My Brush With Cyber Bullying

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I recently had my very own brush with cyber bullying and it wasn’t fun.

In fact, it was a sharp reminder of how easy it is for some people to hide behind their computers and maliciously attack others.

I have to say since I started this blog, almost two years ago, not one of my readers has ever posted anything nasty – not once.  This is a pretty fab track record given that some weeks more than 20,000 people visit this site from all around the world.

I could be blamed for asking to be attacked by taking part in a newspaper story a few weeks ago on the back of radio host Rachel Smalley’s on-air gaffe referring to Kiwi women as “heifers” and “lardos”.

Now just to keep it in context my brush with online “trolls” is nothing compared to an old friend of mine Charlotte Dawson who took her own life earlier this year after years of cyber bullying.  But it has made me better understand the torment poor Charlotte was forced to endure before she was pushed to the brink.

But I appeared in the Herald On Sunday alongside radio’s Jay-Jay Feeney and online entrepreneur Jenene Crossan as “poster girls” for Kiwi women weighing in at 72kg to illustrate the fact that 72kg is hardly “heifer” or “lardo” status as poor Rachel had unintentionally suggested on air.  And because I hate nastiness and I think it’s grossly unkind to refer to anyone as a heifer or lardo – regardless of what you weigh.

I say poor Rachel because I did actually feel for Rachel.  None of us are perfect and we all say nasty, hurtful things from time to time but we don’t have a profile like Rachel so are less likely to get so publicly lambasted for our bad behaviour.  While I don’t condone what Rachel said I understand we all do make mistakes.

After the article appeared I received loads of amazingly positive comments from readers and friends and family.  What I naively hadn’t expected was some of the nasty vitriol that popped up online after the story.

There was a male “fitness expert” weighing in on Facebook saying that there is no excuse for any woman in New Zealand to weigh over 72kgs.   I didn’t think his comments warranted any kind of response from me.

But the infamous Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater used his readers to do the dirty work for him by asking them to judge what they thought of Jay Jay, Jenene and I.

One of his readers referred to me as “miserably skinny” and another said: “Leonie Barlow if you read this get that gross easter egg off the top of your head.  Not good.”

Okay it did look like an easter egg but if you only knew the hoops I’d jumped through that morning to even get to the photo shoot that day “Ratchette” you may have had a few more manners.

Another suggested that “maybe [we’d all] escaped from the cows4me farm.  Moo to whoever you are!

Now for the record I wasn’t the only one under attack (if you can call it that).  All of us, even Rachel Smalley, had our fair share of nastiness launched in our direction from these readers who must get some sort of sick little endorphin rush from saying their little nasty piece online.  It’s not how I get my kicks but each to their own.

Luckily for me I only care what the people I know and love say about me.  Poor Charlotte didn’t have the luxury of a safe place to fall like I do and I can see now that if you don’t how easy it would be to let these senseless comments dent your armour.

I know we live in a free world and we are all allowed to say our piece but I suppose the moral to this story is a little kindness and compassion goes a very long way.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on cyber bullying in the comments below.

Have you ever experienced it yourself or know anyone who has?




NZ Herald – Photo / Doug Sherring