Last night, I was thinking about why I get anxious over visibility and hypervisibility in any sort of context (but especially online) because any sort of unusual uptick in blog views or retweets on Twitter or anything like that gives me a ridiculous amount of anxiety. This has happened to me for years and when I really started to deeply reflect on it, I realized that it’s in large part because I unconsciously associate visibility in any sort of context with harassment and bullying.
When my blog does start to get views, when anyone retweets one of my tweets, when people notice my existence online, I immediately think that the harassment and bullying is not too far behind because that’s what has happened to me time and time again. And the potential harassment also brings a massive amount of anxiety for me.
Difference of opinion would be one thing because having a frank conversation about issues is something I love. But that’s almost never what happens because most of the time, any sort of visibility comes with being called a cunt, speculation that I ate paste in elementary school, that I should kill myself. And that’s just some of what people tell me and I’m barely a blip online.
Others who are significantly more visible, and especially black women and women of color, get significantly more harassment and trolling than I do. It’s unfortunately all too common, especially for women, and much of is based in misogyny and racism. There are dedicated YouTube channels and people who actively troll and harass actress and vlogger Franchesca Ramsey and her work.
And there are other examples – Leslie Jones is repeatedly harassed and trolled on Twitter, including when she faced a huge amount of harassment after Ghostbusters was released. (The slight good news was that after sending thousands of people to harass Jones during the Ghostbusters release, Milo Yiannopoulos was actually banned from that platform.)
Lindy West has written about online harassment before, including the time in which one troll actually used her dead father’s identity as a way to troll her and about why she recently deactivated her Twitter account. Less than 48 hours after the densely-packed Women’s March On Washington, one of the organizers, Linda Sarsour started being attacked by conservative websites. (One slight silver lining though, the hashtag #IMarchWithLinda started to trend as numerous others started to support Sarsour.)
These are just some of the women that are regularly harassed and my point with all of this is that being visible online, especially being a woman or other marginalized identity online, comes with a heap of harassment, bullying, and trolling. One day, I hope that this won’t be the case anymore but I also know that this hope seems rather optimistic and a bit naïve. For now though, I’m still trying to learn how to exist despite my anxiety and learning how to deal with trolls is just a part of that journey.