#MeanTweets and a Shift in Perspective with Bullying Online

April 28, 2016·

Today’s post is certainly a little different than normal… but in many ways, is a return to my “old” blogging roots of sharing some deep thoughts. Today’s post is a little bit of deep thoughts and a whole lot of word vomit. You’ve been warned.

Most of us have seen that Jimmy Kimmel bit by now. The clips of celebrities sitting down in front of a camera reading mean things that people have said about them on Twitter. And, for some reason, we laugh. We laugh at the ridiculous things that these big time celebrities are reading and how mean and brutal some of them are. They’re vulgar, they’re offensive, and they’re hurtful.

But we laugh. It’s meant to be funny. Right? Because, you know, they’re celebrities and they “put themselves out there” for public ridicule or something. They “deserve” it or something. And it’s supposed to be funny and we watch it for our own amusement.

Look, I come from a background in comedy… I performed comedy for over 15 years. I get “lightening up” and having a sense of humor, but at what point are things no longer funny and they’re just plain mean? And at what point is it no longer just mean, but harassment?

Where exactly am I going with all of this? 

This week, a video went viral showing men reading Tweets out loud to female sportswriters. I won’t embed the video here, and I will include a disclaimer that there is crude language and vulgarity in it… plus, it is just plain tough to watch. If you want to watch it, you can do so here.

screenshot via
screenshot via

In short, men sat down and read real, actual Tweets to female Chicago-area sportswriters, Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain. The Tweets start off in what seems like “poking fun” at these women, but quickly downspiral into hate-filled messages that truly sick people wrote. There’s nothing else around it.

The men get increasingly uncomfortable reading these tweets out loud to the women (even though they didn’t write the tweets themselves), and watching the women hear these things actual, real people have said about them is absolutely brutal to see. 

The whole message of the video was essential a PSA to stop the harassment of women in sports, but the moment I watched it, I felt a tinge of a message a whole lot bigger than women in sports.

I’m not saying men are not immune to it, but in general, women are MUCH more likely to be harassed online. I don’t have a stat for you, I just have common sense and my own personal experience as a blogger and in the blogging world. This type of harassment we see in the video is rampant in the blogging world. ESPECIALLY in the fashion, style, and lifestyle blogging world. Again, I will reiterate the fact that I know men are not immune to it… but let’s be honest… women are much more likely to experience it.

I do feel lucky (if that’s even the right word for this context) and oh-so-thankful , that the community I’ve built, WE’VE built here online is a mostly supportive and extremely encouraging community. But Lord knows, in the 10+ years that I’ve written online, I’ve experienced some incredibly hateful, mean, nasty, offensive, and downright harassing comments and messages from “anonymous” people. I’ve always said, if you want to find the true scum of the earth, go read comments on YouTube videos. They REALLY live there.

I was bullied (brutally bullied) as a child. Elementary school and middle school were just awful. The things people said about me to my face and behind my back were terrible. But, I grew up and I got through it and eventually the “bullying” phase was gone.

Or so I thought.

In the years I’ve been blogging, I’ve been called fat, I’ve been called ugly, I’ve been called a liar and a fake. People have mocked my appearance and my style in every way shape and form. Someone once told me to “never wear that dress again” unless I lose 30 pounds. I’ve been made fun of and mocked for being a Christian, I’ve been ridiculed for doing comedy (why, I will never understand). People have made comments about pretty much anything and everything you can imagine.

And no matter how many times I tell myself to “get a thicker skin,” it doesn’t get easier. I’m human and words are hurtful… no matter who they are from. I have gotten a little better over the years handling the negativity and being able to filter it, but it doesn’t necessarily sting any less.

Like I said, I’ve certainly not experienced half of what I know others have experienced, but it doesn’t make it right or better or worse. It’s just reality.

People can be mean. Really mean.

People can be incredibly cruel, hurtful, and abusive online because they feel they can hide behind their screens and remain “anonymous.” They get that “screen confidence” because they’re not actually saying it out loud to the person’s face.

Like I said earlier, this harassment isn’t unique to sports or celebrities. It’s rampant in the blogging world. There are entire websites and forums dedicated to talking about and ridiculing and tearing down bloggers, vloggers, and creatives. I won’t link them here for reasons that should be pretty obvious.

The first time I learned about those websites, I was shocked to see some of the things people were writing. But these people would make these comments over and over again about these bloggers that they didn’t even know. Most of those people, I can assure you, are women tearing down other women.

And I guarantee… those people would never have the courage say those awful things right in the faces of the people they were talking about. Screen confidence, I tell you.

Frankly, I’m tired of hearing the same old excuse of, “Well, these bloggers / vloggers / etc. live their lives online and they put themselves out there for public ridicule and should be able to take what comes at them. It just comes with the territory.”

Look, I think that’s a cop out. Not ONE blogger sets out to start writing or blogging or creating and says, “Well, I sure hope people leave me mean comments or talk about me online and point out all of my flaws and say horrible things about me. You know, because at least they’re talking about me and it comes with the territory.”

Nope. Wrong. 

Teachers don’t go into teaching for the paperwork and the logistics and the parent/teacher conferences and the rules and the regulations. They go into teaching because they love it and want to make a difference in the lives of kids.

Police officers don’t become police officers to deal with school shootings, and domestic violence cases, and getting shot. They become police officers because they believe in the cause and want to serve and protect their community.

Doctors don’t become doctors to deal with patients dying or trauma cases or having to tell a mother she lost her child. They become doctors because they want to take care of people and they want to find a cure for cancer or help someone get better.

Yes, those are much higher and greater examples of careers than someone who writes a blog for a living… but the point remains the same. I didn’t start blogging so I could become mocked and ridiculed. I became a blogger because I love to write, I love to be creative, and I love to find ways to inspire people.

Sure, there are negative things that come with every job, but that doesn’t make it right or okay.

All this to say, harassment is real. Bullying is real. And I really feel like it’s time that we have got to shift our perspective when it comes to “screen confidence.” Let’s think before we write something online. Would we SAY what we are about to write to that person’s face? Could we honestly look them in the eye and call that woman a bad mother, or ugly, or fat, or stupid, or a terrible writer, or whathaveyou? Could we HONESTLY treat that person as less than human?

When did we lose our ability to just agree to disagree and respect each other’s differences? When did we forget the age old adage of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” 

Look, we are entitled to our own opinions. We don’t have to like everyone. We aren’t obligated to enjoy everything we see or read. But that doesn’t make it okay to just tear someone down and harass them.

And when you think of it that way, it takes us all the way back to the beginning… what if we said those awful things to those celebrities? Like them or not, those celebrities are people too. They have families. They have kids, and wives, and parents, and friends that love them. They cry. They get their feelings hurt just like the rest of us. Celebrities! They’re just like us!

This is a topic that I think more people should be talking about… especially in the blogging community.

So, instead of finding ways to harass and tear each other down, let’s either live and let live, or let’s find ways to build each other up.