I’ve always had to have really thick skin, partially due to suffering from depression and anxiety, partially just because I’m a bright, positive kind of gal and can’t understand why anyone would dislike that — something put to the test when considering the effects of Internet trolling. But my policy has always been to be an open, unfiltered version of myself — if I’m telling you how gross and weird I am, then how can you try to insult me with it? I gave you that information, I know that information, and I’m proud of that information! Your gossip sessions can be fueled by facts provided by myself, sure, but they're not gonna bug me.
I've maintained a similar philosophy in real life, where I’ve always been just as vulgar and strange as I am on the Internet. There’s been no pretending that I’m a perfect Instagram princess: If I have a really weird sex experience or I choose not to wear panties for a week, then the whole world can get to know! People will probably find out anyway, so I might as well get a laugh out of it. I always like to hope my oversharing helps people: Disgusting things happen to us all and recognizing as much makes enjoying life a lot easier. Forget "Everyone Poops" — everyone also queefs, and it's pretty funny.
So about a month ago, I decided to give going commando a go for an experiment-style article. I’d always wondered about it, but the nearest I’d gotten to the actual task of going commando was running to the shop hungover in just leggings and a massive jumper. No actual human being tasks were undertaken whilst being pantie-less. Realistically, this experiment taught me that panties aren’t hugely important to my life, and I’m not even wearing any as I write this article about an article that I wrote whilst not wearing any knickers (very Meta).
(If only I'd had this when I was timid, inexperienced, teenager.)
This was my first ever article to go live on the Bustle Facebook page and I was ecstatic, showing off to my mother, my grandma, my friends and sharing on all my social media so anybody who hated me could see how happy and successful 2015 has been making me. Although I’d been warned by my fantastic editor to not look, I kept a keen eye on all the comments on my article. Not because I thought I’d learn anything. I’m not stupid so I knew it wouldn’t all be solely praise — but because I’m a massive masochist.
To be honest, the brutality of people’s words really shouldn’t have shocked me. I’m a child of the Internet and anybody who’s ever ventured into the comments on YouTube will know that anyone’s happy to insult when they’re protected by a screen and a keyboard. Would you come up to me on the street and tell me that I’m a "fat drunk who dresses like a crack addict?" Probably not. Would you comment it on my article because your derogatory opinion is so important that we all need to know? Definitely.
(Why wouldn't I?)
I guess I’ve never understood people who comment negatively online. How can you be bothered? How do you have this much spare time and this much negative energy and this much self-importance to even click on an article you know will just make you mad, let alone comment (and comment again and again) about how mad it made you? My advice: Get off your computer and go do something you actually like! Have a wank, make a grilled cheese sandwich, and stop paying attention to things you don’t really care about.
To the trolls, I ask: When you comment on things online, are you hoping that the person you're attacking will see your words, or do you just assume they won’t? Are you trying to constructively criticize so they stop dressing "like they’re on meth," or do you just think equating fashion with drug addiction is a revolutionary new joke that everybody needs to hear?
Obviously, as an attention-grabbing brat I couldn’t help but screenshot the nastiest comments and share them on my Facebook. All my friends came forward to tell me not to listen — that I’m great and cute and funny, and any tiny notions of, "What if they’re right?" were quashed within me immediately. And to be honest, for every negative comment that my article received, there were some amazing readers who also didn’t know me leaping to my defense. The world (and the Internet) isn’t as horrible a place as trolls want to make us think it is.
About a week after my article was posted, I was made aware of an article (I use the term article lightly) that had been written in response by a self-proclaimed right wing writer, whose display picture was of a Bulbasaur with the Confederate flag on its face — do I need to say anymore? I knew there was a reason I always thought Bulbasaur was too uninspiring to be a starter Pokémon. Of course, it’s especially ironic that a man who’s too scared to share his own appearance on the Internet is using this persona to attack others on theirs.
The underwhelming attempt at mockery is summarized at the end of the post:
"What she really needs to experiment with is controlling her portions at the table and wearing clothes that don’t make her look like a sloppy drug addict.
Oh, and not being such a vapid, narcissistic hambeast."
(A wild hambeast captured in its natural habitat.)
What I learned about myself from reading through this vicious attack on myself and my lifestyle was kind of revolutionary — I was shocked at how little I cared. When I shared it on Facebook (duh), my friends rushed to my rescue and I was praised for how little I cared and we all decided that I have to name my first dog "Hambeast" (Ham for short). I’ve realized that the opinions of strangers really don’t matter — it’s incredibly easy to be brutal about someone you don’t know and even easier to do it from the safety of a laptop screen.
What matters more is that most people I’ve met in my life love me, even more than I ever knew, as evidenced by their reactions to the hate I was receiving! I’m sure there are people who know me who agree that I’m a self-obsessed, fat freak but I’d say as much about myself anyway. I’m confident in my own confidence. I’m confident in that I’m a good, likable person regardless of whether I’m wearing panties or not.
Images: Author's Own; Giphy