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Blogger | Tennessee

October 31, 2017

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity. Out of concern for the writer’s safety, their last name has been omitted.

As a blogger, what’s defined your online experiences?

As a blogger, I write on different topics: LGBTQIA, mental health, racial justice, and reproductive health and justice, especially when it comes to abortion access. Sometimes I’ll queue up what I wrote on social media so that people can read it. That’s where I get the most attacks. Sometimes people find my blogs, but the primary [harassers] are on Twitter and Facebook. Actual calls to violence come to me on Twitter.

Is the harassment you’ve experienced related more directly to what you write about or to your identity?

I think a majority of [online harassers] would not come after me if I were not a Black woman. For whatever reason, almost every demographic at one time or the other comes after black women. I think that has to do with the sexism and racism within our culture. I’ve seen people who say the exact same things [I say], and no one comments or strategically goes after them. And yet I have friends who are conservative, I have friends who are Republicans, I have libertarian friends. I have everyone on the spectrum politically. Except for Nazis. I don’t like Nazis.

What are your strategies for dealing with online trolls?

I’m a social media consultant, so I know how to navigate through social media. Sometimes it’s better to mute people as opposed to blocking them. I keep screenshots of all my [harassment] and keep them in a file on my phone and on my computer. If I see somebody else getting attacked, I have a tendency to go ahead and report that as well.

What’s an example of something you’ve been attacked for posting on social media?

Some guy on Twitter made a comment about Black Lives Matter and how we should “put them down.” And I said, “You know, it sounds like this is a call to action for violence.” Which it is. He commented back and tagged me, and several people decided to [attack me through] my direct messages. I was getting threats. One guy was like, “Knock knock, police, bang, you’re dead, get wrecked.” I had a few of those in my inbox. It’s ironic, because a majority of people don’t know that my brother is actually a police officer.

When there’s a call to violence, do you immediately report it to Twitter?

I do, especially if it’s [made by] someone that I’ve muted. I mute them, then report them. I usually tell other people to go ahead and report them and block them as well. That’s my go-to.

What’s your commenting policy when it comes to your blog?

I usually do allow comments. But if I see any type of slandering, I immediately block the person, or I’ll just go ahead and delete the comment and say, “No slander, derogatory words, or calls to action for violence are allowed on my page.” And that usually works.

Has your online harassment impacted your well-being in any way?

I’m an empath. I feed off of other people’s emotions. A lot of it probably has to do with my upbringing. I was born and raised in a Christian household and family, and faith is ingrained in the way I think and feel. It comes off of what we learned in Sunday school. “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” I have a really hard time understanding how I can get people to care about people. When I see people who repeatedly hate on other people, it really gets to me. It gives me anxiety, it makes me upset, and it just stresses me out. There are a lot of people out there who don’t want people of a certain demographic to be happy. They don’t care about their lives, they don’t care about their health, they don’t care about anything. And it just really bogs down on me.

Unfortunately, these kinds of discriminatory attitudes are everywhere on social media. And, as you mentioned, you’re a social media consultant—your employers must require you to be on social networks all the time! How do you cope with this kind of emotional strain when you’re being attacked personally?

Usually I get off of [my personal] social media for a time. I’ll go as far as deleting the apps from my phone, then reinstall them when I’m ready to go back. I can go as long as a week. Sometimes it’s as short as three days. During that time, I’ll work. I’ll go completely offline. If my friends check [to see] if I’m okay, I’ll send a snap[chat] and say, “I’m okay. I’m working.”

I also spend time with my friends’ and family’s kids. I’ve found that kids are ten times better than having to deal with adults, because they don’t have to prove anything to anybody. They’re really great. I [also] detach from anything that’s super serious or that’s drama. Even fictional drama. I used to watch a lot of Shonda Rhimes, but I had to take a break because of the drama online. So I binge-watch cartoons like it’s nobody’s business.

I also write. I’ve written a lot of stuff that either I had no intention of publishing or is just for me, like catharsis.

Does it impact your writing life when you withdraw from your online life like that?

It definitely does. I had quite a few things that I wanted to write about this year, but because of the [2016 presidential] election results, I was exhausted, too busy putting out fires on social media. I had no motivation to do anything. No motivation and no energy to just sit down and write.

You said at one point that it’s been really helpful for you to speak with other women of color who have been through similar online experiences. Can you describe what’s been valuable about this?

I have a few friends, and we reach out to each other. We check in with something like a simple text. Like, “Hey, just checking in, making sure you’re doing okay. Sorry you had some negative feedback on your writing. Let me know if I can help you out.” I remember that after the [2016] Orlando [nightclub] shooting, I wrote that as a Black queer woman in America, the demographic that terrifies me the most is the white, cisgendered, Christian male. And I had so many white dudes coming after me on social media. But there were black women chiming in, commenting, so it was the type of thing where they stepped in so I didn’t have to. Or they’ll say, “Hey, do you want me to step in so that you can take a break?” I’ve had friends do that quite a bit. Because, like I said, we’re the number one demographic that gets a lot of negative attention online. It sucks they’ve been through it, but it’s also nice to not be the only one that has to go through this kind of stuff.

I have a few close friends that identify as queer as well, and they’ll jump on comments or they’ll make comments on their own [social media profiles] in support of me. That’s always nice to see. Other people in my friend circle have to take into account that, being Black and queer, I get more negativity than they would. If they’re white or cisgendered or heteronormative, they’ll come back and say, “You know what? Jordan is getting a lot of flack, so let’s step up to the plate.”

It sounds like you have a number of different online communities that you’re able to turn to. How did you cultivate these communities in the first place?

I have friends in different Facebook groups, and that network spreads. I’ll make a connection with someone in [a specific] group, and they’ll invite me to a different group that has to do with a different topic. For example, the Binders Full of Women group was mostly about professional women who want to get professional outlooks. And then another one would break off: one for writing, one for queer people, one for black women. That’s how I get my support network. I have different groups to go to based off of whatever I’m stressing over.