Want to know a secret? Something I haven’t told anybody – not my husband, or my mom, or my best friend?
Every time someone leaves a comment on my blog, I panic.
Let me explain: when someone leaves a comment on my blog, I get an email. I then have to go and approve said comment. When the email pops up, I don’t know who commented or what the comment says. Like a learned reaction, every time that email pops up, my stomach clenches and I panic and open the email quickly to see what it says. Sort of like ripping off a bandaid.
Recently, the comments have been amazing. Supportive. Informative. Curious. Polite.
They weren’t always like that.
A little over a year ago, I was informed that a former friend of mine was saying hurtful things about me, my husband and my friends. I flew off the handle and reacted in an aggressive and angry way. A few days later, I received my first comment of what could be considered “constructive hate.” I read it, I saw that it pointed out what a negative person I was and, as I believed the situation unrelated to the one I was currently going through, I deleted it and made a decision to be more conscious and aware of my behavior and the way I conducted myself.
I went on and a week later I received a second email, notifying me of a second comment.
“Pretty disappointed you deleted my last comment but it just goes to reiterate your complete lack of integrity and character…”
The commenter went on to point out the same flaws it had pointed out before, and told me I was a false feminist.
Again, I read the comment – shocked. It had been one week since I had gotten the first notification, and I had been trying to conduct myself in a more positive manner. I wondered – did this anonymous person know me? Did they see me trying to be better? Did they see me struggling with the knowledge that former friends were spreading lies and accusations about me?
They must not, I reckoned. They must be a stranger. They must have stumbled upon me randomly and are giving me advice.
Two months went on, I travelled and I worked on myself. One day, I posted a new blog about my experience in LA when I got a new comment.
“You’re the definition of a poseur...”
It hurt me. It was a stupid, minimal comment but it hurt me. If this person didn’t like me, or my blog, why were they checking on it so regularly? What were they accomplishing by leaving hate mail on my blog – other than making me second guess myself and feel untrusting of those around me.
My friends were over it. They set to work and within a week, through tracking IPs and social media they figured out who was sending me these comments. It was someone I had never met, who knew people who knew me years ago – ones I had not been on good terms with. I tweeted that I knew who they were – as all the comments seemed linked to every post I made on social media – figuring it would embarrass them, that it would stop them.
And then the final comment came in, almost immediately.
“I’m not ashamed of the things I said to you, only disappointed I haven’t had the opportunity to say them to your face…”
The final message went on. It spoke about my idiocy, my passive aggressiveness. It mocked my decision to attend graduate school online. These comments didn’t mock my appearance; they didn’t slander me. They were one person’s opinion of me that they gathered from the internet.
The hurt, fear and frustration that these series of comments set off sent me on a downward spiral. I stopped being able to process difficulties, I just wanted to give up. To me, it seemed as though people were out rightly hating me, they were out rightly voicing their opinions to others, and I had lost any energy to prove that I was a good person. I felt awful, I retreated to bed for days at a time. I screamed when things went wrong, I cried every day, often for no reason at all other than I was miserable.
Then one day, I stopped.
I didn’t want to cry anymore. I didn’t want to be afraid to share my life with people. I didn’t want to live in a bubble of negativity and fear. I didn’t want to let someone else’s words control my happiness.
I’ve spent 2016 trying to better myself. I try to be kinder, I try to be calmer, I try to not jump to conclusions and do things I regret. There are things I’ve done that embarrass me now, there are conversations I’ve had that were pointless, there were fights I had that were a worthless waste of energy for both parties.
In a way, I’ve got to be thankful for this terrible string of events. For this person’s open, unabashed hatred of me. I let it overpower me. I let it control me. I still get nervous, waiting for the day when a person comes to judge me and cut me down.
This experience taught me to focus on the good, and maybe – if you’ve been involved on either end of anonymous hate – it’ll inspire you to do the same. It’s so easy to hate, it’s easy to tease, it’s easy to be mean. It’s an entirely different struggle to be kind to everyone you come in contact with, to not waste your energy on pointless judgments and petty fights.
I’m better now then I have been in years. And I don’t need to prove it to anyone. I don’t need to retaliate against people who wronged me in the past, or those who don’t like me. Believe me, or don’t. What matters to me now is my health, my happiness and my relationships. I’ve got books to read, meals to cook and people to share glasses of wine with. I’m truly happy, and I hope you all are too.