The Realities Of Being Trolled Online | My Experience

online trolling

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Yesterday, my blog went viral, taking in over 12,000 views and hundreds of comments on social media. Why? Because of this post.

I wrote a blog post intended as a light-hearted guide to things people should know about Hong Kong before they move here.

From jokes about the public transport to tips on how to move furniture, it was intended to be relatable, make people laugh, or just provide a distraction on their commute back from work. I even wacked some memes in there for good measure. Fortunately, the majority of people did respond positively to the post and enjoyed it. As for the others, we will get to that in a minute…

When I write listicles, I’m fully aware of the nonsensical nature of them. They’re not designed to say anything profound or change the world. If anything, it’s satire – I was poking fun at the bad behaviours of some expats and making light of it.

I made a mistake by titling it “Things I Wish I Knew About Hong Kong Before I Moved” when of course, I was aware of the polarities between HK / Mainland China and the cultural sensitivities long before I moved to Hong Kong. That’s why I included it in the post in the first place. As someone who came over here on a graduate scheme, believe me, the distinction between Cantonese and Mandarin is something that is often misunderstood. I will accept responsibility for the naivety of inditing myself into the article. People took this blog post as things I literally didn’t already know, which is the problem when thousands of strangers (and not your usual readership) suddenly flock in by the thousands to your blog.

But either way, I never could have anticipated the back-lash it received.

The post gained momentum quickly with a couple of hundred shares in the first few hours. This was totally normal – I’ve written viral content before and my HK posts are usually the most popular, especially when shared in certain Facebook groups.

It started with a girl leaving incendiary comments on a Facebook post. I don’t usually give trolls the time of day, but due to some of the things she was saying I felt it was necessary to call her out.

People too often can hide behind the sanctity of a computer screen and say things they would never dream of saying IRL.

I’m tired of hearing that just because you’re a blogger, or because you put yourself online, that you thereby offer yourself up as public property to be trolled and abused.

When things like that happen, I will always show up for myself and call people out. I wholeheartedly reserve my right to continue unfurling witty quips to the end of my days – it gives some validity to the myopic lives of key-board warriors, right?

But I digress…

It started off, for the most part, harmlessly. A group of friends clubbed together to begin tearing apart my writing. It was back and forth banter. Some of it was actually useful criticism. The majority of it, as you can imagine, was absolutely not. But pretty soon, things got out of control.

They then linked me to a post by a “well-known” HK blogger who they had shared the post with. It was pulling in hundreds of comments across multiple threads.  If you’re reading this and wondering, “What the hell did this girl do that was so offensive?” Then don’t worry, you’re completely right to be confused. I have absolutely no idea why things like the fact I eat dim sum after work (it’s open all day long) would incense people to such an extreme, but ya know, the internet is a strange place. (There is absolutely no way I will be linking to the people in question, btw. The last thing I want to do is to bring them any traffic whatsoever or have my blog affiliated with the toxicity of theirs. They did bring in a lot of traffic for me, though. #winning).

Given this blogger’s brand firmly revolves around being a troll and tearing everything  and everyone apart, you can imagine their audience. I have no idea whether this blogger is male or female. I have never seen a picture of them. They hide behind a meme as a profile picture and  bash people through an anonymous identity. Clearly, this person has so much strength in their own convictions that they feel it is necessary to hide behind an alias.

As I scrolled through the threads, it felt like somebody had poured cold water down my back.

Suddenly I was faced with hundreds of strangers who were thriving off screenshots of my blog. Everything, from the fact that I’m a vegan to disparaging comments about the company I work for here in Hong Kong, were up for public ridicule.

My validity to write about my experience in Hong Kong was aggressively undercut by hoards of individuals who bypassed the things I had to say. I was firmly and dismissively relegated as a “basic bitch”.  This term makes me cringe on so many levels. It is without a doubt the most culturally loaded sexist term used by millennials, and yet propagated by woman, to which there is no male equivalent. These gendered-terms are incredibly powerful and play a major role in perpetuating gender based violence and discrimination that I am extremely passionate about fighting. To be spoken to in this way, especially by other women, was beyond disappointing.

Some of these trolls even identified as feminists on their social media. I am confused how so-called feminists can so easily tear another woman down by using such misogynistic terms and patronising tones. Of course, it was men who primarily flocked to my defence. Can always count on the good old knights-in-shining-armour complex when you need it, eh?

Everything they were attempting to pin on me they were guilty of themselves. They abused me for being vegan. For being a white woman. For being “poor” in Hong Kong. For the company I worked for and my qualifications.  Somebody went as far to quiz what type of employment visa on, conclude that I should be deported and to “go home”. My entire existence was being knocked – all because they didn’t like a few bullet points of my article.

What ultimately occurred to me was that I had written a blog post to an the expat community who, in reality, I do not know at all.

Should I have anticipated the comment of individuals (many of whom with immense economic privilege) have never been in a no toilet paper situation? Or for some dude to school me about the necessary geographical conditions of a typhoon? Probably. But honestly, I had no idea that there was such a thriving culture for trolling and tearing people down in Hong Kong. I had never heard of or encountered these people before and hope that I do not have to encounter them again, although I inevitably will.

I don’t stand with people who rush to brand someone a racist on no valid grounds and I certainly don’t stand with people whose careers boil down to what type of futile drama they can incite on social media.

I was never one of the popular kids and am all too familiar with what it’s like to be relentlessly bullied. People who, as grown men and women, devote their lives to engaging in this type of vitriol were those kids. Some of these people even have their children in their profile pictures; they are somebody’s parents who will be raising another generation of people to think this level of unsolicited, violent abuse is necessary. It’s frightening.

But anyway.

Bullying in any shape or form is absolutely not acceptable. We live in a generation where suicides in young people are extremely common. How many more stories do we have to read about people killing themselves from being unable to cope with the abuse they’re suffering online?

Funnily enough, now that the hate is fizzling out, I’ve been met by several apologies in my inbox. It’s a shame that people are so quick to publicly shame others but their apologies are always private. There is a pack-mentality online that needs to be changed. The lack of originality in the comments is stunning and the ease by which people form opinions and then regret them is scary.

My advice would be to think before you write. You have no idea what the potential ramifications could be when you attack a stranger online.  People need to start taking responsibility. You absolutely cannot abuse someone and not expect repercussions. Fortunately, I am thick-skinned enough to laugh this off and won’t allow it to prevent me from doing what I enjoy, which is writing.

Lydia Rose,

xoxo

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25 Comments

  1. Sinead
    May 11, 2017 / 6:31 am

    Oh my, Lydia I enjoy reading your blogs. Especially about the ‘hole in the floor loo’s” brings back memories of my own travels. How people can be so mean is beyond me. But your right none of them would say it if you were, for example, sat in cafe and they overheard you in conversation, it would be considered rude to come into the conversation just to solely put you down. Keep writing hunni

  2. Christina
    May 11, 2017 / 6:51 am

    Lydia I’m so sorry to hear what you’ve had to go through. It’s incredibly sad to think that these people hide behind their anonymity yet feel justified in their abuse. As someone born in Hong Kong of Cantonese origin I’m aware of the cultural differences with mainland China and the behaviour of the expat community, good and bad. Stay strong my lovely friend. This experience will make you a stronger person.

  3. May 11, 2017 / 7:50 am

    When people hurt other people for any reason, what they’re really seeing is an unhealed part of themselves. How horrible it would be to feel bitter and annoyed about the littlest things everyday. I’m happy you’re thick skinned enough to brush it off!! Just know that these people are probably v unhappy in their lives and hey, lots of traffic is a pretty big win in blogging hahaha! Sending love Lydia!

    Sarah x
    http://www.scarletstate.co.uk

  4. Nate
    May 11, 2017 / 8:33 am

    You get that in any field where you set your self up for criticism. Rightly or wrongly, as a a chef and restaurant owner I deal with it on a day to day basis with blogs, trip advisor , open rice and Facebook , but if you love what you do you dust off you’re shoulders and keep doing what you love. I was bought up with if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all

    • May 12, 2017 / 10:36 am

      Very true, Nate. And I believe in those fields that criticism is in fact a good thing. I once completed a feedback form after a restaurant visit – I was polite and explained my disappointment in the restaurant clearly. Also, I took the time to actually give this feedback. The next day, I got one of the rudest e-mails I ever received. The chef did not at all appreciate what I had written and the way he let me know was just shocking. I wrote back to him. Told him he’s in the wrong business if he can’t deal with criticism! He’s a chef!! There will always be people you impress and people you disappoint. I told him I clearly explained WHY I was disappointed (all valid points) and that this is not just criticism, this is constructive criticism. I wrote that to help him. Also, it was a private e-mail feedback form! I didn’t bash the guy’s food or service online. I was happy reading your comment and love the parallel with Lydia & blogging. You will always get criticism. The way you deal with it will make the difference.
      And Lydia, if you’re reading this, YOU GO GIRL! Don’t let them get to you. Clearly they do not have anything better to do with their lives and need a crash course on “being civilized, on- and offline”.

  5. Em
    May 11, 2017 / 8:34 am

    Your most recent blog post was the most articulate and dignified two fingers up at the haters I’ve ever seen haha. Very proud of you and really admire how well you’ve dealt with this xxx

    • Embarrassed
      May 14, 2017 / 9:25 am

      Totally agree Em ! Certainly blows the allegation that she can’t write out of the water

  6. May 11, 2017 / 8:58 am

    People are so mean sometimes, I’m a very firm believer in the saying ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all’ especially when it comes to something that was supposed to be light hearted. I’m sorry that you had to go through this experience but as Sarah said traffic is traffic I suppose haha!

    Jess
    alrightblondie.com

  7. May 11, 2017 / 9:45 am

    You are a very talented writer! Do not let people like those trolls bring you down. People can be so miserable.

  8. May 11, 2017 / 9:52 am

    Amazingly well written! I’m so sorry this happened to you, there’s never an excuse for bullying. You have my support! xx

  9. Annie
    May 11, 2017 / 11:04 am

    You go girl. There are trolls everywhere, quick to bully online. Wonder if they are like this for reals? I can imagine them getting decked by people for saying what they say in real life haha. I’m all about empowering other women, no time for mean girl (: also love that you are vegan (: I’m vegetarian going part vegan haha. Keep it up! Do your thing!

  10. May 11, 2017 / 11:36 am

    Ugh. There’s always people lurking in the shadows waiting to ruin your day. Try to ignore them – it says more about them than it ever does about you.

  11. May 11, 2017 / 2:38 pm

    I just can’t and don’t want to understand what drives these people to live on the sour words of hate and disrespect. I hope it won’t affect your well-being and writing.
    all the best.

  12. Suz
    May 11, 2017 / 3:33 pm

    I was shocked about your feature on said blog as well and have since unfollowed and unliked. That type of witch hunt is NOT ok and I’m disappointed there weren’t more people to even attempt to stop it. Unfortunately HK has strong herd mentality and for the wrong causes.

    • Her friend
      May 12, 2017 / 2:31 am

      As much as I agree, but having also read through some of those FB post comments, Lydia also needs to be more accepting of criticism, of which there was some validly constructive. She also revealed quite an ego which is some what off putting when I’ve been following this blog for a while.

      And no Lydia, not everyone has to put their name to a comment. Some of us know you in real life and maybe you should consider that you’re not the easiest person to speak to, especially with your childish display of tit for tat.

      • lydia
        May 12, 2017 / 4:17 am

        Hey,

        It’s been bothering me to think what “friend” I have who would leave this comment without just saying it to me directly. I actually had a Google of your IP address and know exactly who you are because we work for the same company. Would really appreciate if you could pop me over a FB message and explain why you felt the need to say this, otherwise the next time we see each other it will be quite an embarrassing experience for the both of us.

        xoxo

        • May 12, 2017 / 10:44 am

          Allow me to say, ‘friend’, that you should read the post again. Lydia acknowledges in this very article “Some of it was actually useful criticism.” I don’t know Lydia and I don’t know how easy or difficult it is to talk to her in person, but I don’t believe that excuses 1) online bashing of someone and 2) receiving comments like yours – from a friend! – online.
          You have the possibility to tell her face to face, why troll?

  13. May 11, 2017 / 4:02 pm

    I’m a newbie blogger and already have a troll and I can’t even imagine what this must have felt like. How sad their lives must be. :/
    In any case, I enjoyed your writing! <3

  14. May 11, 2017 / 4:20 pm

    I loved this post and I’m going to read the previous post next. Thank you so much for writing about this because so many people need to hear it. Many times people are so quick to judge, not only on a blog post, but on Yelp, or any other review site. We’re real people, real business owners with real families and real feelings. I’m sorry for your experience but I’m also impressed with the way you’ve handled it. I stumbled on your blog through a group board and I’m so pleased that I did. I’m already a fan!

  15. Troll
    May 11, 2017 / 4:52 pm

    Fuck u

  16. May 12, 2017 / 2:01 am

    Wow! So well said and I absolutely could not agree more. My blog is brand new and I have already experienced this disgusting behavior and it literally blows me away how quick people are to criticize a total stranger like you want nothing but to hear whatever the vial person has to say. What they don’t realize is the amount of hard work and hours upon hours you spend creating content only to be bashed by someone that is no doubt totally miserable. We write to help others and share our experiences, if you don’t like it don’t read it plain and simple. I’m sorry you had to go through that and I hope it never happens again. You post was amazing by the way!

  17. commenter
    May 12, 2017 / 3:37 am

    Great article!

  18. John D
    May 13, 2017 / 6:55 am

    Nice writing.
    Enjoyable reading.
    Keep going strong.

  19. Embarrassed
    May 13, 2017 / 5:06 pm

    Lydia , you are a wonderful writer . You are witty, intelligent and more importantly a good person.
    You have handled this uncalled for, ridiculous nonsense with utmost dignity . What concerns me more than anything is that sisterhood appears to be dead these days . The worst attacks I have seen on women are by other women, I don’t get this phenomenon, nor do I get the pack mentality that seems to go with it . What sort of woman would attempt to rip another one apart for a lighthearted blog post, particularly when same individuals post such vacuous inane and often hate filled drivel themselves. Personally I feel sorry for their parents , I know I would be mortified to have produced such vile creatures, and tbeir future children to have such embarrassments as mothers . There are few times that I feel embarrassed to be a female but sadly this is one.

  20. Jane
    May 14, 2017 / 9:30 am

    Just wanted to let you know I love your writing and see nothing that could have possibly set off the tsunami of poison that came your way.
    The fact that a light hearted, fun and informative piece of writing attracted such hatred is clearly a reflection on the bullys not the author of the blog.
    I’m appalled and very sad that we live in a world where people (especially young women) will club together to try to bully and ridicule another.
    It shines through in your writing that you are a very talented young woman with an appetite and zest for life that always uplifts this reader and I’m sure many more.
    Please don’t let the bully’s win – trying to understand the motivation of people who post comments like some you received, is a thankless task – haters are haters and don’t merit the attention they are desperately seeking.
    So please keep writing, keep enjoying your adventure and remember there are a lot more of us who love what you do, than bullys who try to hurt you
    Janie x

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