Back in December I uploaded the picture above to the SLC Feminist Facebook page and wrote a few words, “This is a card I came across online. I do not know the family. I know that this picture is disturbing on so many levels though.” I received a lot of interaction from fellow feminists within the first hour or so after posting, but a few hours later it became clear that the post had gone as “viral” as something ever had on the page. My phone started blowing up. I had to turn off notifications.
Over the next few days the post would reach 325,340 people, be shared 1,430 times, liked 579 times, and receive 707 primary comments.
Unfortunately, the notifications weren’t from fellow feminists anymore, but racist, misogynistic trolls (some memes that stood out are at the end of this article). For the next few days I watched in horror as people sent me violent images, vulgar private messages, and repeatedly called me “what’s wrong with America.” All because I said a few words about a picture that I found distasteful.
I later learned that the photo made international and national news, which helped explain the traction on my page. I admit that I couldn’t help but look at a lot of the comments. As a qualitative researcher, my immediate thought was, “How can I export these comments and code the data for emergent themes?” (Any Facebook wizards out there know if this is possible? Asking for a friend.)
At the end of the day, the post and its accompanying vitriol made for lively conversation with my best friends, and I moved on. Or so I thought for a while.
But the reality is that the entire incident has impacted my writing. It has impacted the way I share things on the internet. The way I was attacked online made me afraid of speaking up, because I know of too many activists who have posted their thoughts online only to have their lives threatened and their personal addresses and phone numbers shared. While the post was still bringing in hate, my phone rang from a blocked number, and I remember looking down and thinking, “Fuck, it finally happened.” I was terrified that someone found my phone number and shared it with the world. It turns out that wasn’t the case, but the fact that it crossed my mind was too much.
The hateful messages and memes had more of an impact than I wanted to admit. They made me afraid, but after a long time processing, and some serious introspection, I’ve decided enough is enough. I’m going to get back to my regular writing schedule, because if there are still people in the world who will threaten a writer with violence over three sentences, then there’s still writing to do.
So thank you to everyone who is still following. Thank you to everyone who is still sharing. Let’s ruffle some feathers together on and offline.