21 February 2014

On being afraid to blog.


Back in December, amidst the Reddit stuff, I was getting my boyfriend to moderate my blog comments because a few nasties were coming over - readers from the mainstream media I guess. I saw comments saying I'm seeking attention through telling my story, that I am faking Ichthyosis, and that I'm ugly and I should kill myself. Not nice. And then he took the blows for me, being my virtual shield and deleting the comments he didn't want me to see.

There was one comment that I happened to see - thinking I was brave enough to deal at that stage. I let it through, because really, it was a reflection on them and not me. It was from 'Sandy':

"Here's something negative, but not what you expect. There's more to Carly than ichthyosis - but not much more. Take that away and she is one of the most simple-minded and boring people you are ever likely to meet, she is prone to weird obsession (Darren Hayes, Bob Evans) and talks almost exclusively about ichthyosis, because it's all she has going for her, she is literally one-dimensional. If she didn't have that, and you met her, you would just keep on walking, she is the cardboard of people. She whores herself to the media, but she is in fact incredibly dull and incredibly boring. I know her personally, I know what I'm talking about. This has just given her the fuel she needs to crap on about it for the rest of her life!!! A crusade nobody asked for."

I tend to remember the hurtful comments far more than the thousands of lovely ones I've received. Stupid of me, really. The hatred from some anonymous comments sting, but words from some one who supposedly knows me seemed to cut deeper. It's weird hey? There has been people I know who tell me, face to face, they don't understand blogging, they don't understand the need for me to put my life out there. I've had performance appraisals in my day job. But a comment like this isn't like that. It's a judgement on personality - a comment on perceived blandness. Is blandness the trait we're most afraid of exhibiting?

I was wracking my brain to figure out who Sandy night be. I know a few Sandys in person, and I know they wouldn't waste their time leaving that comment. I figured Sandy is probably someone I met briefly at an event who caught me talking about what I'm passionate about, or who has summed me up from what I've spoken about on social media alone. The comment bugged me for a while - leaving me feeling a bit paranoid and worried that I just don't know enough. Maybe I am a bore? I jokingly replied that maybe I should be watching more quiz shows so I've got more than singers and Ichthyosis to talk about.

And then I told myself: Sandy's words and opinion should not matter, especially if they do know me and were not brave enough to say it to my face. And not everyone is going to like me or find me as interesting as I hope I am. Maybe I do piss people off for talking about what I'm passionate about. That's ok. And if Sandy and I do know each other in person, we probably aren't friends.

I met my lovely new friend Charlotte Lea who blogs at The Good Girl Confessional for dinner last month. She and I talked as much as each other - about blogging, disability, navigating airlines' special needs departments, love and why women tear other women down - especially when the ones being torn down are confident and happy. Charlotte wrote a post about that very topic. She has also received an email similar to the comment I received, from a person who claimed to know her, bringing down her happiness about being in love, plus a comment calling her a slut because she writes about sex over 40. She said, like me, that these sorts of personal attacks shocked her more than other blog comments she's received.

Charlotte said to me: "I've had nasty comments as you know from people who apparently know me. I can deal with differing opinions and it's quite healthy, but to read comments that are nasty, or threatening - it's quite disturbing. I do believe that it says much more about those commenting than about us! I think social media has created an amazing avenue for all to voice opinions and that's great. It does however allow people to hide behind computers while they espouse poisonous sentiments. Not liking my work is one thing. Calling names isn't called for nor is it necessary. I think interesting conversations and ethical debate is much more dignified!"

Charlotte is right - social media is an enabler of anonymous poison. Even now I hesitate to moderate my comments, as I still receive a lot of traffic from Reddit. I wonder what may be lurking there.

And it's probably obvious that aside from being extremely busy planning my trip, working my day job and on other writing and speaking pursuits, and in love, I've been rather absent from regular blogging this year. I'm shaken - from Reddit and from the comments that came after. This is different to the performance anxiety I sometimes feel before writing. It's not worrying that I won't be good enough - it's worrying what will be done with my picture?

Nothing I write here is as protected as I once felt it was. It all changed when I saw my image dissected on the dungeon of the Internet, and then a week later my words made fun of. I have a backlog of appearance diversity and ichthyosis awareness posts to edit and publish, but I have not wanted to in case the subjects' appearances are ridiculed like mine was. I have media requests I've not responded to and I've been overwhelmed by the hundreds of people who sent lovely messages - I want to reply to thank each of you soon, I really do, but it still feels a bit too raw. Sometimes it feels safer to share an anecdote or funny picture meme on my Facebook page. In all honesty, I've been afraid to blog.

I'm doing ok though.

I've thought a lot about self advocacy online since Reddit, the positive and negative aspects of being an online writer, and the idea of "you put yourself out there so expect criticism". I don't buy that. While I expect healthy debate to happen when opinions differ, and I know not everyone will like you (or me), online writers shouldn't bear the brunt of someone else's issues - be it misogyny, racism, ableism, jealousy or pure nastiness. I have many friends who write online, some who write about important issues, others who write just to entertain, and I've seen all of this behaviour targeted at them - some frighteningly extreme. And quite often the online outrage about an issue is disproportionate to the issue itself. Strong opinions, no matter how polarising, should not be a reason for rape or death threats.

There's bravery in being vulnerable online, in writing your opinion for the world to see and even sharing your photos. Writing online is no longer separate to real life - and there's a firm reminder of that when people who claim to know you in your real life come to rattle your bloggy windows. There's a happier reminder that life online is real life when you meet the wonderful friends you've made through blogging - just as I have.

And so, I will do my best to focus on the many, many positive comments that outweigh the very few negative ones.

I will continue to reaffirm that most new readers only know me from 500 words and a picture, so who are they to weigh me up?

I'll remind myself that I wont be everyone's cup of tea but I will be some people's shot of whiskey.

And I will try not to be so afraid of writing here anymore. I want to be back blogging more regularly.

Blogging is something I'm committed to and spent countless hours doing. More so, sharing my story and my photos to break down the stigma, fear and hate that I was on the receiving end is the very reason I blog. I love it and I won't let 'Sandy' and a few other anons knock me down.



  1. It's the ugly flip side of not just blogging, but LIFE, right? People LOVE to take others down a peg. For many it's MUCH more dramatic and conspiratorial and interesting (comforting? less challenging?) to talk shit/gossip than to discuss people's successes/happiness.

    Discussing the achievements or joy of others tends to make us assess our own lives - and that can be tricky if you're not where you want to be or you're having issues with others.

    Someone like this obviously has some crap going on in their own life - and seeing others getting attention or pushing through to good things is painful for them. They need a hug. Poor Sandy.

    Sandy, maybe you need a cup of tea and biscuit with Carly - I reckon she'd provide some insight and inspiration and help snap you out of your fug. She does that for me.

  2. I saw that comment too, Carly - and I thought that is NOT a friend, or if she is someone who pays lip service to being a friend, what a nasty, insidious little troll she is - and how horrible to imagine she might be anyone you know. Aren't they horrible little maggots of life?

    I am quite lucky to be well beneath their radar and have huge respect for you on not letting the white ants of online society from eroding your will to do the most amazing stuff that you ARE doing.

    Sitting here wishing that the internet could send some teflon coating and perhaps the Borax of the Internet Troll that they could take back to their little nests and cause them all to lose traction.

  3. I've been reading your blog on and off for a few years, but really started in the past year or so. I've always thought you were quite a bubbly personality and that you have an interesting life and you enjoy life. Unlike some of the women I know online, you seem as though you like being a woman. It's kind of understandable that you talk about ichthyosis, because it takes up an awful lot of your time -- I recall reading one lady with ME who had a blog, and she warned anyone who approached her and suggested becoming friends that her life is totally dominated by her illness (she was bedridden) and that it would be a very significant topic of conversation. You talk about food, about travel, about dating (well, probably you'll be talking less about that now), and yeah -- about your celebrity crushes. Lots of girls (normally younger than you, though!) talk about those.

    A few years ago, I saw a quite disturbing post on someone else's blog by someone who claimed to know be and to have taught at the school I used to go to, and gave completely inaccurate information about my condition so as to discredit me. I thought he was lying about who he was and that he was an ex-pupil, but after scratching my head a bit trying to work out who he was, I just forgot about it.

  4. You know what I bet Sandy isn't? Successful. Jealousy can be ugly.

    I honestly don't know how you do it sometimes. But you do. That speaks volumes about the kind of brave and strong person you are. Glad we'll be hearing from you more.

  5. Well written Carly.
    Glad to see you back doing what you are good at & love to do.
    Don't let the odd negative comments from people who have issues of their own that they can't face get you down.
    You are an inspiration! :)

  6. Well written Carly!
    It' s great to see you back on-line.
    It's sad that a few negative comments from cowardly people who don't know what they are talking about has caused you such pain.
    You are doing the right thing by getting back into your blogging again....you love it & do it so well.
    Keep up the great work...you really are an inspiration to us all :)

  7. Oh Carly, what a bugger to deal with losers like that. Do you know what, I love reading your blog, I love your tweets about food and I love reading about your experiences and you have a great eye for fashion so "Sandy" must have you confused with someone else and doesn't actually read your blog or listen to anything you say.I bet she's boring and the only way she can distinguish herself is by trying to denigrate others and riding on their coat tails at the same time. She needs a good counsellor I think to help her with her shithouse self esteem.
    In the meantime I have a bub who is obsessed with you and when she goes near the computer or phones calls for you! Keep being the multifaceted you and remember that critics like that are pretty one dimensional losers with nothing else to offer.

  8. Wow Carly, I'm glad you can be so philosophical about a garden-variety be-atch like that...it would just infuriate me that there are such awful, mean-spirited, jealous people walking amongst us! It's obvious to the people (like myself) who follow your blog that you are so much more than ichthyosis. I also completely agree with you that there is incredible bravery in showing your vulnerability. Just keep doing what you are doing and don't let the bastards get you down! xxx

  9. Love your work, Carly - hang in there!

  10. Hi Carly, I know what you mean when you say you can't help but be bugged by these trolls.
    I wrote a light hearted story a few years ago, and someone I had met briefly 10 years ago tweeted to say what a horrible person I was, and what I'd written was rubbish. Unlike your troll, she actually left her real first name, and enough details about how we met so I could figure out who she was. I actually was going to ring her and have a chat, but I decided it wasn't worth it. It's true what the others say here -- slagging someone on Twitter is cowardly, and it strongly reflects back on what sort of person they are. If they have to criticise someone in a hateful and irrational way in public, then they have some serious psychological issues they need to sort out. My troll must live a very sad life so in a way I feel sorry for her. But we aren't every going to be friends.

  11. Hi, I sought our your blog after reading your article in The Guardian. I'm looking forward to reading the archives.

    Reading the nasty comment from your post, I am left to wonder what makes a person interesting to "Sandy"? Being nasty anonymously on the internet? Doing pointlessly stupid shit for its narrative potential at the water cooler? The Kardashians? Having insufficient emotional control that another person's success and confidence eats them up? Apparently "interesting" it isn't having passion, unique insight or the wisdom and self-confidence to expose yourself to bullshit for a greater cause. If those things are boring, then I would choose boring any day of the week.


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