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How to “Zip Up” Before Going Online

Pearl, my precious pint-sized parrot, makes short work of an uninvited green-topped troll on our (his) kitchen counter!

Not so long ago I blogged about one of my favorite ways to create protective boundaries in a hurry. It was called “How to ‘Zip Up‘.” This post seemed to hit home for many of you and I was very happy to read your comments. 🙂

Personally, I continue to use this tactic whenever I realize nearly too late that I need a bit of extra reinforcement or insulation from the surrounding world and the people in it. I just visualize myself grabbing hold of a zipper pull that starts at my big toes. I pull it all the way up and over my head and all the way down my back until I get to my heels.

Then I pull it down under my heels and across the soles of my feet until it meets the other end of the zipper back at my big toes again. After I do this, I can go on about my day, happy and feeling fully reinforced by a protective force field only I know is there.

Lately I’ve been realizing that being out in the “real world” isn’t the only place I need the protection of zipping up.

More than occasionally of late I’ve hopped online with a wide open mind and heart, quite innocently opening up a browser window and popping in to check my email or social media accounts, only to encounter…..trolls. 

Sometimes those trolls are lurking right here, on this very blog, complete with personalized nastygrams carefully composed to let me know just how off-base/off-kilter/off-my-rocker I am.

At other times the trolls might be lying in wait for me on Facebook and Instagram, or in my email inbox. One troll even took the trouble to track me down across multiple social accounts so he could send me a particularly loaded missive that actually began with these exact words: “Shannon, with all due respect….”

It was a day or so before I could give that the laugh it truly deserved.

The reason it took so long was because I had totally forgotten to zip up.

Zipping up online is important because people are online, just like people are out in the real world, at the local park, on the freeways, and sometimes living right next door to me.

As well, because many of the people I encounter online are total strangers who have absolutely nothing invested in our connection, they seem to feel free to let it all out in a way I certainly hope they don’t do with those who dwell close to them in their physical, offline lives.

This means that when I forget to zip up before I go online, my exposure doubles. Or triples. Or perhaps quadruples. I head out to the world wide web, mind open, heart open, innermost vulnerable and private spirit hanging out there for all to see, and…




One of my longtime mentors talks about how, when our heart is wide open and then someone says something unkind to us, it can enter us so quickly and so fully it feels like that person has just knifed us straight through the heart. We weren’t prepared. We didn’t expect it. We hurt. We would have hurt anyway, but because we were wide open and so innocent and unsuspecting in that openness, the pain we feel is more immediate and much worse.

This is exactly how I feel when I pop into my email or onto my Facebook, sometimes early in the morning or late at night even, and I find unanticipated anger, hate, judgment, condemnation waiting for me.

Don’t get me wrong. There are also times I go online and it’s like a big group hug. In these cases zipping up doesn’t prevent me from receiving the kindness and care others send to me.

This is especially true when I am answering messages and fielding queries on behalf of my feathered and shelled flock mates, who never attract any trolls anyway (but would simply bite them and go on about their days if they did).

In other words, zipping up still lets all the love through. It just blocks the hate.

But when I go online as me, for myself, to interact with others of my species, I must remember that along with the kindness and sweetness of my carefully curated online tribe I may also encounter random unknown others who choose to seek me out specifically to send a little thunder and lightning, or perhaps a tornado or tsunami or two, into my day.

It is for these folks, who likely have too much anger and sadness inside them and so are intent on sharing the wealth in as wide a swathe as possible, that I must remember to zip up before I go online.

Today’s Takeaway: In the past, everyone seemed more worried about the great wide anonymous internet. But today I find most trolls don’t seem the least bit concerned about hiding their identity. In many ways, interacting with others on the internet is just as personal as interacting with others in person! Have you found any useful tips or tactics for creating the most positive online interactions possible and limiting your exposure to others you don’t even want to meet online, much less face to face? I’d love to hear your strategies!

How to “Zip Up” Before Going Online

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2018). How to “Zip Up” Before Going Online. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Dec 2018
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