“My number one thing is be kind to yourself. We can’t control what other people do, we can only control what we do."
Once upon a time, trolls were nothing but creatures that lived under bridges in childhood fairytale books. Now, trolls have a new twenty-first-century identity where instead of hiding under bridges, they're hiding behind a screen.
Trolls aren't just people who have differing opinions from yours; they are people who make inflammatory comments for the express purpose of hurting others and causing uproar. Someone who is no stranger to trolls online is TV presenter, Laura Whitmore.
Following the death of Caroline Flack last month, Whitmore’s moving tribute to her dear friend and colleague fueled the #bekind movement on social media, with Whitmore herself advocating for greater consideration when it came to posting comments online.
Tabloids and trolls were quick to blame the Bray-native given her takeover of the former Love Island host's job, something Whitmore abhorred. But instead of fighting back (what trolls want you to do), Whitmore said that Flack "loved to love" and "that's all she wanted, which is why a show like Love Island was important to her because the show is about finding love, friendship, having a laugh."
Defending the ITV2 programme, she said: "The problem wasn't the show, the show to work on is loving and caring and safe and protected. The problem is, the outside world is not."
"Anyone who’s ever compared one woman against another on Twitter knocked someone because of their appearance, invaded someone else’s privacy, who’ve made mean, unnecessary comments on an online forum need to look at themselves," she continued.
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“Be kind, only you are responsible for how you treat others and what you put out in the world.”
"I want to use my platform, this platform, to call people out because it’s gone too far. Your words affect people. To paparazzi and tabloids looking for a cheap sell, to trolls hiding behind a keyboard, enough.
She ended by saying: "I’m not sure when, but I’m sure I’ll see you on a dancefloor again. I hope you’re at peace and know that you are loved."
Now, in an interview on the red carpet at the We Day UK charity event which celebrates young people, Whitmore has spoken honestly about her experiences with online trolling – and revealed how she copes with “really negative” comments.
“We all experience different things, everyone’s experienced trolling to different levels, maybe because of what you do, but everyone’s experienced that. And when you realise that, you realise it’s not about you” she told Sky News.
“I remember having a message from somebody that was really negative. I just clicked on their profile and they had sent that message to, like, everybody. And I’m like, oh, this isn’t even a personal attack. This is somebody who has their own issues and you can’t be angry at them, because that somebody – whatever they have to deal with – they have to deal with it.
“It’s really tough because it’s constantly changing.”
Continuing that message in another interview, Whitmore advocated for everyone to be a bit kinder to themselves, too.
“We’re all human, and growing up you learn that the world isn’t always kind,” she told the PA news agency. “My number one thing is be kind to yourself. We can’t control what other people do, we can only control what we do.
“We can be kind to others and kind to ourselves – and what anyone else decides to do is up to them. We can just be responsible to ourselves.”
If you or someone you know was affected by the content in this article, there is help available:
- Samaritans – 116 123 – [email protected] or [email protected]
- Pieta House – 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444
- Aware - 1800 80 48 48
- Childline – 1800 66 66 66 or free text 50101
For the month of February, Irish Tatler produced a mini-series, #KindnessCulture in which we spoke to people in different public spheres, who have suffered pointed negativity online. We feel that – in the wake of Caroline Flack's death – it is important to highlight how crucial it is to cultivate kindness when commenting and sharing. You can read more on that here.
Main image by @thewhitmore on Instagram