Hi. My name is Christina and I live inside the internet.
I mean, not like in a freaky Tron way, obviously, but in a very real way that I love. Many of my friends and family live in different parts of the country, so our relationships exist in Facebook posts and long iMessages. Because I make internet videos for a living, I also have the privilege (and I mean PRIV-IL-EGE) of interacting with an audience of beautiful people that I may never meet in “real life.”
My connection (of both the WIFI and spiritual variety) with other internet dwellers has blurred the line between traditional human interaction and modern #humaninteraction, but usually this is an incredibly positive experience. Commenters leave me advice on how to master a cat-eye, tell me stories about their relationships, and inspire me with their support.
I’ve been working and leaving pieces of myself in the internet for so long that I see no difference between commenting on a Facebook post and meeting up for drinks.
Which is why I am taking a reaction I recently had to trolling very seriously. My story is not unique: I opened my Facebook Pages app to find that a stranger had peppered my photos and posts with obscene, explicit, nasty comments. The specifics of the comments (while disgusting) are not important. How I felt is, though.
At first, I was grossed out. And then angry that Facebook doesn’t delete people’s profiles for leaving comments like this. And after that, I felt guilty. After all, I put myself and my work out on the internet for anyone to see. I wanted people to like and share it. I wanted people to like my Facebook page so I could connect with them. I wanted attention for my work.
I convinced myself that by asking for attention on the internet, I deserved horrific comments.
Um. How do I put this delicately? HELL NO. I should NOT be feeling these feelings. I should not be blaming myself for the way another human, a stranger, was treating me.
But see, this guilt didn’t come from nowhere. Growing up, I was taught that drawing attention to yourself is a bad idea. Essentially, if you put yourself out there, you are putting yourself in the line of fire. So, instead, hide your body, don’t speak up too often, don’t put yourself at risk. Self-respect meant protecting yourself instead of promoting yourself. Excuse my French, but …
If you’ve ever blocked or banned a user on a Facebook Page, you may notice an unfortunate feature of the app: Nasty comments don’t go away. They disappear from public view, but they are still visible to administrators, which means that until I picked through all of my posts and pictures to delete the nastiness, I kept running into this sicko’s disturbing comments.
After a few days, they started to serve as a reminder that these terrible words from another person were not my fault. Nothing I did caused this person’s actions. Just because this person decided to be heinous does not mean I should stop posting things I love to my public Facebook page. The internet isn’t just my career, it’s my community. One horrible person should not be able to ruin that.
I’m in no way the first woman to come to this realization, nor am I the only one to express my outrage. Superstars Lindy West and Leslie Jones have put their assailants on blast to show the kind of trash slung at them online. Amy Schumer’s recent sketch about Twitter adding a “rape and kill” reaction button to make online abuse easier is funny in the most nauseatingly true way possible.
But, just in case you still need a reminder: YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. TROLLS ARE THE PROBLEM.
Promote your work. Shout your ideas. Join conversations in the comment section. Post whatever pictures of yourself wearing whatever effing skirt you want.
Do not let trolls stop you. I sure as hell am not going to let them stop me.