Last night, a fellow blogger Em, who last year took the Internet by storm with her incredibly touching short film on online hate, starred as a presenter in a documentary. A documentary about online trolls. My Twitter feed blew up, in the most positive way – it was wonderful to see the support her and the show – Troll Hunters, received.
And whilst watching, it made me realise, we have our voice for a reason. And seeing someone as brave as Em tackle online hate in such a fabulous way, well, it’s inspired me.
To my online haters,
I see you. I read the things you’ve said and the level of self righteousness that’s gone along with it.
I won’t name names, purely because you don’t deserve any more attention than you’ve already had.
But maybe you could stop and think for a second? What if I wasn’t thick skinned? What if the words you spoke meant that I couldn’t do this anymore? If they meant I was too afraid to blog? Too afraid to have a voice? Too afraid to be alive?
Because that’s a real thing, you know. People take their own lives because of trolls like you. Because they can’t stand the thought of living in a world where they’re not accepted.
Recently I was put in a situation where I had to attend an event with one of the people who had been incredibly cruel about me. There is nothing constructive about: you’re ugly, I hate your voice, you look like a clown. It’s mean, nasty and unnecessary. I shocked myself at how anxious I felt about the idea of being in a room with her. But, I mean, where do you learn the skills in life to sit at a dinner table with someone that’s been publicly bullying you online? I bit my tongue and took the moral high ground – In all honesty I wasn’t sure what the best thing to do would be, I didn’t want to appear a drama queen by speaking out, but at the same time why should they get to live their lives without any consequences for their actions? I kept quiet because I was unsure, but goodness knows if I’m ever in a situation where I can ensure that doesn’t happen again, I will.
As a collective, as women, we spend so much time, building each other up. It’s amazing how quickly that cheerleading pyramid can come crashing to the ground when a handful of nasty people knock one of us out of our place.
This isn’t a dress rehearsal. This is real life.
Sometimes we’re told to ignore the hate, to rise above it – and to some degree I get that. But at what point do we say ‘NO’? Because not everyone can just shrug this level of nastiness off. I think it’s safe to say that when you ‘put yourself’ on the Internet, you’re doing so with the knowledge that not everyone will like you. That’s a given. But this is about so much more than that. The internet doesn’t just exist for ‘personalities’ or a new generation of ‘celebrities’ – your daughter, your son, your best friend, your sister, they all use it too and even if it’s on a smaller scale, with less people paying attention, it doesn’t make it less real.
You don’t get a free pass to ruin someone’s life just because you have a keyboard.
I’m so glad that programmes like Troll Hunters are shining a light on the negative impact online bullying can have on our lives. And I sincerely hope it means that going forward, we’re not as scared. Not as scared to speak out if we’re being targeted. I don’t necessarily mean directly to the bullies. But tell your parents, talk to your teachers, confide in your friends, go to the police. Don’t hide behind your emotions, try not to trap yourself behind a pane of glass that everyone can see through but can’t break it down to reach you.
I hope that one day we’ll live in a world where if you’ve bullied someone online, you’re banned from having the luxury, perhaps that’s an unrealistic achievement, but we shouldn’t just have measures in place to deal with death threats alone. More needs to be done – there needs to be repercussions for the actions of these people.
They need help and so do we.
Photography by Alexandra Cameron.