Earlier on this year I wrote an article for Stylist about people who bitch on the internet, specifically those who attack celebrities. The response was huge and unexpected. I thought admitting to even noticing that people talk about me would get me criticised even more, but in fact, most people came forward telling me they thought consistently bitchy tweets were nothing short of bullying and off the tele or not, I have as much right to be hurt by it as anyone. I couldn’t agree more. Turned out, no one really likes a bitch.
Last Friday I was at Heathrow airport when an email came through to my phone. I read it and goosebumps began to pop up all over my arms. I passed the phone to my boyfriend and showed him the email. He nodded but didn’t understand the magnitude of what it said. For me it was huge – a defining moment. A moment that helped me understand that when people write to me to tell me how much they hate me, it isn’t actually about me at all, it is totally about them. Something that friends and supporters always tell you when they are trying to make you feel better, but something that is very hard to believe when it is you that is having tirades of personal attack lobbed at you by people you have never met.
The email was from a man, lets call him Mr P, and it was an apology.
I want to apologise for sending those stupid emails to you in the past Miss
Porter. I am truly SO sorry and of course you will never hear from me again.
Mr P used to email me regularly and leave nasty comments on my blog. He called me stupid, self-obsessed, narcissistic – the usual words hurled by angry people to their unsuspecting targets. The first time he got in touch I wasn’t bothered, small amounts of abuse is a bizarre but standard part of the job, but he kept coming back, and that is why he was damn right to apologise.
My reaction to his email wasn’t to attack him back however. I was really grateful he took the time to apologise to me, so I thanked him for that. Although I couldn’t help but ask what had spurred it on. Why now?
Turns out, Mr P is 65 and has just lost the love of his life, which – due to the help of his therapist – has made him revaluate himself and his actions. In a return email he told me how his personal upset, frustrations with his own life and his sadness made him bitter. He told me that writing abusive messages to celebrities relieved him a little. He was jealous, miserable and wanting to make other people who seemed happier than him suffer too. Again, this is what all my friends would have told me his problem was, almost to the letter, but until he told me himself I would never believe it.
I will be grateful to Mr P forever now. Not for calling me names in the first place, but for reminding me that people who attack other people are the ones with the problem. Otherwise, why the on earth would you do it? What decent, normal or happy person feels the need to put others down or make anyone feel like crap about themselves?
I don’t mind admitting that if ever I have had a bitch about someone (because hey, I am no angel) unless they have done something bad to me or someone I know it is usually because I am jealous of them. I might not realise that at the time but I don’t have to dig very deep to realise it is true. It could be to do with them having had something to do with my boyfriend in the past, or that I think they are more stylish than me, or more successful. Usually I bitch around the time of my period, or when I have put on a few pounds. Or when work is going badly or when I feel threatened by someone in the presence of my man. But whenever I do it is never really to do with them, it is just my insecurity screaming its ugly face off. However the leap from having a bit of a moan about someone to my mates in the midst of a grumpy fat day, to actually contacting that person and telling them they are shit is one kind of projecting my own issues onto other people that I just would never do.
I am not one of those people that doesn’t expect people to talk about me behind my back. Everyone does that, everyone does. I do it. I talk about people all the time and it isn’t always positive. I am not saying it is right but like I said, everyone does it. However, attacking people is just nasty, and it is no worse to run up to someone in the street and call them ugly or stupid than it is to email or to tweet them. Direct attacks at peoples looks, personalities and intelligence is just plain wrong. The Internet should be no different to the real world.
The thing is with Twitter is that everyone has a voice and everyone can shout it (or put it into CAPS). This blog really isn’t about saying that people can’t have an opinion, not at all in fact. People can not like my shows, people can not understand what I am about. People can find me unattractive and people can most certainly think I am not as clever as them, but why not just not follow me? Why not just not watch my shows? Don’t read my articles?? If you really hate me that much don’t put yourself through it, I don’t mind at all. What I mind is you following me, watching everything I do religiously then writing to me to tell me how hideous I am. Why bother?
Mr P isn’t the only one (far from it). Last week some arsehole (sorry, couldn’t think of a better word. Well actually I can, but my dad might read this) from Australia saw one of my shows and wrote to me to hurl abuse. On this particular day I wasn’t in the mood to take it. I just wasn’t. It wasn’t that I was in a bad mood, quite the opposite. I was in more of a ‘why should I take this?’ kind of mood. I wrote back and told him I would rather be me than him any day because he was just nasty, and then I told him quite bluntly that he should go fuck himself (sorry Dad). Not very graceful I know, but I just couldn’t be bothered to be sophisticated about it.
What happens next? He emails back saying sorry. And that is the weirdest thing in all of this. Pretty much everyone that I have ever challenged when they do this has eventually become friendly because they didn’t mean it in the first place. SO WHAT WAS THE POINT???
Mr P was obviously just looking for attention and to make himself feel better, but if he had just contacted me in a nice way he probably would have got a really nice email back that might have made him feel much better than he felt knowing he was being really cruel – actions that have clearly played on his conscience for nearly a year.
We live in a horrible world, but most people in it are not horrible. It just seems like the horrible people shout louder because they are the ones that feel they need to be heard. Call me a narcissist all you like, but I think we all know who should really take that title in all of this.
I don’t want to care about all this. I feel a little bit disappointed in myself every time I let someone’s horrible words effect me, but unfortunately they do. How can they not? I am on Twitter for laughs, that is it, I don’t use it for anything else. I haven’t been filming lately because I am concentrating on my writing and developing shows for next year. I am home alone all day and Twitter keeps me company and keeps me laughing. I absolutely love it. So when people use it as a way to attack me it can really put a pisser on my day. So if you are reading this and think I am annoying on Twitter just unfollow me. Do us both the favour. Please.
When Sheridan Smith lost her puppy a few weeks ago Twitter was amazing. It helped find her dog. The poor girl was an emotional wreck, and while most of us did all we could to support her there were a few that wrote abusive messages to her with the sole purpose of hurting her even more. When that happened I think quite a few of us decided to speak up about this. It isn’t acceptable and even though I am sure it will never stop, I think it is important for people to realise how cruel these jibes really are. When Mr P emailed me the first time I didn’t care. But then he carried on, he kept sending his emails and he persisted to tell me how hideous he thought I was. By email three it felt more personal. By email four I was starting to question myself. That wasn’t fair.
I think there is a resurgence happening. Most people seem bored of bitching as life is hard enough. The tabloids, reality TV, its all so mean spirited. Who really feels great about themselves after a day of telling people how shit they are? Check out any radio or TV personality who slags people off and see how badly they take it when people do the same to them. They can’t take it at all.
Imagine a day when everyone is just really nice. A day when you tell the people you admire why, and rather than tell people you hate them you just leave them alone and click ‘unfollow’?
Well, October 12th is officially Bing Pink Hearts Day and I am a huge supporter. My very dear friend Carrie Lloyd (@carriegracey) writes a gorgeous blog about treating people well and I love reading it. It is kind of exceptional in the way that it is a well-written piece of prose all about being nice a person. When I read it I think ‘wow, don’t read things like this very often’ – it makes me feel good. Check it out here