and toxic behaviors.

    Great subject!

  15. There is this guy I know that drinks too much and has a problem with rage. He spews poison and venom when ever he does not get his way or is threatened. He used to work for me and constantly tries to elevate himself by putting me down.

    After reading the comments on this site, I realized that being aware, sensing and judging is fine but not reacting to fan the flames is wise. Avoidance is the best policy. Would you drink poison instead of water?

    The problem arises when you must engage in a dialog with a stupid person. The way to do this is to educate them so they can understand what is going on. People appreciate being educated. Don’t insult, talk down or disrespect them.
    Obama is so successful because he is an educator and Clinton is not. Pope Benedict is also an educator.

    Try to help stupid people become smarter so they can make informed decisions not make them feel dumber.

    When stupid people will not listen and learn and start putting you down and insulting you, or it is clear that they are out to hurt you – this is the time to ignore them. No one runs into the street without looking or drinks poison.

  16. Bob: I am with you regarding the story told but I have to mention:

    > I don’t care if we ship then to Mars or gas them in camps.

    “ship then to Mars” funny
    “gas them in camps” disgusting, rude, tasteless

    As always just my two cents…

  17. Bob: LMAO. The scary part is that I’ve both dealt with stupid people for years on end and had a few too many “stupid” moments myself, wondering where my brain went. I’d better watch out for you in those dark alleys.

  18. I work in a bookstore. I see stupid people all of the time. The least capable expect the most from society. The guy slugging his way thru a calculus book almost never expects undue assistance. The vapid chick with 12 celebrity magazines is the one who always demands the most help finding the latest self-help book featured on “Ophra”. And, it is always the same idiots craving the most attention.

    We waste dozens of man hours a day on these vermin. “Do you have Machievelli’s, ‘The Prince’ by 50 Cent?” I mean where do I start to answer this question? You are clearly a stupid food animal that should be slaughtered for your meat.

    “But, Ophra said you would have this book.” Does Ophra work here?

    I say that in an overcrowded world of 7 billion, we need to make some room. And I say that these vermin should be the first to go. I don’t care if we ship then to Mars or gas them in camps. All that I know is that they are making life difficult to bear here and now. And, it is time for them to go.

  19. Email did the same thing to letters. Soon we’ll communicate in 30 second videos from cell phones.

  20. I believe a style of anonymity has emerged and it affects many aspects of online communication. Recently, the company I work for experienced prolonged hosting issues. Because the site was effectively down for a couple of weeks, I received dozens of emails asking for particular information. Most of the requests were formatted in all lower-case, without any punctuation. Many were not signed in any way. One, which was not atypical, simply read:
    wheres the (information on our site)!!! Another was sent with the subject: “World’s Worst Website”. Though I applaud the author’s alliterative attention to detail, I have to say it wasn’t the most helpful statement I’ve ever received.

    I reckon much of this is down to a style of anonymity. People use this informal, un-formatted style in IM clients and emails to friends–it has bled into business emails and enquiries.

    Is this stupidity?

    Regards, (

  21. I was dismayed to see the following posted on my blog:

    “It is possible that GRG51 is not mentally retarded. Fairness requires we keep that possibility open. Nevertheless, the onus of proof is on him to show why he should not be regarded as an idiot.”

    The commentator obviously disagrees with my opinion. Any suggestions?

  22. Stupid and disgruntled people (the ones who feel they can say anything as long as they’re “anonymous”) used to annoy me a lot more than they do now. Now, I think of them as entertainment.

  23. Miss Manners can teach you all you need to know about life, and handling stupid people.


  24. I saw a small gap in the list of stupid identifiers above.

    Some people are just ignorant. Ignorant in a way that they do not know something. I do not consider these people stupid, and for better or worse, I often go out of my way to help guide them on a path that will take them to the answers.

    Some ignorant people however, refuse to find answers, refuse to search, refuse to admit ignorance to themselves (I could care less if they admit it publicly or even apologize for an ignorant comment or something.) The refusal to pursue more wisdom in the face of their own ignorance is another things that Identifies someone as stupid.

    That said, I help ignorant people that will look for answers.

    I do not help ignorant people that refuse to look.

    This means that I sometimes help people up front giving them the benefit of a doubt that they are in category 1 and not the second. Once they have shown their intent or lack of intent to do something about their ignorance, then that usually guides me as to how I react in the future.

    My biggest challenge is determining whether or not to give people multiple chances when they prioritize away from finding more wisdom. Ergo, I can’t indulge myself to get smarter today, because I have to XYZ this that or the other thing. I can not put myself in their shoes to understand their priorities, but anyone that chooses to accept ignorance and not act on it often puts me in a position where I am not quite wise enough myself to keep in balance.

  25. Many of my readers (who have chronic physical pain) deal with ignorant or insensitive comments every day – “you’re faking this,” or “it can’t be that bad.” Unless the comments are vulgar, I let them go thru and then use them to illustrate how to deal with ignorance/uncaring.

    Here’s an example when someone commented that “fibromyalgia is fake.” I wrote:
    “I was going to delete the comment above by Ibod, but decided to keep it for a few reasons.
    1. Not everyone is smart enough to educate themselves about illnesses.
    2. Don’t let someone else’s lack of intelligence make you question what’s true.
    3. Don’t give someone else the power to make you mad. Not everyone has to agree with you. It’s only their problem.
    4. Here’s a chance to send an uneducated and hostile person loving kindness, rather than letting the hostility spread. Remember those mindfulness exercises – awareness, but not judgement – we’ve been discussing??? Time to practice!!!”

    Hard to do… important to practice.

  26. Best not to “flame” the flames by flaming. I generally try to post links to relevant information or point out the “obvious” items they may have missed.

    We all may appear “stupid” at times, and many times I find that readers show up to read a specific item (e.g., headline, etc.) rather than view the whole article or site.

    My philosophy is to remain calm and provide data. I decided to not let others or their opinions affect me in a negative way. If I remain “centered,” then I am happy.

    For some reason (likely because our parents told us to “worry about what others think”), we tend to “care” what others say/think. However, at times we do not. When a “crazy” person on the street says the sky is falling, we ignore them (often with a smile or with concern). However, we do not “look up” to see if their statement is fact.

    So why do we react, at times, to others who make obvious false statement about a fact on our site, about us, or about anything else?
    Let it be…

    The only action I have ever taken to “address” these events is to relink to my post regarding bullies and those that “complain.” While it is “on topic,” I am not going to post it here. If you are interested, PM me (or search on-line or in a library for “bullies”). There is “mucho” data out there regarding these issues.

    Just my two cents…

  27. I am not sure I buy the stupid part of this blog, let me explain…

    I think a lot of people who are being asses online are really people who are being painfully normal offline, but they see the Internet as a no consequences outlet for the natural jerkiness of humans, make sense?

    Just admit it, you have done it, been nice to someones face while you were thinking morbid thoughts about that person, well the Internet lets you say whatever you are thinking, and I think thats what those commenter are really about.

  28. As you rightly said – many angry people have more poison to add than food so the best thing to do is to ignore them. They have closed minds which means they will always be ‘right’. Life is too short to engage them – instead find people who support you or else have the patience to show you where you are wrong. Always try to learn even if it means you were wrong….you won’t learn much from stupid or angry people so just be polite and move on.

  29. Ryan, stupid people are always going to be around. The best thing I’ve found is to ignore them initially and eventually, the answer will come in how to deal with them.

    I’ve found that placing the SP on the hot plate works best. Putting them in the position of answering for their stupidity.

    Sometimes a good angle of reflection is all it takes to get them to leave you alone.

    By the way, I love Deb’s solution. Entertaining and exposing stupid is a stupid does. I like that!

    Good luck.

  30. The overwhelming response that I’ve gotten both in the public comments and private email has been “ignore” unless absolutely necessary to engage.

    In other words, this post was a mistake;-)

    1. Nah, this post help people like me. A person with no idea how to identify or deals with stupid people.
      This is a good read for me.

  31. It brings out the worst in people. I started publishing my hate mail every weekend, it’s proving to be an entertaining feature and shows the Bozos how moronic they look.

  32. Fortunately, I haven’t run across too many of these people. When I do encounter them, I usually ignore them. I don’t engage them too much because that seems unproductive.

  33. Yeah, i’ve said a few things about 2 yrs ago that I regret – I was kind of bitter back then. But now that I’m mellowing out, if I can’t say something good about someone (publicly) i say nothing at all. The blogosphere is a lot smaller than you think. There just seems to be an atmosphere of antagonism amongst some people.

    I was going to write a post about “non-commenting”, which will help you if you need to vent. I think it was Mark Twain (though my memory fails) who would write insulting letters to the people who put him down. They’d send letters insulting his writing, and he would write a response. But while he slept, his wife would take Twain’s responses and dispose of them. Twain never knew, but got to vent.

    So now, I write a comment, then look at it carefully before submitting it. If it will reduce “my brand”, I don’t send it. But I got to vent, even if just to myself. Amazing therapy for when you need to vent online without doing harm to yourself.

  34. There are difficult people in every industry, the difference is that on the internet, a single enemy can destroy your reputation. For that reason, I tend to try to avoid confrontation and making enemies. Instead, I’ll generally err on the side of giving the person a little more than I think they are due and then just make a mental note to never engage in any sort of business with them.

    As for emails from people trying to buy links for $5.00, the best policy is just to ignore.

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