The Anonymity of the Internet

burn book

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.

32 Comments

  1. OMG I have not dealt with this, but I’m sorry this happened to you Rachel by the way I have a video on my blog today that I think you would like it’s about people that send mean tweets.

  2. whhaaaat?! oh Rachel, I’m so sorry that you had to deal with this. Although you might have signed up for public criticism as a blogger, you didn’t sign up to be objectified. ugh, it makes me so upset that people think it is okay to be rude and mean to other people. Especially such sweet people like you! Sending you love.

  3. How horrible! I definitely would have been like you- staying up all night to read 1000’s of comments that really shouldn’t hold any weight, but somehow they do. The internet is a scary place. We went through middle school with people hiding behind AIM screen names, imagine doing it with facebook, twitter, tumblr, blogs, etc? Kids are mean, but unfortunately the internet allows mean kids to grow into mean adults. You’re right to say that 99% of these people wouldn’t have the gall to say any of that out loud. It’s bad enough to think about how people can talk about you behind your back, but being able to anonymously throw it up on the internet is pretty gross.

  4. Oh my gosh, how awful that must have been for you! People can be cruel, sadly I think that is a fact of life, there are always some people who are unkind and who have nothing better to do than to try and spread that unkindness as far as possible. Just try and remember, this has nothing to do with you, they don’t know you and never will and even if they did, it still doesn’t make their comments true or real. Remember, like there are unkind people, there will also always be kind, caring and wonderful people too, those are the ones to surround yourself with 🙂 x

  5. oh geeze, i am so sorry to hear this rachel! i’m glad you’re not letting the comments bother you too much because you’re a super talented, gorgeous girl with a great heart 🙂

  6. I’m so sorry you had to deal with this! I can’t even imagine! I never understand what makes a person decide to say horrible things online. Sure, I’ve come across things that I think are stupid, ugly, or just plain disagree with, but rather than making a rude comment, I just close my browser. Apparently most people haven’t heard this little piece of wisdom: “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

  7. Wow! Its amazing how rude people can be on the internet. Sorry you had to deal with that! I think you have the right attitude about it, though I’m sure its hard not to get sucked in to the negativity. Just keep your head up, gorgeous girl!

  8. So sorry you had to deal with this Rachel! It is definitely a reminder that as bloggers, we need to be prepared for things like that to happen. People are disgusting.

  9. Wow. What a horrible situation. I don’t even know how I would have handled it myself – probably reading all of the comments like you did. I’m sorry you had to go through that. The things people write on the internet really appall me sometimes.

  10. So sorry to hear this happened! If it was me, I don’t think I would’ve been able to read through all the mean comments 🙁 People are crazy online!

  11. Wow Rachel. I am so sorry. I’m sure you wanted to just look away, but I probably would have read through all the comments too. People are SO rude and harsh about everything on the Internet because you can be whoever you want there. It really is a shame 🙁 I can’t believe the comments I see for example on TJMaxx or Marshall’s FB pages when they share bloggers’ styles. People just say the worst things! Anyway, glad you are getting past it, you know you are GORGEOUS, successful, smart and just plain wonderful. Whoever had something mean to say clearly has a lot of insecurities and can’t deal with their sad, pathetic lives.

    And yes, I have had this happen to me. Heard of GOMI? I’ve been on there a couple times. In fact a whole spread was started on my 4th of July outfit… because apparently no one else goes out on the 4th of July (I WOULD NEVER wear a white skirt to a bbq, but out to the bars, heck yes) Anyway, they didn’t say a whole lot of mean things, but for awhile I took those who did say mean things to heart. It was dumb and now I’m over it. I’m just a small, VERY small time blogger and whoever felt the need to “pick on me” on an anonymous site on the Internet really has more problems than me. Or so I will believe 😉 Sorry again to hear this, hope you can just let the whole situation go!

  12. Ugh, that is awful, I’m sorry. People are really so rude and crazy on the internet, it completely baffles me sometimes. The anonymity of the internet really makes people think they can do whatever they want… it’s so sad.

  13. Oh my…. Rachel this story truly touched me. As you said, it is part of the territory when we as bloggers put this kind of info about us online. But that does not excuse people to act so coldly to other human beings. Something very similar to this happened to me my last year of university. Some high school nonsense was posted all over a forum. I thought I left that behind. I always kept to myself in high school so why people had to nitpick and find things to be cruel about made no sense to me. I moved away from that little town and was about to graduate university when my computer genius (thank god) fiance found the forum and showed me all the things people were saying. So after many calls from my lawyer, the website thankfully took down all those comments. It was such an awful experience. You are BEAUTIFUL Rachel. Please don’t let anything or anyone tell you different 🙂 *hug

  14. What a nightmare! It’s scary to put ourselves out there because of the risk of this. My blog has been viciously attacked on one of those mean people web sites. It was incredibly painful. It’s happened to a few of my blogger friends too. It’s hard to understand especially when most of our blogs exist only to put good out into the world. I’m really, really sorry this happened to you. 🙁

  15. i’m sorry you had to deal with that. i hate that people can be so negative just because they know they won’t get caught. i have no idea what megan fox thumbs are, but i think you are beautiful, and every costume you have ever posted has been brilliant!

  16. Oh my god girl – I’m so sorry! I can’t believe someone did that to you. It’s a little scary what we open ourselves up to when we post things online. I had someone steal my photos and create a fake online dating profile with a fake name and fake information… It was this big scam it somehow it took me FOREVER to get it taken down. I know that’s a little different, but still, super creepy that someone can just grab our photos and run with them.

    Please don’t take any of the negative comments to heart. You’re such a beautiful girl. Have you ever looked at, for example, Kim Kardashian’s Instagram comments? Obviously, she’s very good looking. But for every “your beautiful” comment, there’s ten comments calling her fat, ugly, a slut, etc. It’s disgusting how mean people can be, and it literally has nothing to do with how you actually look, it’s just that people feel like they can say anything when they’re hiding behind a keyboard. 🙁 I’m so sorry you went through that though! Ugh. People are such assholes sometimes.

  17. I’m so sorry to hear about this, such a bummer. I bet reading it was like a bad car crash. FYI, you do have amazing hair 🙂

  18. Sorry to hear that:( People, especially those that troll the Internet, can be so awful. Just remember that you deliver awesome and uplifting stuff that is the complete opposite of the garbage others post!

  19. Oh girl, I am soooooo terribly sorry!!! It has happened to me before and it hurts!! But, like you said, it’s part of the blogging gig….but we are still human. If it was about your gumball machine costume, people have LOVED it from my Pinterest!! There have been 155 repins from it!! Hope that makes you feel good!!

  20. Oh girl. I saw your costume being heralded on Pinterest and thought it was super cute. I can’t even imagine what you are going through. That is awful. The internet can be such a great place but things like this just show the incredibly vile nature of humans sometimes. You are in my thoughts!

  21. Girlfriend! This is terrible – I’m so so so sorry. I loved your costume and people are just jelly {but really, it’s true!} so keep on keeping on. We’re all thinking about you and sending love your way! xx

  22. Nothing of mine has every gone viral but I do think it is so unfair that people take things and misuse them. (The increased blog traffic would have been great though)!

  23. Oh wow–that is no fun for sure! I hate those types of viral “humor” sites because I swear they have the evilest comments–and yes, the vast majority of the criticisms make no sense or are about points which don’t even matter in the grand scheme of life! It’s a disgusting feature of the internet.

  24. Ugh, I’m so sorry to hear that happened to you!! It boggles my mind how some people seem to regress into barbarians once they log onto the internet

  25. That’s insane and I’m sorry you had to deal with this first hand. I really feel like some people post the meanest things just because they are so miserable with their own lives. Everyone has a pair over the internet.

  26. Wow girl…I’m sorry to hear this. Sometimes people are just mean, which sucks. But you can’t take their comments to heart. You know you are amazing, you made a fantastic, creative costume that you enjoyed. You don’t have a dirty mind to think of the things they came up with, which makes you a better person. I know it will still bother you (as it probably would bother me too) but hold your head high.

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