I shared earlier this week that my thoughts on 40+ dating were featured in The Sun. Visits to my website went mad and I was thrilled. It’s not exactly the New York Times, but it’s all very positive.
The comments from Sun readers, on the other hand, were a bit tricky. There were some real charmers. Benjamin said that as perfectly lovely as he was sure myself and the other women featured were, we 'looked like grandmas' 👵. Scott said that we had wasted our lives and were now only good for sex. Someone else said that we were neither fertile nor beautiful and should have stayed married because we were now useless for anything apart from practice dates. Cheers lads.
The comments didn't bother me a jot (although I know they would have a year or two ago), but they did make me wonder about the people sitting behind the nastiness so easily shared on this huge platform. Were they themselves married? Were they this horrible to their partners and children? Highly unlikely I hope; it's more likley that given anonymity and any sort of platform, and out came years of pent up bitterness and frustration. It might be healthier for people to take up some sort of martial arts training instead...
I'm fascinated by how some people may be perfectly pleasant in person but feel ok about being nasty to others - or engaging in bigoted and sometimes disturbing, content - when they're online. But surely our online and real life behaviours are the same thing? Putting it bluntly, if you limit being an arsehole to an online forum, you'll still be an arsehole.
As a 40+ woman, I’m often bemused by social media, but my microscopic experience of online negativity is nothing compared to people who have any sort of profile. Can you imagine reading stuff like that - and far worse - all day every day and just being expected to brush it off? Which brings me to another topic I’m bemused by: influencer culture (my teenager has advised me not to become a ‘drama blogger’ but I’ll chance my arm).
Khloe Kardashian has been a hot topic this week for unwittingly sharing – horror of horrors! – an undoctored photo of herself. I really feel for Khloe – she’s had a lifetime of nasty, anonymous comments about her height, her weight, her parentage and her general worth as a person. But part of her response to the online bullying and other challenges has been to mould herself (literally) into her sisters, and in doing so, she’s just added to the damage social media is doing to impressionable people.
You can’t ‘explain’ a teenager into having better self-esteem. They soak these messages up, often subconsciously, and the damage is done.
I'm taking bullies out of the equation here for obvious reasons, but most people’s negative response to Khloe’s bikini pic (which incidentally is lovely, but what do I know) isn’t because they’ve seen her real body – it’s because they’re absolutely sick of what she and her sisters stand for. These women have ballooned their already considerable wealth by insidiously poking and prodding at the insecurities of a whole generation. I know that it’s up to each individual to make their own decisions, but what about people who are young and impressionable? Although you can give teenagers love and support, you can’t ‘explain’ them into having better self-esteem. And try as hard as you want, you can't keep them off of social media either. They soak these messages up, often subconsciously, and the damage is done.
By relentlessly flaunting their heavily filtered faces and bodies and their excessive lifestyles, they have created inadequacy on a global scale and left a section of our society thinking the only way to look attractive is to punish their bodies into looking like a cartoon, and the only way to travel is on a private jet. In promoting teas that make us shit ourselves thin, skinny lollies, clothes that would only fit surgically enhanced bodies and an array of other tat, they have normalised an unhealthy and punitive approach to self-image. And what’s worse, they won’t even admit to the work they’ve so obviously had done, or the work that so clearly goes into editing their photos. That doesn’t feel right, and I think people want someone, somewhere to take some sort of ownership and accountability for the toxic influence this culture is having. Some sort of marker to show when a photo has been enhanced would be a good start, but a basic level of conscience to underpin the whole thing would be even better.
Khloe had a real moment this week to use her platform for good, even just taking the conversation in a different direction might have been a start, but instead she went straight back onto Instagram in her underwear and dodged the real issue.
All of that said, constructive criticism and feedback is one thing - vile comments are a separate thing altogether. I don’t think anyone is equipped to deal with that, and I don't think anyone should be expected to either.
Regardless of whether they have arse implants or a private jet.