I’ll never forget the first time a story about me was published by a mainstream media source. Despite receiving the occasional nasty comment about my body or criticism on something I’d written, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the vitriol that I found in the comments section of that article. Comments that had, according to the publishing website, been moderated. Well holy heck, if what I was reading had been moderated and considered appropriate to be approved then I’d hate to see what they decided not to publish. The approved comments included horribly hurtful comments, personal attacks and even people suggesting that I should kill myself. Seriously.
This was not a one off occurrence, in fact every time something is published in mainstream media about me (or any other fat woman), the comments section is absolutely abysmal. Actually, I’d go so far as to say that the comments I’ve seen online shows me just how spectacularly awful human beings really are. It’s like this is the place where the dregs of society seem to lurk, with rarely a nice word to say about anything. Racism, misogyny and horrible comments about personal appearance seem to be par for the course.
You won’t see comments like that on my blog or my social media, because I moderate my comments. I reserve the right to remove anything that we deem to be offensive or abusive, and users who do post offensive content may also be blocked. I block around 100 people on any given day (mostly guys who leave comments of a sexual nature because HELL NO. That’s a topic for a whole other blog post).
For the most part I subscribe to the rule of “never read the comments” and to be honest I usually avoid the comments sections of mainstream news sites and their social media pages. I rarely comment on public posts with my personal account because I don’t feel safe doing so – I either cop a large amount of abuse or get random guys trying to slide into my DMs when I do. But you know what, I shouldn’t have to avoid reading or commenting – as adults we should be able to have a conversation without resorting to insults, personal attacks, racism or just any of the bullshit that seems to be so prolific.
As we spend more and more time online people seem to be, shall we say a lot less inhibited, and many of them say things that they’d never say to someone in person. Sometimes this can be a good thing, but all too often there are people just being straight up nasty. It’s not just news sites that seem to attract people who leave horrid comments – I get them on my blog and social media on a regular basis, I know that other bloggers do too (especially fatshion bloggers, oh how everyone loves to have an opinion on what women should do with their bodies). Just take a look at some of the things that are sent to writer Clementine Ford for goodness sake (or don’t because some of the comments she receives are downright sickening).
It’s not just people who are in the public eye that are on the receiving end of this either, this seems to be how people talk to each other these days. I’ve been bullied as an adult, and I know that so many people – kids and adults alike – have been bullied and harassed online. Even looking at the new season options from a popular plus size fashion brand fills me with despair as I see so many comments about the model’s personal appearance rather than about the clothes the brand has made. What the heck people? Sometimes I feel like I’m one of the few whose parents taught her “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Yeah, remember that old chestnut? Maybe we need to start thinking about that a bit more. I’m not saying don’t comment if you have a different opinion, because that would make life really boring. I just think that people need to consider how their comments are phrased – if you don’t like an outfit, then critique the outfit and not the person wearing it. Don’t be a jerk about other people’s personal appearance. Just don’t be a jerk full stop.
Today, the #keepitkindonline social media campaign is launching, asking people to pledge to comment with care and to challenge online nastiness when they see it. The aim of the campaign is to highlight the unpleasantness that occurs online and to encourage people to step up and play a part in making the internet a safe place to be. I think it’s a great idea and I’d love to see more people thinking twice about what they say to others – is it helpful or hurtful? Is it something you’d say to that person’s face if you weren’t hidden behind a computer? Let’s call out horrible behaviour – not just what we see from strangers but when we see our friends and family making them. Teach your kids good online etiquette (heck, just teach them not to be a jerk, whether it’s online or in person). We need to work together to make our online communities a nicer, not to mention safer, place to be. I’ll keep doing my bit here, by making sure I moderate comments as I have been and giving you a safe place to share your thoughts, your style adventures, and your self love journeys.
Have you received nasty comments online?