THE BLOG

The Hazards of Social Media

28/03/2013 16:16 GMT | Updated 26/05/2013 10:12 BST

I do my best to be nice to everyone. I was brought up to treat people as I would like to be treated and, as most people do, I like to be treated nicely, with respect and sincerity and kindness. Perhaps that makes me a pansy, but I'd rather be a pansy than a meanie. What it definitely makes me, is sensitive. So, when I saw some negative comments about me via social media, I was kind of upset. Let me explain.

I recently started writing for an online publication, which has been brilliant. When the editor asked me if I would send over a photograph of what I was wearing for their Facebook page one manic Monday, I didn't hesitate - I sent one over. It wasn't a great picture, but it showed my outfit and that was the point; sharing fun with fashion with like minded readers.

Fast forward two weeks and I finally found some time to catch up on the Facebook page and check out the outfit photo. It had 55 likes and 21 comments, most of which were negative or sarcastic. In fact, to be precise, there were just five positive comments. These included the words "lovely" and "pretty". Of course, the sarcasm and nasty comments struck harder - they always do. I think most people would agree that if they focus on the negatives more than the positives, that it's easier to believe the bad things than it is to believe the good. The negative comments I received included "wtf", "she must be freezing", "makes her hips look bigger than they are" and "lose some weight love". (For the record, the dress is a size 12). Now, out of 2,900 people who had liked the Facebook page, these few negative comments are nothing; it would have been much worse had there been 2,900 negative comments! That said, it hurt. A lot more than I would have imagined, despite having no idea who these people were and despite the number of likes being more than double the number of negative comments. Again, I focused on the handful of negative comments rather than the 55 likes.

As someone who struggles with weight (due to a worrying obsession with chocolate) and is by no means a natural sporty type, I'm forever unhappy with my body. I know that there are things I could improve on and, after 30 years of analysing my body, please believe me when I say I know my hips are of mammoth proportions and that my bum is the size of South America (on a good day). I've spent the last ten years coming to terms with my short, hourglass figure and accepting that I'll never have a petite body or a skinny frame, let alone the Cindy Crawford physique I long for. It's taken me all these years to realise I am what I am and, actually, it's not so bad - my body works, my minds works, and I have people around me who love me, with or without a butt the size of a continent. I'm lucky and I should be happy. To read these negative comments was saddening because, I thought, who are these people to say my hips are big in that dress? I know my hips are big, but I love the dress - so I'll wear it! Who are they to say I must be freezing? I know it's freezing but I'm not an idiot - I had a coat! Who is that man to tell me to lose some weight? Perhaps he ought to lose himself in a cage with a hungry lion.

My point is that people who make nasty comments via social media (or any other media) should think before they speak. They have no idea of how their comments might affect someone. Yes, I put my outfit out there to be judged, but that doesn't give anyone the right to attack me personally. The anonymity of social media gives people a false sense of security, it means that they don't have to answer to anyone, so they think that they can say what they like with no consequences or repercussions. What scares me is that this sort of thing happens to kids all the time: according to www.dosomething.org, 70% of students report seeing frequent bullying online and they are two to nine times more likely to commit suicide. I'm a grown up - I might be upset for a couple of hours, but I'll get over it - but kids are in the midst of not knowing who they are, or what they want, or how they feel. They are at the height of feeling insecure and paranoid and a few nasty comments could be enough to do some serious, sometimes fatal, damage. Eating disorders come to mind. It is isn't always a case of smudged mascara - people should be aware of their comments and that what they are saying can and will affect the human being they are publicly judging.

It is sad that society feels the need to judge one another, to pass comment on someone else's body or clothes or lifestyle choice. We are all human beings sharing the same world and we shouldn't have to worry about what someone else might think of us - we are all different and although it sounds cliche, the world would be a very dull place if we were all the same.

In all its greatness, social media also comes with a dark side. I thought I would share this story because I think it raises the issue of a serious hazard of social media. I'm a huge fan of social media, but I think that more awareness should be raised about this type of issue.

I am not sharing this story in the hope for sympathy or nice comments. I'm sharing it because I'm proud of myself and I hope my story might help someone else to focus on the good feedback as opposed to the negative.

The motto of the story? If you don't have anything nice to say....