The internet can be a wonderful place. After all, it’s what makes this little blog possible. It’s where I go to communicate with old friends, research just about anything and is what makes my day job possible (seriously, without Google and other search engines, my job would not be real).
But there’s also a dark side to the Internet. For the most part, it’s anonymous, which means people can write whatever they want from behind their computer screen. In addition to that, anything you post on the internet can be taken to an entirely new level. Innocent photos are reposted with captions or are Photoshopped to turn them from innocent to evil.
I recently had quite the rollercoaster ride with Mr. Internet and learned a few things along the way. Without going into too much detail, a photo of mine that I had posted to my blog and personal social media accounts somehow made its way to a variety of large iPhone apps and websites, including Reddit, 9Gag and iFunny. Whoever originally took my photo and plastered it on these websites decided it would be funny to essentially make me a “meme” by adding a caption to the photo.
I was notified about this not by new traffic to my blog (although that would’ve been awesome), but from several friends messaging me telling me my photo was posted on website X and had over 20,000 likes and thousands of comments. My stomach dropped. Let’s be real here- the only way a photo of me would get that many comments or likes was if something was funny or controversial about it. I then saw that an innocent Halloween costume photo of mine was repurposed with a seemingly inappropriate caption.
Naturally, my curiosity was out of control, so I scrolled through the comments to see just what people were saying about me and the photo. It was a mixture of good (the people who complimented me on my hair seriously made my day), bad (comments like “what an attention whore” or “slut”) and crude (comments alluding to the placement of items on my costume in relation to my body). While reading men and women writing positive comments about my appearance is nice, some of the comments were so incredibly sexist and rude that I couldn’t believe it. Women are not objects, and we shouldn’t be punished or looked down upon every time we put on lipstick, wear a skirt or post a Halloween costume photo to Twitter.
I should’ve stopped there. But no, I continued reading through all 1000+ comments on each of the websites. It’s kind of like watching a car crash- it’s so bad, but you can’t look away. I read someone say that I have a “f***ed up nose” and someone commenting that I have “Megan Fox thumbs” (which I do, but why would you choose to pick on me for that out of EVERYTHING?)
For the most part, I laughed off the comments that I know weren’t true. But I’d be lying if I said reading a few of them didn’t hurt. Sure, 90% of them alluded to my looks and costume, but then there was the 10% of people who just wrote nasty things that I can’t even imagine saying out loud to another human.
I had to snap out of it. I realized most of these people have nothing better to do than post comments on photos on the internet. I mean, don’t they have jobs, lives or people who love them? I guess not. The whole situation reminded me of the Burn Book in Mean Girls, where the elite group of Plastics would write mean and nasty things (that 90% of the time were not true) in a book to look back at and laugh at.
Being a blogger and a writer means you put yourself out there and you are subject to scrutiny daily. And I understand that. I signed up for this, I posted the photo online, I get it. But for me, I guess I was just shocked at how people use the Internet as a way to reveal their own insecurities on others who are more successful, attractive, creative, or insert any positive adjective here. I was shocked at how easily I was objectified for simply wearing a Halloween costume. I was shocked at the fact that thousands of people cared enough about me and my life to write a comment on a stupid website.
Have you ever had to deal with the anonymity of the internet? Whether it was a nasty blog comment, a photo going viral or someone harassing you on social media, spill it.