I adore reading but I love to write. I like telling stories, sharing information, or making people laugh. I don’t do it as much as I should for several reasons. The first is that I do not have the abundance of time that I would like to have. I dream of a day when I can relax and type all day on my computer without having to worry about things like have my kids had lunch, is the laundry done, am I caught up in class? The second reason is because I have opinions and the Internet hates that. Women who speak up or have opinions on the internet often have horrible comments that follow them around. I spent a year reading Hillary Clinton’s tweet comments and becoming more upset about the way the world thinks it is acceptable to talk to women. This woman was running for the office of President of the United States and people on a regular basis thought it was okay to threaten to rape her, wish death upon her and call her names. She and her social media team never responded but her followers did. I have had similar experiences with YouTube. I know better than to read the comments, but I do anyway. I get sucked into this scary vortex of craziness where I can’t stop reading people being assholes.
It seems the stronger a woman’s opinion is, the more people hate her and wish her dead. If you are angry while female it’s even worse. Politicians are not the only women who are targeted. Leslie Jones, Mika Brzezinski from Morning Joe, and Amy Schumer all have had horrible things said about them on social media. While some platforms are making it easier to report harassment, it still happens. Then fans or friends stand up for the people they care about and harass the harassers. It’s horrible.
WordPress, Facebook, and Instagram are wonderful in that I am able to moderate my comments so that people don’t see anything that I don’t want them to. I wish my Twitter was the same. I have in the past deleted comments off my social media that I felt were offensive, off message or advertisements for things I don’t promote. I also don’t comment on things I find offensive because I am not certain that moves the conversation forward.
At a round table event hosted by The Hollywood Reporter, Lena Dunham states that there isn’t a way to have these safe conversations that need to happen about women in the media. I agree and here’s why:
I was a troll. Ugh. I hate even admitting that out loud. This last election season I lost my ability to understand how the country worked and after Trump became president I lost my ability to keep my mouth shut, and called him horrible names. I have friends who voted for him and it became a thing. After two days I sat down and reread all those posts and realized this did not help my cause. I apologized publicly to all the people who I insulted, deleted the posts and started to reevaluate how I went about fighting for what I thought was right. In my case the people who I was trolling were friends who knew me and forgave me, but in most cases this isn’t true and there is no apologizing. The internet is a comment and go type of environment. I think this happens because there is no middle ground where opposing sides can come and have a civil discussion. People attack and then other people get defensive and we cannot move forward with any discussion in a world that has no safe center to talk in.
I wish some people weren’t allowed on the internet. My life would be so much easier if all the people who didn’t agree with me didn’t get to have opinions online. But then I wouldn’t get to express mine either. I can dislike the things that people have to say about strong women, but if they don’t get to say it then others don’t get to stand up for them. Free speech has to go every which way, it cannot just be for those with whom I agree. While the rise of online opinion blogging and social media has given some really angry hateful people a platform to speak it has also given some incredible women a place to stand up and speak out. Indiscriminate publishing has allowed more voices to be heard and I think that is a good thing even if it isn’t always voices I want to hear.
I am going to have to start putting myself out there soon. I want to work in an industry that requires me to have a social media presence. Interactions online with the friends I disagree with is good practice in finding a way to communicate important ideas without losing my self respect or theirs. I have been lucky in that I don’t have to fend off trolls because I am just not that well known. As I build my network and increase exposure I will end up brushing at least against one or two people who don’t like me. Even though I will be respectful, I am a woman with strong opinions and I am known to share them. If I am lucky no one will ever comment on a political post I have or a blog I write about women’s rights, but more than likely someone will comment and I will have to find a way to deal with it. Because if I want people to hear my voice I have to accept that their voice has to be heard too. Hate speech is free speech and the best bet is to not engage in it. Ignore it, don’t feed the troll, even if you really, really want to.