I’ve been in the public eye for approximately 8 years. Granted less so than I was a few years ago, but nevertheless I have a public profile. I’m also active on social media.
I have been mostly lucky in the sense that I very rarely encounter the kind of online comments and harassment that Julia Hardy for example, details on her blog Misogyny Monday (which by the way is quite hilarious). I was in the rather horrible situation a few years ago where I had an online stalker, which is actually incredibly scary, but on the whole I rarely encounter the kind of subtle “nice guy” misogyny that so many other women who are in the public eye fend off on a daily basis.
Let’s take a quick step back and let me explain the background. I had a public Facebook profile that reached its maximum friend limit and when that was full I created a fan page. I also have another Facebook profile that is reserved only for people I know or who I’m connected to via work. I do interact regularly with my fan page and generally am very open to answering questions and chatting about gaming related topics. My public profile is deactivated for the moment because it was becoming too much admin but I still utilise my fan page regularly.
I often get a short conversation along the lines of, “Hi, I’m a big fan, are they bringing back The Verge any time soon?”
Bear in mind that I have a full time job, I freelance for a number of publications and I have a husband and two kids, so free time is something that I have very little of. Nevertheless I try to make time to respond to messages because, well it’s the nice thing to do.
A few months ago a guy sent me a message on Facebook – ostensibly to chat. This is pretty normal. I often get a short conversation along the lines of, “Hi, I’m a big fan, are they bringing back The Verge any time soon?” Most of the time the conversation lasts a day or two at most until eventually life gets in the way and they run out of things to ask. Again, completely normal and let’s be honest, it’s to be expected when you’re talking to someone you don’t actually know. I’ll come back to that.
The conversation started off in much the same manner as most of these things, but after a couple of days of polite conversation about games and the usual topics, he began getting offended if I didn’t respond immediately because I was “ignoring” him.
I reminded him that I try and respond when I can but I don’t have a great deal of time and he apologised.
He then began asking me personal questions about not only myself, but my family that if I refused to answer, suddenly I was “easily offended”.
I don’t know why I didn’t just block him immediately
He started asking me things like “what are you wearing” and when I told him that was inappropriate, he responded by telling me “it was an innocent question and I was taking it out of context” (how else can you take that unless you’re having a conversation about fashion?). He then said that he had told me he had a crush on me and why was I being so difficult? Uh, because I’m sure I was supposed to be flattered by your interest? The fact that I had very early made it clear that there were ground rules because I realised that he needed to be told this, seemed completely irrelevant to him.
I don’t know why I didn’t just block him immediately – I guess I just thought he would lose interest and go away, but he didn’t and he kept on sending message after message after message, whether I responded or not, and they fluctuated between “I’m so sorry”, and abuse. It was one particular message that went from those two emotions in a matter of minutes that I eventually told him “I’m blocking you now” and that’s exactly what I did.
The point of this story? I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m not looking for people to tell me, “you should have blocked him earlier” – of course I realise this now. I’m not looking for anyone to tell me how the situation should have been handled differently.
I’m here to say that no-one, regardless of whether or not they’re in the public arena, owes you shit.
They do not have to tell you the details of their relationship.
They do not have to tell you how much they earn.
They do not have to engage in conversation with you at all actually, and most people do it because they’re being nice. On the whole, people are just people regardless of what they do for a living. If you can see that I’ve read a message but haven’t responded have you ever stopped to consider that either I’m ignoring you because you’ve been weird and you’re making me feel uncomfortable OR I’m actually busy and I don’t have time to engage in conversation with you right now. If the latter is the case, generally I’ll respond when I am able.
I say it again – you are not entitled to anything from anyone but particularly from a person THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW!
Because you might think you know us – you see us online, you see us express opinions on things, we engage in conversation and suddenly you think we’re friends.
With the rise of social media came the blurring of the lines between public and private
Because the reality is that most of the time we’ve never even met you, and while I might be “friendly” with people that work in the same industry as me, or people I interact with online, that does not equate to us being friends. We’re colleagues or acquaintances, and I am under no obligation to provide you with any personal information whatsoever.
I know that most of the people who will read this do not fall into this category – of course I’m aware of that, but the reality is that with the rise of social media came the blurring of the lines between public and private. The loss of distinction between friends in real life and “friends” on social media.
And sure it might sound harsh, but again I say, nobody owes you shit.