The dark side of the online life

I read something that really disturbed and upset me last night.  It was a blog post by a food blogger I really admire, Shauna James Ahern, better known as Gluten Free Girl.  Diagnosed as suffering from celiac disease, she has to live gluten free.  This is completely different to the “I’m gluten intolerant” brigade, she is actually allergic to it and even small amounts of gluten can make her really quite ill, actually damaging her small intestine.  But what Shauna has done is turn something that many would see as a disability or an impediment to normal life and used her talents as a writer to publicise her gluten-free life and become a best selling author (the cookbook she wrote with her chef husband, Danny, was named by the New York Times as among the best cookbooks of 2010).

I admire the way Shauna lives her life.  She is unapologetic about her gluten-free stance (as she should be, this is not optional for her) and I was truely horrified to read her most recent post.  Titled simply “warm brown rice and grilled vegetable salad” I was expecting a salad recipe and some of Shauna’s normal wonderful prose, perhaps about her recent flying trip to New Orleans to attend the International Food Bloggers Conference where she was a guest speaker.  What she wrote about was her trip but also about some of the things she and her husband experience on a regular basis as a consequence of their life online.

Shauna is the victim (although I hate that word) of what are known in the online community as “trolls”.  Trolls are hard to explain but they are the people who, seemingly for the sheer pleasure of being evil to people, post horrible, vile comments to bloggers.  I’m lucky to have avoided them to date (a blog with 14 posts doesn’t really attract trolls) but it is something that I am prepared for.  But when you are being called fat and ugly, your husband is being called retarded and that these trolls hope paedophiles get your children, you start to question, is it worth it and who are these people?

This is something Shauna faces everyday both on Twitter and through her e-mail account associated with her blog and these comments, and worse, are from this blog post I mentioned and I’m still in shock that people could actually say these things.  As a general rule I believe that people are inherently good although I’m beginning to think I might be wrong in this assumption.  Between this and the recent rioting and destruction that occurred in both London and Birmingham, a lot of which seemed to be due to no other reason than they could, there seems to be a lot more darkness in the current population than I can fathom.

That’s not to say there aren’t moments that restore my faith in humanity.  When my Dad lost his wallet in the States a couple of years back, he cancelled the cards and wrote off the cash as lost but some weeks after he returned to the UK he received an e-mail from a woman in the town where he had left his wallet.  She had traced him through his golf membership card, contacting the golf club who sent her his e-mail address.  She sent the wallet back with the same amount of cash in as when he lost it less as my Dad had instructed, enough to cover the postage.  She even included the receipt.  She was also truely amazed when Dad sent her flowers to say thank you.  They exchange Christmas cards now.

But it is so difficult to reconcile the fact that we, as a species, are capable of such extremes of behaviour.  And unfortunately most of the time it is the bad that we remember the most.  So do you agree with me that people are inherently good or do you think that it is a bit more ambiguous than that?

Please feel free to leave your comments below.

Average Josephine x

6 thoughts on “The dark side of the online life

  1. I think on the whole, people are lovely. There are a few bad apples especially online. I think by posting a comment online, anonymously, people say things they’d never ever say to someone’s face so these ‘trolls’ are basically spiteful cowards. But don’t let the minority sway your overall opinion of people sweetpea x

    • I just get stuck on “how can you say that to another human being?” these people are definitely spiteful, cowardly excuses for human beings but to take it out on people in that manner is just unthinkable as far as I’m concerned. But it won’t stop me blogging or trusting people. Because if I do then they’ve won xxx

  2. There is more good in society than bad. The problem is the bad is often always reported and the good neglected as it does not give as good a story.

    During the riots there was no where near as much coverage of local people pulling together to ‘clean up’ their communities as was given to the rioters destroying them.

    Equally, people are more likely to put pen to paper, reply to a tweet, blog etc with negative comments because something has been posted that they disagree with compared to admiration, positive comments that they agree with. Something to do with the human psyche. That being said, these people you refer to are simply being vile!!

    • I do agree with you that I think that society is largely good hence why I say that I do believe people are intrinsically good rather than evil and I was really impressed by the communities that banded together to clean up their neighbourhoods. My problem is I just cannot understand the rioters perspective in the first place. The initial peaceful protest I can understand but it was hijacked by people who wanted to cause damage and steal. There was no purpose behind them, certainly not the riots in Birmingham at least.
      And I agree with you, you are much more likely to say something if you disasgree with something (I’m sure if I put something political up here you’d be the first comment disagreeing!) but as long as it’s relevant and adding to the discussion, I don’t have a problem. It’s just when it becomes abusive and bullying I don’t see the point. But as you say, some people are just vile!!
      Cheers Chris, come back soon x

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