Surviving Online Hatred

Louisa Leontiades On Writing, On Writing-Publicity

Blogging, the soapbox phenomenon of the last 10 years, is firmly established in our collective psyche. And behind the protection of your screen, you are freer than ever before to pontificate, lambast and spout opinions as you see fit with little regard to the consequences. But as you have the power to give, so you must be prepared to receive. Controversial blogs once they gain notoriety, will also attract criticism.

For me, whose biggest issue is the fear of rejection and abandonment, a confirmed people pleaser, I knew blogging would be a big challenge. I didn’t reckon for the sickening adrenalin kick, the itch to flee the scene and a knot in my chest that seemed to last forever when I started reading the comments. And then I remembered why once I started drinking… to escape the fear of rejection.

The criticisms and online arguments are with people I don’t even know, so why should it affect me? Those who court publicity can live and die by their fame (and they have). As I recall the impact on those made vulnerable by the X-Factor, death threats to pop stars and even anti-Apple hate campaigns, I am reminded (once again) of my own thoughtless behaviour to those who ‘put themselves out there’ like I do. Dismissive? Belittling? Downright nasty? Sure. During my youth I’ve done it all.

Why did I find it so easy to mock online? I can easily conjure up a list of three…

  • Envy; One of my biggest ‘nasty’ areas, mainly before I started trying to be myself and write for a living. I criticised others who wrote for a living or put themselves out there because I was in denial, desperate for fame, adulation which I could mistake for love.
  • Repression of the self; if you’ve grown up with attitudes such as ‘don’t wash your dirty laundry in public’ and ‘attention seeking whore’, like I did then no doubt there’ll be something in you which despises anyone who obviously seeks attention. The truth is, that most of us seek attention unless we are incredibly secure and don’t need any validation from the world around us. That’s certainly not me. And we are likely to hate that which we secretly fear we are – or want – ourselves.
  • Acceptance from the crowd; the desire and longing to fit in with peers, and be popular – the fear of rejection from a group of friends, or peers can be a powerful motivator to jump on the bandwagon. Nowadays tribes form across the internet and it’s so easy to be blind to the consequences of your words (that goes for the blogger and the reader).

In the aftermath of one of my own battles, I sat and reflected on whether I still believed in making my private opinions… public through blogging. And why I was doing it. Was it purely attention seeking? From deep within myself, rumbled an acknowledgement of that truth. I want and like to have my voice heard. To feel that I am contributing to the world. To feel that I challenge thinking. But it’s not the only part.

My longing to be free to express myself however I want to do so, and in front of whomever I want to do so is my reason for writing from my heart, but in public. Hitting publish makes me free. To have no fear in my humanity and to set the example that you can still be loved, and accepted even if you are fully yourself with all that entails. Not by everyone of course…

The question is, will I be able to handle it?

Of course I will, because this – the biggest challenge to come my way so far – is something that excites and terrifies me in equal measure. I will never say never. One day, perhaps I will stop being private, in public. But I know myself well enough to know that if I were to stop now out of fear, then I would have given into the very thing… I am trying to conquer.