Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Dealing With Trolls

"Words are like weapons, they wound sometimes"

Never did I think I'd start off a blog post with a Cher lyric but quite frankly, the Dark Lady got it completely right ...words are powerful.

More powerful than I think any of us really give them credit for.

I try to always be conscious of this in my approach to raising the kids, we don't allow certain words to be used in the house - words like "stupid", "hate", "ugly" and "fat" are only ever to be used when describing inanimate objects and are to be used sparingly - Tyne already knows that we never call a person stupid because it's "not a nice thing to say, and if we can't say something nice we don't say anything".

I've had eyes rolled at me about this before but I know on a personal level how words have impacted on me and made me feel over the years, and how hard they can be to let go of ... even impossible sometimes.

When I think back to the words that have had the most impact on me in my life, it's the negative ones that stand out...

"You're weird" - A favourite taunt of the kids at school

"You've got goofy teeth" - Another regular one.

"Fat cow!" - This one was yelled at me about 10 years ago by 3 drunken young guys outside a Wetherspoons - I was standing in a bus stop with my then-fiance, and to be honest - I wasn't actually fat at the time - I was a size 12, I would kill to be that "fat" now! But the taunt was clearly made to try to entice my fiance into a fight as they kept going with taunts directed at him...

I remember that for two reasons - because it was the first time I'd had those seeds of doubt put into my head about my weight (having always been a size 8/10 until my thyroid condition developed) and because it led to a particularly brutal outbreak of domestic violence when we got home, because it made him feel powerless I suppose and - as with everything else - he took it out on me.

That's when it really struck me, how words can be damaging in ways we wouldn't even think about - I know those lager louts would have had no idea of the damage they were doing by shouting that across, how could they have known what it would lead to? But that's exactly my point - we NEVER know what sort of damage our ill thought out words can do and that is why we should be careful about how we use them.

So what led to this post, you're probably wondering...well, today I had my very first run in with a troll.

I've been blogging for over four years now, and I feel really fortunate in that I have never really had that many bad experiences with it.

Sure there have been the occasional less than positive comments and so on, but on the whole I have always felt like I've had a lucky escape...after all, you hear all the time about how dreadful the internet is and how there are trolls lurking around every virtual corner.

Even the few negative comments I've received haven't been all that bad - one or two silly comments about my sons unusual names (from somebody I know in real life by the way, who thinks that I don't know that it's them...surprise! I do!), an ill-informed comment or two on a review, but that's been it really.

Now some people say that trolling  and abusive messages are part and parcel of life as a blogger or YouTuber  - that you're putting yourself into the public domain and that you have to be prepared to accept the risk and repercussions of that.

I disagree.

This is just another form of victim blaming. Regardless of how present any person is on social media, that does not make them fair game for any abuse that someone wishes to send their way -YOU have a responsibility to control your reactions, it is not anybody elses responsibility to keep themselves out of your way.

But I digress....back to this morning, when I woke up to my first proper official TROLL MESSAGE.

It came from Twitter (natural habitat of the Troll) and was sent in response to an automated re-promotion of one of my old posts about my appearance on the This Morning show 2 years ago which was a behind the scenes look at the day including all the photos that Eamonn Holmes took of me posing around on the set after filming had finished.

The troll message read something along the lines of:

"How is this behind the scenes ffs? #AttentionSeekingWhore #LazyFatBitch #Skanky "


What a lovely message to read first thing in the morning before I've even set foot out of bed (yes I check my notifications before I greet my children in the morning, go forth and judge me....)

My reaction was to immediately block the account, which I did - in doing so I was asked by the Twitter app to go through his messages and select any examples of offensive tweets to send through to them - I selected the one he had sent to me and then noticed that almost every single tweet on his account was either a trolling message, a racist or homophobic statement, or ... possibly the worst of all...a message in support of President Trump. Yikes.

So I sent my report through, and that should have been it surely? I should have got on with my day.

But immediately I felt myself reacting in the same way I always do when someone attacks me - I laid back under the covers and pulled the duvet up around my face, and I stayed there for way too long. I replayed the words over and over again in my head. I judged myself on my reaction - berating myself in my mind for not being stronger - for not having the nerve to defend myself, to call him out, to DO SOMETHING.

And, as I always seem to do, I felt myself wanting to retreat - to run away, to hide, to not speak to anyone, to not leave the house - to just go into myself, to curl up in a ball where nobody can see me or judge me or get me.

To block out the world.

I know this is how I react to these sorts of things, whether in real life or not.

And I know that I need to nip it in the bud quickly or else its a freefall into a bad mental state...I can spend days or even weeks feeling reclusive, agitated, and isolated. It's not a good place to be in, and I didn't want to let myself go there today.

So...I thought about what I could do.

I could lay there in my bed, avoiding the world and telling myself what a horrible place it is and how awful people are - or I could do something about it.

I couldn't change what had been said, but I could counteract the negativity that troll had sent out into the world by putting out something positive myself.

So that's exactly what I did. I carried out 3 random acts of kindness - I donated a lovely wooden toy which was new in its box to the local children's ward, I completed my induction to become a weekly Phone Friend for a lonely elderly person as part of Age UK's Call In Time volunteer scheme, and I joined a website called "Helpful Peeps" which enables you to offer your skills to someone who can benefit from them for nothing in return - I offered to coach someone who wants to become a blogger on how to set up a blog from scratch.

Did it make me forget about the words I'd been sent? No, it didn't. But it did make me feel like the balance had been restored a little bit - and if nothing else, it reminded me that I am a good person who tries to do nice things whenever I can - and I would rather be that person, fat or not, than somebody who spends their time filling an already hate-filled world with yet more nastiness.

But...just because I feel like I've been nice enough for one day...I will take this opportunity to send the message to my troll that I would have LIKED to send ...

"Spending your entire day, EVERY DAY watching TV and tweeting about everyone you hate on every show you watch is not only a waste of your life, but a waste of your mother's internet usage - since I can only assume that you're a middle aged man who still lives at home and has no contact with the outside world - may I suggest some other pastimes, such as trying to locate your tiny penis with a magnifying glass and some tweezers, or perhaps getting a job/girlfriend/purpose in life. I'd rather be a fat bitch and an attention seeking whore than alone at home with nothing to do but tweet strangers in the vain hope of getting some human interaction. Pity about you. Kisses"

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