After discussing the incredibly sad death of Charlotte Dawson with friends and family, there were varied views on how significant a role internet trolls played in her life – and state of mind. Now I am not one to speculate any reasoning behind her passing – the only Charlotte Dawson I knew was the one I followed on twitter and saw on the telly – but I think its important to discuss the power of words.
“Why would anyone care what faceless trolls say over the internet?”
Its so easy to ask this. Technically, its illogical, right? To allow complete strangers – albeit gutless, putrid human beings – the ability to tamper with your emotions. To allow them access to your heart. But it happens and its one of the reasons the internet can be an ugly place.
As most that read my blog know, my husband plays football professionally. He’s on TV each week and he’s occasionally in the media. Like all professional athletes he gets praised when he plays well, and gets crucified when he doesn’t. Part of the parcel and all that.
After one particularly unmemorable game a few months ago, he was vilified on social media. I saw it all. Here was my husband – who I see train his arse off through blood sweat and tears every day – getting attacked and I had to see it?
It was horrendous. And it took a lot of self-reasoning not to take the majority of it personally. Because he is my husband and I love him. And its never nice to see those you love publicly humiliated.
Most of the criticism directed at him was unwarranted in the end. It became less about his ability as a player and more about who could take the piss out of him the best. He was “stealing” his income. He couldn’t play in the “Under 5′s”. Most people started cracking jokes at his expense just to make each other laugh. Some actually made things up. And most of them didn’t have a face or a real name. Typical.
Thankfully, he’s not on Social Media and he is oblivious to most of it.
And every player cops it. Every athlete regardless of their ability has their haters. Some fans unfortunately think its their right to verbally abuse or ridicule someone that gets paid to play a sport. But let me tell you first hand: its not all sunshine and lollypops, this playing gig. Its a job, too. And its challenging. And its mentally draining.
And I hope you don’t get fired or called useless at your job after a bad day at the office.
In no way am I comparing the short-lived ridicule my husband endured to the persistent, large-scale vitriol directed at Charlotte, but the point remains the same. Words cut.
The stuff that was spewed about my husband was nothing compared to what Charlotte Dawson experienced. She was told repeatedly to kill herself; her inability to have children was joked about (because that shit is just HILARIOUS); her appearance was constantly attacked. And there was worse, much, much worse.
If I can be affected by the words of a stranger, to what extent can they affect someone suffering from mental illness?
I would love to be in the mind of a troll for one day. Because I really don’t understand. I don’t understand how people can sleep at night knowing they have directed so much hate at people they don’t know personally.
Its easy to say feel sorry for the trolls. They come from a place of insecurity and hate and all that. But I find it difficult to feel sorry for them. Because the truth is, I just can’t, for the life of me, understand them. Part of me thinks there is just evil out there. And they’re it.
We don’t know why Charlotte Dawson died.
And we will probably never know. Because we don’t know what was going on in her mind at the time. We know she was depressed. We know she battled with it. But we don’t know what the trigger was.
One thing is for sure – trolls aren’t the exact reason people die. Of course, its far more complex than that. But for those in a complete, debilitating place of sadness, words can be a trigger. They can be a push.
Be careful with every word you utter. Anonymous or otherwise. Because you never do know their power.