I have a number of friends and relatives I know in real life who periodically take sabbaticals from being online. I expect they don’t log off the internet entirely (who pays their bills with an actual check any more?) but they vanish from whatever social media platforms they use and they largely eschew news, gossip, and clickbait sites.

I’m sure they have a variety of reasons for doing so. Some might be find themselves emotionally drained from even watching a flame war erupt. Others might feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information flying across their screen(s). Still others might be disturbed by seeing sides of their own friends and relatives that they weren’t aware of. Whatever their rationale, the issue is generally one of having a different experience online than they’re accustomed to in real life, and they’re seeking some time away from that environment to calm down and reset their expectations.

If that’s what works for them, great! Everybody has to deal with different situations in their own way.

But it’s something to consider if you’re interested in starting up your own webcomic. Because as a creator, that is no longer a luxury you could afford. They’re called webcomics because they’re online, after all! Taking a break from being online almost necessarily equates to taking a break from the webcomic itself. Which, as a general rule, leads to a significant hit to traffic and, by extension, income.

Now, in many cases, the need for stepping away from being online wouldn’t be that large. New creators, especially, who don’t have large followings will be flying under the radar and won’t likely have to deal with much online negativity in/around their webcomic. But well-known creators or those that are touching on “hot button” issues (even if that’s, sadly, just being a woman) are likely to experience some… feedback that might make them want to go offline permanently. It’s unfortunately not at all uncommon to find hate speech directed right at creators because they hold a different opinion than someone. Or because their style isn’t someone’s cup of tea. Or because they exist.

This requires that the creator don some type of cyber-armor to emotionally protect themselves. I don’t want to even remotely suggest that that behavior is acceptable in any way, or that someone should sit back and take it. Depending on the venue and type of abuse (and it is very much abuse!) there are often formalized methods of dealing with trolls, sometimes even involving legal action. But that doesn’t diminish that the initial attack happens, and both it and the fallout (even if that’s only following some prescribed venue protocols to report the person) can be painful. And for that, a webcomic creator needs to have some way that allows them to remain online to continue with their comic.

One of the benefits of the webcomics community, fortunately, is that it is very much a community and there are any number of creators out there who have already experienced the same issues. I highly recommend connecting with different creators before an attack happens, both to gain their insights as well as build up a friendship that can be tapped into during difficult times.

Those people trolling creators are, make no mistake, assholes. And they should be dealt with as severely as possible. But even quick and effective punishment against them doesn’t completely remove the pain of their initial barbs.

About The Author

Senior Editor, Comics & Lifestyle

Sean Kleefeld is an independent researcher whose work has been used by the likes of Marvel Entertainment, Titan Books and 20th Century Fox. He writes the ongoing “Incidental Iconography” column for The Jack Kirby Collector and had weekly “Kleefeld on Webcomics” and "Kleefeld's Fanthropology" columns for MTV Geek. He’s also contributed to Alter Ego, Back Issue and Comic Book Resources. Kleefeld’s 2009 book, Comic Book Fanthropology, addresses the questions of who and what comic fans are. He blogs daily at KleefeldOnComics.com.