As a marketing student, when I post anything on Instagram, some thought does go into the hashtags I use to maximise the post’s reach. My profile is also public because I often enter competitions that brands run. However, when one post went viral and a troll commented on my post, I had no idea the effect it would have. They really picked the wrong person to target!
On my Instagram (@amy_c_evans) I by no means hide my disability, with full-length shots of me in my wheelchair often featuring. It’s a part of who I am, and my wheelchair is how I get around, so I’m not going to strategically take photos in order to hide this. I also just post things that interest me and what I’m up to in life, which to be honest is basically just me at the races, with a side of fashion. Either you like it, or you don’t, it doesn’t bother me. While I do appreciate it when you “like” a photo, I never see it as a reflection on me and this healthy self-esteem has definitely gotten me through this situation.
This year Fashions on Your Front Lawn was a big thing and this year I got serious about FOTF. Seeing everyone’s lovely outfits is part of the fun, so of course, I was going to post mine for everyone to enjoy as well. My first outfit I posted reached quite a number of people through hashtags, so I decided to use a few of them again in my second entry, but added a few new ones because Instagram doesn’t seem to like it when you just use the same ones. This particular outfit I’d also entered in at Northam FOTF that day. Unfortunately, I didn’t get into the top ten, but I’ve quickly learnt that FOTF is a subjective sport, so I just moved on. Plus, Mum and I loved the outfit and that’s all that really matters at the end of the day. As I had entered at Northam, I added a video of me driving beside the catwalk to this post. With the photos and video posted, I headed to bed.
I woke up that morning with lots of likes and comments, all positive saying that they loved the outfit. For some reason, Instagram had decided to show my posts to numerous people through the hashtags. How the algorithm works I still don’t know, but this was quickly becoming my most viral post. I think within 24 hours it had reached over 5,000 people through hashtags. What I didn’t expect to come with so many views was the hate!
That night I received my first comment from a troll. For the record, it was only one person who trolled me, but it wasn’t nice, nevertheless. They commented twice and it was along the lines of why were people clapping for me on stage and that I looked like piranha plant (which yes I had to Google and turns out it’s that plant from Mario games with the teeth). My first reaction was to screenshot it and send it to a few selected friends. I joked that I had made it on Instagram because I’d gotten a hater. I’d seen these types of people go after big disability influencers like Tess Daly before too, so I really didn’t think anything about it. It wasn’t until one friend got really upset that I could see that the comment was actually quite hateful.
The comments made were aimed at my disability, which is probably why they thought I was such an easy target, a young disabled female with low self-esteem. However, my disability in a sense was why I never really took offence to the comments initially. I know that I look different and that some do a double take when they see me. Yes, there are things about my body that I’d love to change, but doesn’t everyone? Sure my teeth stick and my mouth hangs open (which is what this particular troll pointed out) but I’m not spending thousands on surgery (which might not even work) just for looks. My health and ability to move/function beats aesthetics any day of the week. Luckily for me (unlucky for the troll) I do have a healthy self-esteem, but I know that some others don’t and comments like this could really hurt them. That’s why I decided to make an example of this troll.
After screenshotting the comments, deleting them and blocking the account (which to this day I’m still unsure if it was a real account or not), I posted the next morning on my stories saying that this behaviour wouldn’t be tolerated on my account. One thing you will notice is that I blurred out their name in the story. I did get asked a few times why I didn’t name and shame them. The simple answer is that these types of people want to get a rise out of others, therefore, by removing their name (and deleting their comments), I was essentially removing the power and attention that they were so desperately craving. This story made an example of this troll and then some!
After posting the story I really didn’t think much about it, but boy did things blow up! I don’t think I’ve ever received so many messages and phone calls in my life. People couldn’t believe that someone would say this about me and everyone was checking in to make sure I was ok, which I was. It did mean a lot to know that so many people cared though. To be honest, the troll probably would have hated it and I was slightly disappointed that they didn’t get to see it. The messages of support did make me realise that people shouldn’t be saying things like that to me and that perhaps I need to think of myself more highly instead of just brushing it off, but they also confirmed that I had handled the situation in the most appropriate way I could.
Since then I haven’t received a single comment from a troll, though my posts haven’t done nearly as well as that one. However, successful posts or a “famous” account shouldn’t mean that you have to put up with that sort of behaviour, no one should. So, the moral of this story, remember the old saying “if you don’t have something nice to say then don’t say anything at all” (unless it’s constructive criticism that’s been asked) and if someone does say something mean on your account, block and delete them! No one should be a target for trolls and the troll in this instance quickly learnt that I sure wasn’t!