In February of 2011 I made what I thought was an innocent comment on an acquaintance’s blog. Little did I know that this person was being attacked by an anonymous group/person who was targeting her supporters. What happened next sent me into a state of panic and anxiety for the next few months.
Suddenly my name was on the internet: apparently, my comment, which showed support of this person’s blog about women’s rights, had somehow outed me as a “whore”–according to these faceless people who knew nothing about me. And they didn’t need to know much, just my name. The rest they made up on their own. Apparently you could call me for a good time, with my contact info conveniently posted nearby. Also it told tall tales of how I paid for my semester abroad (“prostitution” apparently sounds more fun than “worked three minimum wage retail and food service jobs for a summer”) accompanied by my picture with meme-font over my face describing my affinity for French men’s, ahem, butts. I also was supposedly the founding member of a questionable club at my college that glorified sex acts that I’m sure no woman in her right mind would ever find enjoyable. I don’t remember the rest, I was too scared to Google myself, and truthfully, still am.
This “person” posted blog entries and posted to message boards about me and the other people (all women if I remember correctly–funny how you don’t hear this happening to guys too often) who had been unlucky enough to be targeted. Smeared my name across the internet and called me names. Took my vacation pictures and plastered them with a modern scarlet letter. Never had that Impact font, which before I’d only attributed to Lolcats, looked so menacing. And, unlike that saying about sticks and stones, it did hurt. And there was absolutely nothing I could do.* My course of action was to immediately delete everything: my blog that I had written in during all four years of college, my Twitter that I occasionally posted to for nearly as long, my Flickr account with my Europe pictures, and went into panic mode on my LinkedIn and Facebook and locked them down airtight, deleting any person I didn’t know 100%. I hid, and hoped the anonymous attackers would eventually leave me alone.
Eventually I knew I had to do something. I realized that although I was afraid of future employers, dates, or friends Googling me and seeing all that trash, I had taken everything positive about myself down off the internet in an attempt to hide. There was nothing to counter the false statements about my character. Every social media seminar I’ve attended says this: “People don’t care what OTHER people say on the internet about you, they care what YOU put on the internet about yourself.” So I began to open myself up again. Took baby steps to rebuild my reputation. Now you can find me on Facebook, on Twitter, and on my cooking blog.
This domain and personal blog was the final step. This blog post was the final step. This is my positive energy, here is where I can tell you exactly who I am, in my own words. I am finally washing my hands of this matter and putting it behind me. If it happens again, at least this is here now too.
I’m Ashley, and if you’re hoping to “call me for a good time” you’ve found the wrong place.** Please be on your way. Thank you.
*Despite clearly being harassment and libel, the general rule of thumb is that all content, regardless of how hateful and hurtful it is, is freedom of speech and cannot be acted upon without an official cease and desist letter. This is time consuming and often expensive and the reason why it’s so easy to harass people on the internet.
**Unless, of course by “good time” you mean noshing on tacos and watching reruns of The Office. In that case I’d totally be down.