Online Moderators: Ten Simple Steps to Decrease Your Stress

As a community manager or content moderator, you experience the dark side of the internet every day. Whether you are reviewing chat, social media, forum comments, or images, high-risk content can be draining — and you may not even realize the damage it’s doing.

Studies show that community teams on the front lines of chat, image, or video moderation are especially vulnerable to stress-related symptoms including depression, insomnia, vicarious trauma (also known as “compassion fatigue”), and even PTSD. It’s critical that you have the right tools and techniques at your disposal to support your mental health.

Therapist and wellness trainer Carol Brusca recently hosted a “Stress, Wellness, and Resilience” training session for Two Hat’s clients and partners. Here are her top 10 wellness tips for online moderators and community managers

1. Talk to someone.
Having and using social supports is the number one indicator of resilience. Asking for help from someone who cares about you is a wonderful way to get through a difficult time.

Does your company health plan provide access to a mental health professional? Take advantage of it. There’s no shame in talking to a therapist. Sometimes, talking to a stranger can be even more effective than confiding in a loved one.

2. Learn to say no.
If we do not set boundaries with others we can find ourselves feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. If you notice this might be a habit for you, try saying “no” once a day and see if you begin to feel better.

Of course, saying “no” at work isn’t always an option. But if you’re spending too much time reviewing high-risk content, talk to your manager. Ask if you can vary your tasks; instead of spending all of your workday reviewing user reports, break up the day with 15-minute gameplay breaks. Check out our blog post and case study about different moderation techniques you can use to avoid chat moderation burnout.

3. Go easy on yourself.
We are quick to criticize ourselves and what we have done wrong, but not as likely to give ourselves credit for what went right, or all the things we did well.

Remember that you work hard to ensure that your online community is healthy, happy, and safe. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and treat yourself to some self-care.

4. Remember, this too will pass.
There are very few situations or events in our lives that are forever. Try repeating this mantra during a stressful time: this struggle will pass. It will make getting through that time a little easier.

(Maybe just repeat it silently in your head. Your co-workers will thank you.)

5. Get plenty of sleep.
We need sleep to replenish and rejuvenate. Often when we are feeling stressed, we struggle with sleeping well. If this happens to you, make sure your bedroom is dark and cool; try some gentle music to help you get to sleep, or use an app that plays soothing sounds on a loop. If staying asleep is the problem, try having a notepad and pen by your bed to write down your worries as they come up.

Pro tip: Save the marathon 3:00 am Fortnite sessions for the weekend.

6. Have a hobby.
Having a hobby is a great distraction from the stressors of everyday life. If you can do something outside, all the better. For many people being in nature automatically decreases stress.

Or, stick to video games. Playing Tetris has been proven to help people who experience trauma.

7. Drink tea.
A large dose of caffeine causes a short-term spike in blood pressure. It may also cause your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to go into overdrive. Instead of coffee or energy drinks, try green tea.

We know that the smell of a freshly-brewed pot of coffee is like catnip to most moderators… but hear us out. Green tea has less than half the caffeine of coffee and contains healthy antioxidants, as well as theanine, an amino acid that has a calming effect on the nervous system.

8. Laugh it off.
Laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease levels of the stress-causing hormones cortisol and adrenaline. It literally tricks your nervous system into making you happy. Try a comedy movie marathon or a laughter yoga class (this is a real thing!).

And hey, a 10-minute meme break never hurt anyone.

9. Exercise.
Getting plenty of exercise will decrease stress hormones and increase endorphins, leaving you feeling more energized and happier.

Ever had a 30-second, impromptu dance party at your desk?

No, really!

Often referred to as the “stress hormone,” cortisol is released in our body when we’re under pressure. Excess cortisol can cause you to feel stress, anxiety, and tension. Exercise brings your cortisol levels back down to normal, allowing you to relax and think straight again.

So crank up a classic, stand up… and get down.

10. Try the “3 Good things” exercise.
Each night, write down three good things that happened during the day. This practice makes you shift your perspective to more positive things in your life — which in turn can shift your mood from stressed to happy…

… even if the three good things are tacos for lunch, tacos for 2 pm snack, and tacos for 4 pm snack. Good things don’t have to be earth-shattering. Gratitude comes in all sizes.

So, whether you’re sipping a mug of green tea, talking to a professional, or shaking your groove thing in the name of science and wellness, never forget that a little self-care can go a long way.

At Two Hat, we empower gaming and social platforms to build healthy and engaged online communities with our content filter and automated moderation software Community Sift — and that can’t be done without healthy and engaged community teams.

Quora: Does it make sense for media companies to disallow comments on articles?

It’s not hard to understand why more and more media companies are inclined to turn off comments. If you’ve spent any time reading the comments section on many websites, you’re bound to run into hate speech, vitriol, and abuse. It can be overwhelming and highly unpleasant. But the thing is, even though it feels like they’re everywhere, hate speech, vitriol, and abuse are only present in a tiny percentage of comments. Do the math, and you find that thoughtful, reasonable comments are the norm. Unfortunately, toxic voices almost always drown out healthy voices.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The path of least resistance is tempting. It’s easy to turn off comments — it’s a quick fix, and it always works. But there is a hidden cost. When companies remove comments, they send a powerful message to their best users: Your voice doesn’t matter. After all, users who post comments are engaged, they’re interested, and they’re active. If they feel compelled to leave a comment, they will probably also feel compelled to return, read more articles, and leave more comments. Shouldn’t media companies cater to those users, instead of the minority?

Traditionally, most companies approach comment moderation in one of two ways, both of which are ineffective and inefficient:

  • Pre-moderation. Costly and time-consuming, pre-moderating everything requires a large team of moderators. As companies scale up, it can become impossible to review every comment before it’s posted.
  • Crowdsourcing. A band-aid solution that doesn’t address the bigger problem. When companies depend on users to report the worst content, they force their best users to become de facto moderators. Engaged and enthusiastic users shouldn’t have to see hate speech and harassment. They should be protected from it.

I’ve written before about techniques to help build a community of users who give high-quality comments. The most important technique? Proactive moderation.

My company Two Hat Security has been training and tuning AI since 2012 using multiple unique data sets, including comments sections, online games, and social networks. In our experience, proactive moderation uses a blend of AI-powered automation, human review, real-time user feedback, and crowdsourcing.

It’s a balancing act that combines what computers do best (finding harmful content and taking action on users in real-time) and what humans do best (reviewing and reporting complex content). Skim the dangerous content — things like hate speech, harassment, and rape threats — off the top using a finely-tuned filter that identifies and removes it in real-time. That way no one has to see the worst comments. You can even customize the system to warn users when they’re about to post dangerous content. Then, your (much smaller and more efficient) team of moderators can review reported comments, and even monitor comments as they’re posted for anything objectionable that slips through the cracks.

Comments section don’t have to be the darkest places on the internet. Media companies have a choice — they can continue to let the angriest, loudest, and most hateful voices drown out the majority, or they can give their best users a platform for discussion and debate.

Originally published on Quora

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Introducing… Sift Ninja!

Shhh… it’s a secret to everybody. (Or at least, it was a secret to many before this post!)

Today we’re excited to tell you about the official debut of our new product: Sift Ninja!

Sift Ninja is designed to help new and emerging social products. Instead of manually moderating toxic UGC within your social app, or toxic comments on your social profiles, you can just call Sift Ninja and let the system cut out all the high-risk content for you.

Here at Two Hat, our mission is to give every user the power to share ideas and information online without fear of harassment or abuse. There are so many amazing social networks, and so many opportunities to build healthy and engaged communities. Our dream is that every online community, big or small, would have a layer of protection from toxic content that damages brands and real people’s mental health.

When we built Community Sift, we set out to empower every product owner to shape healthy community at scale. For the past four years since we released this innovation, we’ve been focused on protecting enterprise-scale social communities online, continually learning, growing, and responding to users’ ever-changing communication habits.

Now we’ve built upon all of that work and created a simple, powerful tool for communities that are just getting started. After all, not every social product is as large as Facebook or World of Warcraft.

Here are a few answers to some common questions we’ve received about Sift Ninja:

How does it work?

Much like a true ninja, this little bot works silently in the background, protecting your community from garbage content like hate speech, harassment, spam, and all the other junk that plagues the ‘hands off’ communities of old. Is it really ‘free speech’ if your users are scared to freely speak their minds?

To get started, just sign up at and create a Team name. There you can upload some test data, setup your WordPress comments for auto-moderation, or integrate a custom platform using a (see Integration question below). The choice is yours.

Who is Sift Ninja for?

Sift Ninja is for the builder generation. Empowering you to dream big dreams without worrying about whether your users are getting bullied and harassed.

Small, early stage tech companies and startups… Indie gaming studios… Bloggers and media publishers… if you’re tech-savvy with the ambition to grow a thriving social community, Sift Ninja is for you. Now you can get back to work in your garage on your next big feature instead of wasting your time moderating garbage comments.

Why ninjas?

The correct answer to this question is, “why not ninjas?” ;P

Why should I use Sift Ninja?

Building your own blacklist/whitelist/RegEx system will have you chasing a bazillion different permutations. It’s challenging and time-consuming to build your own machine learning algorithm. It’s a perpetual arms race that you’ll need to stay on top of continually. Wouldn’t you rather just call an API and get back to building out your feature backlog?

What about blog comments?

If you run a self-hosted WordPress blog (or have a paid account that allows you to install plugins) you can use the Sift Ninja WordPress plugin. We’ll be adding support for other platforms throughout 2017 and beyond. See how to install Sift Ninja on WordPress here.

How is this different than Community Sift?

Think of Sift Ninja as “Community Sift Lite,” or “Community Sift for Startups”. Powered by the same robust content classifier as our enterprise product, Sift Ninja is a pared-down, essentials-only moderation tool that automatically filters or hashes the worst content, including cyberbullying, vulgarity, sexting, racism, and PII (Personally Identifiable Information). It allows you to moderate UGC messages, chat, usernames, and images, gives you some control over your filter settings, and supports up to five topics.

Community Sift is the full-meal enterprise deal with all the bells and whistles: our patented trust system, user reputation, protection for child-directed products, analytics reports, custom policy guides, custom blacklist/whitelist, 25 topics, and fine-grained permissions.

Can I test it out?

Please do! Make sure you let us know what you think. We’re always open to feedback, and want to give you the best product to help you cultivate a positive online community.

How do I install Sift Ninja?

Check out our little demo on GitHub on how to install using PubNub.

How do I log in?

Just go to and login. (You’ll also get a Team URL upon signup to save you an extra step upon login if you want to cut down on clicks.)

How do I integrate this with my custom platform?

Integrating Sift Ninja into your custom platform is super-simple thanks to our friends at PubNub. You can use a simple PubNub BLOCK to automatically filter out toxic user-generated content.

PS — If you haven’t used PubNub before, we definitely recommend it. We’ve built some super-cool stuff using PubNub, and it makes integration so much easier!

For more information on PubNub and BLOCKS, check out their website

Okay, so time for the bottom line… How much does it cost?

Since Sift Ninja is intended for small businesses and product owners, the app is “pay as you grow,” giving you up to 500 insights per month for free. Hooray!

For more info on pricing, see this Sift Ninja pricing page.

Stay tuned for more Sift Ninja information to come! If you have any questions in the meantime, we’re here to help. Check out the Sift Ninja site and help desk.