Hooked on Hate Comments

I know better but can’t look away.

Dana Leigh Lyons
11 min readApr 20, 2024

Note: This is a lightly edited version of an essay that originally appeared in my Substack newsletter: Sober Soulful. Find me there for weekly posts, the Early Sobriety series, the Financial Sobriety series, and the Eating & Body series.

Lately, I’ve been bringing extra attention to my time online and how it affects my body-mind-spirit. As a result, I’m online less with a lot more intention.

And yet. When it comes to the time I do spend online, I’m embarrassed to admit this includes reading hate comments.

I know they’re bad for me. I know that reading them causes tightness in my chest, a knot in my stomach, and whole-body dread.

I know better. But I can’t look away.

I’m not talking about expressing a differing opinion or engaging in good faith debate. By “hate comments,” I mean hurtful words devoid of care and respect. And while there’s certainly a time and place for anger, I see no place for hostility meant to cause harm.

Hostile engagement — regardless of what the comment is in response to and regardless of the stance or opinion — is both destructive and ineffective. Not to mention that people who are secure in themselves — people who are out in the world making a positive difference — aren’t tearing others apart on the internet.

And look, I’ve long realized that even just reading hate comments is part of the problem. The…