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Managing negative attention

In this video Dr Sara Perry talks openly about the negative attention she's experienced online, and how she's dealt with it.

The internet is a wonderful thing, but it can empower people in troubling ways. How can we handle negative comments and behaviours?

The experiences Dr Sara Perry discusses in this video are by no means unique, and they are far from unusual. The act of speaking your mind on the internet can lead you open to all manner of abuse, and this risk is increased for certain groups. Yes, you can ignore some of it. But you can only ignore so much. And let’s be clear: you shouldn’t have to ignore anything of this kind.

In her Guide to Internetting While Female, Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian defines six forms of online trolling. Perhaps you’ve experienced some for yourself…

Sealioning: named after a Wondermark webcomic, sealions pop up, unsolicited, in your online conversations, and politely asks you to evidence seemingly self-evident points as a means of derailing your original point.
Concern trolling: manifest in ‘helpful’ comments and ‘constructive criticism’, concern trolls operate from a seeming position of support as a means of cushioning their opposing views.
Gish-galloping: drowning out by recourse to a torrent of arguments (often petty). Responding to a gish-galloper’s every comment will demand significant time and effort.
Impersonation trolling: hoax accounts posting inflammatory comments under your name.
Dogpiling: when the cyber-mob are called in to overwhelm you with a barrage of responses, insults, accusations or threats.
Gaslighting: presenting false information in an attempt to make you doubt your own memory. In terms of online abuse, it extends to questioning the abuse itself, and underplaying its impact; for instance: “You’re not getting all of this abuse”, or “It’s not as bad as you’re making out”.
Feminist Frequency have produced a guide to protecting yourself from online harassment which offers best-practice for online privacy and safety, as well as advice for reporting harassment. In terms of social media they recommend the following:
To prevent harassers from finding your frequent hangouts, turn off geolocation on your posts;
Decide what you want to share: social media relies on sharing, but avoid giving away information that might risk your security;
If you’re concerned about your online reputation, monitor your information online to see what’s being said about you. You can even do a reverse image search on your photos, and set up a Google Alert on your name;
If you don’t want people to impersonate you online, it might be worth creating stub accounts on each platform in order to own your namespace. And if you ever need to take a break from social media, don’t delete your account, lest someone come along and use your old handle against you;
Tailor the security settings for each social media platform you use, and use its features to your advantage. Report any abuse you get to the platform;
If you are receiving directly threatening online harassment, report it to law enforcement.
As Sara says in the video, it’s important to have the confidence to recognise problems as quickly as possible so that you can speak out against abusers, document their abuse and report them. It’s also important to remember that if someone harasses or threatens you online, it’s not you that is in the wrong. Feminist Frequency highlight the importance of self-care when considering your response to online harassment:
Regardless of what you choose to do about your harassers, also consider what comforts you most when you’re upset, angry or triggered, and do the best you can to plan for it… You’re going to have feelings. It’s ok to honor them rather than deny them. Whatever you can do to give yourself space to have them and take care of them will make you more resilient in the long run.
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