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The Internet can be a gateway to quirky, amazing ideas and concepts, but more often than not, it can turn into an anon-controlled pit of rage, hatred, and vitriol. Vampire Diaries creator Julie Plec learned that the hard way after internet trolls — and self-proclaimed fans of her show — turned on Plec amid the unexpected departure of Diaries star Nina Dobrev.

In an article written for the November issue of Cosmo, Plec describes how the show’s fans suddenly turned on her, blaming her for Dobrev’s decision to leave the CW show.

“’You’re fat.’ ‘No one will ever love you.’ They renamed me Julie ‘Plague’ and pasted my head onto the body of the Hulk, tweeting what a disgusting creature I must be,” she writes. “I was sickened and stunned. This character I’d helped create and shaped to be adored was being used against me as proof of why I should, ‘DIE, BITCH.'”

Most people would shrink back and avoid the Internet wholesale (not a bad idea), but for Plec the experience turned into a teaching moment: She realized that by labeling her trolls as “losers in their moms’ basements,” she was actually protecting her own ego rather than truly challenging her perception of not only these Internet meanies, but all the people she puts down in day-to-day life to make herself feel better.

“I diminish their value in order to protect mine,” she continues. “I noticed that I’m quick to make a joke at someone else’s expense. I judge girls in supertight, short dresses and four-inch platform heels. I find myself irritated by hipsters with Jesus beards and people who can’t spell. I overflow with both silent and expressed judgment, which means I am just as capable of being cruel as those I rage against are.”

According to Plec, the whole ordeal has helped her dramatically shift her worldview and has forced her to ask herself why she really hates on “the girl in the too-tight dress” or to think about what the day-to-day lives of her trolls must really be like.

“[W]e can’t rail against the cyberbullies without acknowledging what we also contribute to a culture of cruelty,” Plec concludes. “As you live your life and accumulate friends, both IRL and on social media, ask yourself: Are you a bully too? If so and the urge to strike out hits, imagine something that makes you smile (punk rock, Popsicles, glitter bombs), and let the snark stop there.”

Check out the whole illuminating essay here.

(Image via Instagram.)