As we spend more and more of our lives online, sharing everything from our breakfasts to our broken hearts, everything about ourselves is up for review. This is both a beautiful thing and a grand opportunity for evil. It brings out the best and the worst in us.
For me, social media has been an interesting ride. You'll never find me posting negative instagrams or harmful tweets. I try to stay Switzerland, and when I'm not Switzerland, I'm trying to make everything look as glamourous as possible. After all, you don't really want to see that I had an apple for breakfast or that I have horribly blistered feet from trying to get myself in some sort of shape for the bikini season ahead (which I am no where near ready for, sadly). Instead I show you the beautiful breakfasts out with PRs or the new Nike shoes that I'm sporting to look chic in the gym. I throw a nice filter on the image, stage it in the perfect way, and the subject becomes instagram-approved. We wait as the likes and retweets come in and somehow the number that is shown at the bottom of a picture or tweet justifies our existence. I'm not speaking generally, I'm speaking about my own personal experience.
I've spoken about numbers before, about our society being obsessed with social media feedback, myself included. I've challenged you to ignore the feedback and to share something you love, not something you think someone else will love. This is an ongoing conversation. But today, I wanted to talk about something that I don't think a lot of bloggers openly address and that is the horrific bullying that happens online.
While most bloggers go about their business of trying to make their world look glamorous for the masses, there is this another battle their fighting and that is the battle with trolls.
For three and a half years I had existed with FFG online without one bad comment, one negative tweet or one spam on my instagram. Then the day came when the first truly hateful tweet arrived in my newsfeed. When I say hateful, I mean not since the age of 10 had I felt such a sucker punch to the gut. Mr. FFG had come home that night to find me as a puddle on the floor. I didn't know what I had done to deserve such hateful words. I had tried to stay positive throughout my online experience and I was truly hurt by something that someone, who was completely anonymous, had said about me and to me.
I deleted the tweet and blocked the user and sort of went about my business. I won't lie, though. I screen grabbed the tweet and started an "A$$hole" file on my desktop. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with this file, to be honest, but somehow I felt that keeping these things to see would be useful. Trust me, I had no idea how.
Then I started talking to other bloggers. I started a conversation about something that many of us weren't really vocalising. I started talking about the fat-shaming comments I was receiving. I repeated, word for word, the comments that were shared that picked apart my very existence - from the fact that I needed a nose job to thinking about doing something about my man legs. What does that even mean? There were even comments about my dog being better looking than me. I kid you not, you can't make this stuff up.
I was somewhat comforted, however, by the fact that everyone I talked to seemed to have the same experience. The fact that we were choosing to put ourselves in the public eye meant we were open to criticism, both positive and negative. That, I fully accept. I understand that we're putting ourselves out there and we have to deal with the consequences. I'm not a child and I understand that every action has a reaction.
But when I was hearing the stories from others, about their online bullying, I was truly floored. Some of the most beautiful women I know in London were dealing with hundreds of people a day telling them how ugly they were and how they should kill themselves or, my personal favourite, "slap their mothers for allowing themselves to come into the world."
After five years of blogging, and keeping in mind that FFG isn't even a style blog, I've learned to accept that putting my own face out there is just a risk I take and it's a door that is left open for harmful comments. But I've also, after a lot of talking with friends in the industry, discovered I'm not alone. So if you, dear reader, are a blogger and are sitting there dealing with online trolls, please don't feel as if you are the only one or someone who is being targeted in some way. Sadly, people these days get their kicks by kicking others, and here's where my "A$$hole file" comes into play.
A while ago I came to the conclusion that the statement "no press is bad press" is applicable on so many levels, including negative attention. It is, in fact, attention. The person that has come to your site to give you a negative comment has just given you a page view and a unique user number. They have just contributed to the success of your site without even knowing it. So my "A$$hole file" comes in handy as I look at the number of screenshots I have in that file as currency. The more I have saved, the bigger I'm getting and I have those beautiful contributors to thank. Welcome these lovelies with open arms and always remember that bullies are only saying things they actually think about themselves. So, in truth, we should somehow try and muster up the courage to send them some healing vibes instead of hateful ones back. Sorry, had to go a bit spiritual on you there in the end.
Screw the naysayers... go out and make waves, ladies and gentleman. Lead the charge and let the negative comments be the fuel to your fire!