I’m in two minds about posting about politics on Twitter. On one hand, my blog isn’t actually about politics, so there’s not really much point posting something controversial that I know will piss people off. On the other, sometimes I’ll post something completely inoffensive and people still get angry, so I might get hung for a sheep as a lamb.
There have been a few examples of the Twitter mob getting outraged over something innocuous recently, but the main one that stands out is the drama that kicked off over an Instagram photo taken by blogger Scarlett London.
I don’t know Scarlett well, but I usually attend her blogger events and we’ve chatted briefly a couple of times, and she seems by all accounts like a really nice girl. Her blog is about London lifestyle with a bit of fashion and beauty thrown in, and she doesn’t appear to have any political affiliation. But she unwittingly became the subject of a viral Twitter storm when she posted this photo of herself sat on her bed in her pyjamas accompanied by by a plate of pancakes and strawberries,with some balloons either side.
Someone screengrabbed the image and posted this tweet:
The tweet gained over 100,000 likes and over 24,000 retweets. Thankfully many bloggers stepped forward to retweet it with rebuttals and messages of support from Scarlett, but the response from the non-bloggers I follow on Twitter was surprisingly negative. Scarlett later released a statement saying she was receiving hundreds of nasty messages across all social media platforms every time she logged on. The tweet was shared across the internet, with Scarlett getting ripped to shreds in the comments. Even one of Labour’s women’s equality representatives decided to get involved. Some of the messages Scarlett received included death threats. Yes, you read that correctly, death threats. Over pancakes and balloons.
Yes, the photo is very clearly staged. No-one has breakfast in bed first thing in the morning with their hair perfectly curled in their perfectly made bed with balloons either side. Perhaps the original tweet was meant as a snappy tongue-in-cheek remark, not meant in all seriousness. But the reaction to it and the nature of some of the comments showed that this does appear to be a genuine concern for many people. And I’m not quite sure why. For some people, Instagram is a simple photo sharing platform, where they upload happy snaps of themselves having fun with their friends. Which is great. But for bloggers, it’s a bit different. As with any social media platform, it’s an extension of your “brand” as such, and a channel to drive people to your blog. We buy fancy DSLR cameras, and frantically try and up our photography game to curate the perfect feed. In the fashion blogging world, Instagram is set to overtake blogging itself as users prefer easily digestible conte nt- being an “Instagrammar” in itself has become a “thing”. These girls’ feeds are works of art. The likes of Scarlett London, Hello Miss Jordan, Leonie Hanne et al. create beautiful, awe-inspiring, perhaps slightly fantasy-like content that must have taken a hell of a lot of work to set up and edit. And guess what? It’s not supposed to be realistic. We all know people don’t wake up with their hair and make-up magically already done ready to tuck into a plate of expertly arranged pancakes and strawberries. They’re supposed to be whimsical pictures for their fans to enjoy; none of these girls are trying to pass their content off as camera phone snaps from a night out.
Incidents like this also show the more sinister, darker side of the internet. I’ve met some great people through blogging, but it’s clear that Twitter can be really not a place at times. It’s great to express an opinion, or call someone out if they have been out of order, but the sad thing is that the people being called out are rarely the ones who are genuinely in the wrong. If someone expresses a dissenting view or makes a misjudged comment, people come out in full force to attack, but the bitchy subtweets and online hounding tends to gather a depressing amount of likes and retweets. There’s pressure to be completely PC and sterile with a perma-smile across your face just to avoid being lynched by the mob. And the thing is, even if you play by the rules and don’t say anything controversial, people can still come for you. As dating blogger Lucy Goes Dating said, tweet that you like mac and cheese and people will attack you for being disrespectful to those with a dairy intolerance.
So what are we supposed to? Well, if you want to blog, I suppose to some extent you have to grow a thick skin and be able to shrug it off. But I also don’t think we should accept this kind of behaviour as a given, and we should collectively work on making the internet a nicer place. Remember that behind even the big blogs and Instagram accounts are real people with feelings who probably have other stuff going on in their lives. If you feel the urge to send a catty subtweet about someone, think about how the person on the receiving end will feel, and whether that’s really the vibe you want to put out into the world. Same goes for liking or retweeting said catty subtweets or writing a nasty response. If you want to use someone’s Instagram photo as the butt of a joke, think about the implications for the person involved. Just have a bit of empathy, and don’t be dicks to each other.
What did you think about “pancake-gate”? Have you ever been attacked online over a complete non-issue? Let me know in the comments!