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What it really feels like to be trolled online
It's not just celebrities who get trolled
I’m usually a phone addict. I can’t go more than an hour without checking Twitter. But a few months ago that changed, instead I could barely bring myself to look at my phone. When I did manage to take enough deep breaths to open my inbox, or check my texts, it would usually end with me in floods of tears.
Why? I was being trolled.
I used to think that being trolled was the preserve of celebrities, that you had to be a super rich, super gorgeous famous person for anyone to be interested in sending you mean messages. And perhaps a while ago that was true. But these days? Not so. And for me, having the gall to be a woman who expresses an opinion on the internet was quite enough.
It happened because I agreed to engage in a university debate with well-known right wing blogger Milo Yiannopoulos who was yesterday banned from Twitter for violating the code of conduct and inciting hatred against actress Leslie Jones. Milo tweeted my articles to his three hundred thousand followers, with a scathing commentary, and it all went from there there. My writing, my looks, my politics. It was all fair game.
I watched what was happening to Leslie earlier this week and I understood on some level. My experience was not as extreme as hers, but it had the same starting-point. She’d dared to engage with people who said her film was a failure – a slap in the face to theGhostbustersfranchise and had ruined their childhoods – and she was being punished for it.
Her punishment was days of the most poisonous abuse you could ever imagine facing. That’s the thing about large-scale trolling. It doesn’t stop. There’s thousands of people saying horrific things to you and they live all around the world. Just as the British trolls finish telling you you’re an ugly bitch and go to sleep, the Americans are waking up and it starts all over again.
‘Why do you look?’ people ask you. ‘Can’t you just ignore it?’ It’s almost impossible to explain this, but basically, no, you can’t. These people are invading your space. Your phone, which used to be a way to interact with people you love, is being invaded by cruel messages. To start with you try and interact. You want these people to understand that they’re talking to a real person and hurting their feelings. You assume that people are human and that if you explain to them why they’re wrong about you they’ll stop, they’ll treat you like a person.
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