You are currently browsing the daily archive for October 6, 2020.

On October 6, 2020, the BBC website had two interesting articles on nasty social media comments.

Many social media users who are the targets of such comments are understandably upset, sometimes traumatised.

The BBC’s articles reveal that two users have admitted they are insecure or have problems in their personal lives that played out in their mean-spirited, cruel comments against individuals.

BBC journalist meets her troll

Sali Hughes is a lifestyle and beauty journalist for the BBC.

She has Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Unfortunately, she acquired a troll, Becky (not her real name).

She later met Becky in person and described her as being a well presented 30-something mother.

Hughes posted an article about her experience: ‘I met the woman who trolled me online’.

She explained the background to the trolling (emphases mine):

Imagine if a group of strangers spent up to 16 hours a day feasting over nasty and imagined details about your personal life and family, telling livelihood-endangering lies about your job.

That happened, and still happens, to me and many others on what’s known as a “dragging” or “trashing” site.

If you search my name you’ll find I’m a journalist. You’ll see my posts about beauty and lifestyle all over Twitter and Instagram. But when Becky searched my name, alongside a cosmetic procedure, a link to the “trashing” site had come up as a result.

The lies about my personal and professional life spanned pages; talking about my children, my marriage and my mother who’d recently died of cancer.

The site is an online forum, dedicated to trashing the lives and reputations of people with a social media presence.

Around a year ago, the insults, hurtful conspiracy theories and speculation migrated from that forum to a beauty industry gossip site.

Sali Hughes decided she had to take action:

A false rumour appeared, albeit briefly, suggesting I had an undeclared financial relationship with a major brand. I decided I had to act.

I posted a video on Instagram, talking about the ceaseless trolling I – along with many others – had received on the site, how it threatened my livelihood, and affected my mental health and hurt deeply those I love. Having watched that video, Becky stopped posting.

A few months later, Becky sent Hughes an email:

And that eventually led us to meet, shivering, outside a cafe in Victoria, where she had agreed to be interviewed for an edition of File on 4 I was making about my experience of online abuse.

Becky revealed the following to the journalist:

In her email to me, Becky had acknowledged there was “a lot of projection going on”. And when we met, she spoke about how issues in her personal life fed into what she wrote.

“I think what you see of influencers, people on the Internet, media personalities is potentially only 40 seconds of content a day. It’s very easy to fill in with your own narrative.

“For me specifically, I can say 100% what was going on in my own life is reflected in what I posted…it was nothing really to do with the content creator. It was what I filled in.”

Before the two women met, Becky reread what she had posted online:

… it was so nasty and I thought, how was I so blind to how thoroughly unpleasant I was being? Just knowing that I was any way involved makes me feel really upset at the thought of that.

At the end of their conversation, Becky concluded:

It was a way of me trying to solve my own problems,” reflected Becky. “It’s actually nothing to do with you.”

Before leaving, she shrugged and added, “It doesn’t make sense to me either”.

Wow.

Perez Hilton confesses

The acerbic and eccentric celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton has written an autobiography, TMI: My Life in Scandal, which details his 16 years in the entertainment world.

His pseudonym is a play on Paris Hilton. His real name is Mario Lavandeira.

He has been the target of several lawsuits over the years.

Over the past several years, he has been turning his life around, dropping his old ways.

He spoke to the BBC, which posted extracts of his interview: ‘Perez Hilton: I never needed to be so cruel’.

He revealed why he doggedly targeted singer Ariana Grande on his blog. He offered to manage her career when she was starting out, but she chose someone else:

I was really hurt, so for years afterwards I was super petty toward Ariana on my website and on social media,” Hilton admits in his new memoir. “I regret that.”

In his autobiography, the BBC says, he expresses his regrets over some of the things he has written and posted.

He told the BBC:

I’d never put much thought into writing an autobiography before, because while I have this public persona of being extremely confident, I also am extremely filled with self-doubt, worry and insecurity.

In 2018, actress and singer Mila Kunis posited that Perez Hilton was the original troll:

“To me, he was the first person that created ugly news, that literally just spread filth,” Mila Kunis said in 2018.It was just mean, and so it allowed people to be mean.” She suggested the “whole concept of trolling really didn’t exist” prior to his blog.

Hilton told the BBC that there had been gossip magazines for decades. Yes, but most were careful to avoid lawsuits.

He admitted:

Maybe I was the first to do it online, and therefore, I’m a pioneer!

More’s the pity.

Although Perez Hilton is gay, he had a particular penchant for outing other celebrities online.

In 2010, an LGBT online movement, It Gets Better, launched. It supports gay teenagers who have suffered online abuse. Some of them commit suicide.

Hilton recorded a message of support for It Gets Better. It was not well received. Those commenting said he was partly responsible:

“The response I got truly shook me to my core,” he explains. “Almost every comment said, ‘You’re a hypocrite, you’re a bully, you’re part of the problem.’ I knew a lot of people didn’t like me before then, but I was living in my own little bubble.

That was a turning point for him:

I had brainwashed myself into saying things like, ‘If people don’t like what I’m writing then they shouldn’t read it.’ Or ‘[Perez is] just a character, these people don’t know the real me.’ But at that point I said, ‘Wow, I need to take ownership of what is happening here and what I’m doing‘.

However, that process did not start immediately, because Hilton thought it would damage his career, such as it was:

I was paralysed by fear, that I would lose everything that I had worked very hard to achieve up until that point.

Over the past decade, Perez Hilton has gradually stopped the nastiness. These days, says the BBC:

Hilton often appears on celebrity reality shows and presents his own showbiz news podcast alongside his superb co-host Chris Booker, whose scepticism and impatience with much of celebrity culture is the perfect balance to Hilton’s excitable and animated personality.

As for his website, Hilton can still be found regularly making cutting comments about the day’s entertainment news. But, he says, there’s a difference between being mean for the sake of it and an honestly held opinion.

Good for him. I checked out his blog once, shortly after he created it. It didn’t interest me. I’m too old to know the celebs about whom he writes.

I am pleased that he has turned a page.

Conclusion

Bullies, whether online or offline, feel badly about themselves or aspects of their lives. They torment other people out of frustration; they cannot solve their own problems.

I am grateful for the BBC for these revelations about trolling. That said, it is no excuse for legislation which would remove online privacy, to be monitored by the state or a third party.

What we can do instead is to promote civility and continue, as individuals, to ignore trolls or ban their comments.

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