Scary things happen in there.
I know it’s been a while, and I usually keep it light here, but I thought it was time to share my story of cyber-bullying in an attempt to bring light to a serious problem that I refuse to tolerate. I’ve always witnessed it from the sidelines and found it disgusting, but it didn’t affect me much – I mean, nobody was calling me names, so why get emotionally invested?
Things changed in August of this year. I met and subsequently started dating a wonderful guy who happens to be an actor with quite a bit of recognition in his country. He warned me from the get-go that many of his fans are female and could get aggressive. I laughed it off, but mentally prepared myself for the possibility that I’d gain some enemies simply for existing. I can’t say it hasn’t happened before.
What I was unprepared for, however, was how sneaky and cunning people can be. I befriended a woman who I mistakenly assumed to be a friend of my boyfriend’s. She seemed very nice, kind even. I really enjoyed talking to her, but then I got it – you know, the funny feeling in your stomach that things aren’t adding up. That’s when I started asking questions.
My first question was directed at my boyfriend, something to the effect of “how well do you actually know your friend?” Come to find out, that “friend” was a bit of a stretch. He thought she was a nice enough girl, but felt that, if anything, their relationship was of a professional nature as she just so happened to run fan accounts on Tumblr and Twitter that focused on his work. He had never met her and his only interactions with her had been on Twitter in the form of a few tweets here and there.
Around this time, the woman started dropping hints. They were very subtle at first…suggestions that perhaps she had romantic inclinations toward him…suggestions that maybe he felt the same way about her…but she felt like it hadn’t really taken off because he’s a shy, private person. He was afraid to give her his number because of this shyness and a fear that the number would somehow be hacked or leaked.
None of this matched up with the energetic, outgoing man I knew who had made a really bold move in order to gain my attention. I maintained a friendship with the woman regardless, because I didn’t think it was fair to completely cut off someone because you had a funny feeling about them.
I felt like I was fairly upfront about my relationship with my boyfriend. She asked a lot of questions about our status. I told her the truth. We liked each other very much, but we live in separate countries. She took this honesty as an opportunity to then ask my advice on how to get his attention. At first, I assumed she wanted a friendship with him. Surely you don’t ask a girl who is dating a guy who has also admitted to you that he’s interested in the girl in question advice on how to form a romantic relationship, right?
I’ve spent a lot of time going through those conversations in my mind. Had I not been clear? Beside that, it seems pretty shitty to me to talk to someone who had admitted to having a relationship with someone and then you yourself continually press on about how deep your feelings are about said man. I didn’t steal him from anyone. I didn’t even get to know the girl until AFTER he had started talking to me. I spent weeks and weeks in a state of confusion. Was this girl my friend? When I said that we were together, had I typoed and maybe said we were NOT together? Had my iPhone autocorrected “Yes, we’re in a relationship,” to “I was thinking he’s better off with you. Can I be a flower girl?”
Things really took a nosedive when one night I tweeted to a friend that I’d be going to London to see my boyfriend. Then the onslaught of texts. She seemed very confused. “Is he your boyfriend?” she asked accusingly. Yes, he was. I hadn’t hidden that from her, nor had he hidden his feelings about me from her. It was all so bizarre, like talking to someone with amnesia. That feeling in the pit of my stomach that things were not well at all. I was absolutely baffled and this woman was making me out like I had done something wrong. And then, just like that, she was back to her normal self. She was happy for us, all that fun stuff. It was then that I realized that there had only been one reason that she’d talked to me, and it was to get closer to him. I could see her struggle…she was trying to decide if it was better to hate me or better to keep in my confidence. It was a struggle that would continue until she finally exploded.
She built up to her explosion, quietly, methodically. It started by her making a fake account to tweet me about my boyfriend.
you are (name redacted)’s new gf? he’ll cheat on u just like he did with your look a like (ex-girlfriend’s name redacted) <link to ex-girlfriend’s website> …and others.
the press will be reporting about it all and you very soon. good luck. ta.
Those were some of the messages I woke up to one morning. They startled me. They didn’t hurt my feelings or offend me, they just shocked me and, to be honest, scared me a bit. Why did anyone care that much? WHO would care that much?
I immediately texted a screen cap to my boyfriend who left rehearsal to call and check on me. Was I okay? Yeah, I suppose. He had warned me that this might happen. He was very apologetic, which was unnecessary. Thankfully he calmed me down and that gave me the opportunity to think. There was something extra odd about the tweets. Seriously, who cares that much to harass me?
And the thing about the press…what was that all about? I stewed on it for an hour or so, and then these red flags popped up. I had told very few people about my relationship, mostly just close friends. And her. The “friend.” I told her about my relationship, and I had also told her something I had only also admitted to my best friend.
I was absolutely terrified about my personal information or my son’s personal information getting into the press. It was way too invasive, and despite my persona on Twitter, I’m a pretty private person. I understood that there was a possibility that would happen some day, but I wasn’t prepared for it at that moment. The relationship was young. I just wanted to enjoy it.
On a hunch, I texted the screencap to her and said, “Do you know anything about this?” What I meant by the question was that she had been following my boyfriend for years. Had she heard about it happening to other girlfriends? What was her take on it?
Instead of replying with, “I’ve never heard about that happening,” or, “That’s horrible!” she responded as though I’d accused her of 9/11. Her behavior was really suspicious. She was very cagey. I decided once and for all I was going to figure out what was going on. I messaged two friends who are very good at tracking internet related things, and they both came back with information that pointed very heavily in her direction. Throughout the day she continued to ask me if I had gotten the information back from my friends, as I’d told her I was going to find out who it was. These weren’t casual inquiries. They seemed frenzied. Slightly manic. Finally she flipped and went off on me about how she felt that I was accusing her of being this person and she had never been anything but nice to me. It depends on what your definition of friend is. She had never actually admitted to me that she ran fan accounts for my boyfriend. She had always maintained that they had some form of relationship, one which, confused, my boyfriend had denied.
She eventually apologized to me after I told her I wasn’t accusing her of anything. I never told her what the results were. She dropped the subject and wound up sending a number of manic direct messages to my boyfriend. Uncomfortable with her emotional badgering, he unfollowed her, effectively cutting off her ability to privately talk to him. She’d text me in a panic. Had he mistakenly unfollowed her? What was going on? Could I ask him? I avoided the topic, hoping it’d die off. It eventually did, but not for weeks. There was a period of quiet.
And then I went to London.
It took me a few days to realize what she was doing. She and I followed each other on Twitter, so I could see her tweets, but frankly I was just happy to be in London, so I didn’t pay much attention. Then one night, as we were on our way to his play, I took a moment to scan my feed, and there it was. A tweet that, after a moment, I realized was directed toward me. And there were others. So many more. Here’s a sampling:
“Watching someone live my dream they stole makes me want to vomit. Such bullshit. I can’t wait for the crash and burn.”
“Ladies, some advice, never tell another female about a guy you like. Unless you’ve got good health insurance for back and heart stab wounds.”
“Just because you constantly share and brag about your wonderful life and experiences doesn’t mean you still aren’t a huge cunt.”
And my personal favorite…
“Being a shitty person and a shitty parent go hand in hand. In your case you’re also an opportunist whore. Congrats on the accomplishment.”
I would like to remind you that this woman never met my boyfriend. She only knows him as a character on television. To say that I stole anything is a bit of a reach.
Regardless, baffled as to what to do, we chose to ignore it. It continued relentlessly with it eventually tapering off when I left London.
The weekend after I got back, on my dad’s 71st birthday, I got a series of tweets about how I should “go kill myself,” and about how I was “such a huge slut.” I can’t confirm that these were from her as the account was deleted before I could even access the tweets, but it seemed to match up.
A while back, when things had started getting hairy, she had created a fake account to tweet my boyfriend. It was very innocent stuff, but she was trying to get him to talk about her, and he and I decided to ignore it. Still though, I knew it something was up and had it traced. Sure enough, it was coming from the same place as the ones directed to me about the press had been. As it was all fairly silly, we forgot about it.
Flash forward to last Thursday. One of my friends had been passively monitoring the situation for me, and he messaged me to alert me to the fact that an account had tweeted to both my boyfriend and a charity he’s heavily involved with that “your gf is vile. terrible taste. She makes fun of mental illness & disabilities classy. & you’re an ambassador for (charity name redacted.)
Let me just step in here and make something very clear. I have never, nor would I ever make fun of someone with a mental illness or a disability. When I was 16 I was a lifeguard at a cub scout camp where I also taught swim lessons. As I guarded the smallest pool, very often my students would have disabilities. Down’s Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, you name it. Those kids were the most amazing, loving, brilliant children I’ve ever had the honor to meet. As for mental illness, I’ve suffered from depression on multiple occasions throughout my life. I use humor to get through those times. I would never make fun of or mock someone who feels alone, dark, miserable. I’ve been there. Nobody deserves that.
This was the final straw, to be cliché. There were more subtweets from her. A local reporter posted a video of me doing an interview about my mother who I walked a charity runway for in her memory. She clearly watched it and vehemently declared that I’m both a “shitty person” and “sound like a bimbo.” Shortly after posting about going to a concert to raise awareness for cancer she made a cryptic comment that “Fingers crossed your misfortune is genetic and passed on to the next generation. I’m starting a prayer group.”
Out of context, it makes no sense, but let me interpret this for you. What she’s saying is that she hopes my misfortune (my mother dying of cancer) is passed on to the next generation. That’ll be me. That’ll also be my son. She wants us all to die of cancer.
You know what else is like cancer? Hate. Hate is a powerful feeling, and it’ll eat away at you. I’ve hated people before. It didn’t make me any happier. In fact, I think it made me worse. I don’t feel as though I hate people anymore. I woke up one day and decided I didn’t like the negativity of it. I dislike people, absolutely, but hate is something I can’t subscribe to. I can’t even hate this woman who has lied to me, harassed me, maligned me, and gone out of her way to make me miserable.
This post isn’t going to stop people from attacking other people online. This post doesn’t change the fact that a tiny part of me wonders if she’s ever going to act out on her blatant hatred of me. Am I scared? Yes, quite frankly I am. She lives just a couple hours from me. There’s a high likelihood that she knows where I live. Do I actually think she’s going to show up at my door step and do something to me? Not really. But there will always be that fear in the back of my mind, and I’ve lost sleep over it.
What this post does, I hope, is shed some light on the scary side of the internet. I hope this says to anyone who’s been attacked or bullied online that you’re not alone. Don’t back down! Protect yourself as best as you can. Follow your instinct. And know that while the words can hurt, while the fear can keep you up at night, the person or people attacking you are not a representation of the world we live in.
Nobody deserves to be treated this way, yet they are every day. It probably won’t end, but we’re under no obligation to tolerate it.
When you feel like you can’t take it anymore, the harassment, the vitriol, take a good look around you. I’d be willing to bet there’s something or someone amazing in your life that reminds you that there is still some humanity lingering.
And if you need a friend, I’ll be your friend. As long as you don’t lie to me. Or make a fake account to harass me. Or publicly mention how you hope I die.
Just don’t do those things and we’ll get along just fine.