Gemma Styles On Being Trolled Online And How To Deal With It
The Debrief: From comments about my weight, clothes and friends to use of public transport (yeah really), there have been a lot of times I’ve received messages that merit an eyebrow raise.
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Trolls. If you’re a child of the ’90s like myself, the first thing the word conjures up is quite likely to be a weird, naked little doll with very fluffy hair. Right now, however, it’s more commonly used to describe your classic ‘keyboard warrior’ – a person on the internet who, anonymously or not, likes to send a bunch of horrible abuse around the web.
I probably have a bit of a weird experience of social media in general. My usage has been heavily influenced by the fan base that make up a vast percentage of my followers and I’ve seen a lot of 'hate' being chucked at celebrities, me and especially anyone who crosses the mob. (It should be noted that the majority of One Direction fans are really, very nice.) When I talk trolling, I certainly don’t mean it’s an issue confined to this group but it’s a big part of what I’ve seen.
From comments about my weight, clothes and friends to use of public transport (yeah really), there have been a lot of times I’ve received messages that merit an eyebrow raise. A lot are silly and I feel like I’ve been pretty good at brushing them off but, at the same time, I’m quite an insecure person – and when people touch on things you already think about yourself, it stays with you. Other interactions are just plain frustrating. Everything is the wrong thing to do or say to someone and no matter how hard you try, it’s (really very) true that you can’t please everyone.
I do feel like I’ve got better at dealing with it over the past few years. I certainly haven’t always handled things perfectly. It’s REALLY hard to read certain comments and refrain from responding, especially when people are painting me as somebody I’m just not but generally, now, I don’t like to. The main reason is that when I respond, or in any way point out someone’s horrible comment, there tends to be a lot of backlash on that person from people jumping in to defend me. Although sweet – and I do appreciate the sentiment – I honestly feel too bad that the original ‘troll’ is then getting a load of abuse too and so it’s a vicious cycle!
One of the hardest things recently has been hearing how my friends are affected by some of this stuff. A friend who was staying with me actually deactivated her accounts while she was in London – so she didn’t have to read the nasty stuff that people had to say about her, as well as her motivation for even being friends with me in the first place. Bit shit, really. Am I not worthy of friends, internet? Meanies.
So generally, what can you do about being trolled? The number one piece of advice from non-profit The Cybersmile Foundation https://www.cybersmile.org/ is: don’t retaliate. I’ve been supporting this organisation for a couple of years now and they do have loads of practical tips and methods for dealing with online bullying. They celebrated their third annual Stop Cyberbullying Day yesterday – hopefully with some more awareness of the support that’s out there, we can start to hear less stories about people being driven to self-harm and suicide through being bullied online.
In a nutshell – I’m an internet fan. People make friends out of it, it connects people around the world… and certainly made researching essays a lot easier compared to back in the day. But there are some downsides and it’s something to bear in mind. If you can be the person putting something nice out online rather than bringing other people down – you’re doing a good thing.
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Follow Gemma on Twitter @Gemmaannestyles
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
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