Dealing with Internet Hate: Carly Findlay 1, Trolls 0

Carly Findlay 5I was going to write a rant. But I’m tired. Plus it’s better to be nice in situations like these. And I can’t take on any more of the Internet.

In December, I discovered, through my blog statistics, that someone had posted a picture of me on Reddit, in the WTF thread. You know, My photo made them say “What the fuck?”:

 

 

 

Carly Findlay 1

And so I clicked on the link, and read the comments. Oh god the comments. The comments. It took me back to the time I was featured on a voyeuristic forum.

 “What does your vagina look like?”

“WTF is that? Looks like something that was partially digested by my dog.”

“Lobster.”

“She looks like a glazed donut.”

“I dated a girl with a mild form of Ichthyosis once. Thankfully she was Filipino so her skin was naturally brown, otherwise she’d be as bright red as her. I thought her skin was cool.. it certainly wasn’t unpleasant, but had a nice texture. Plus her boobs felt like underinflated basketballs… Very fun to squeeze :)”

“Seeing people like this smile makes me uncomfortable. It looks like a lie; they are only smiling in an attempt to fool themselves that their lives aren’t horrible. You can see it in her eyes. The same rehearsed dead-eye mouth-smile in all her pictures. Gives me the willies.” (That photo was actually taken on one of the happiest nights of my life, when I met the Rush cast.)

And there were countless diagnoses (so many people educated by Dr. Google) and assumptions of sunburn. They annoyed me a lot.

Then I looked further and there was SO much support. People had linked to my blog and become educated. They’d called out the nasties. There were SO MANY positive comments about my appearance. One person said I look like Geena Davis:

–]juliabl 1 point 31 minutes ago

There, but for the Grace of God, go I. Parents, teach your children not to laugh at people who aren’t what society deems as “perfect”. That’s my sermon for the day, keep your comments to yourself if you don’t agree with me. I don’t need any help, thanks tho. Except for her condition she has a smile that makes her look like Geena Davis.

One guy said he wishes he hadn’t missed his chance to ask me out on a date.

And this guy, he was a standout:

“You, madam, are the strongest motherfucker I have ever HEARD of, let alone met. If you are ever in boston, i would be honored to buy you a beer.”

And then I posted this response:

I knew the day would come that someone would create a Reddit thread about me, using my photo, having a laugh at my appearance.

For years, that fear was why I didn’t share photos of me online. But now, after gaining confidence and support through years of blogging, I couldn’t care whether they call me a lobster or silly putty.

The love I have around me and success I have had through telling my own story to break down stigma like these Reddit threads is stronger than any of those words.

Yes I have Ichthyosis. Yes that picture is me. Don’t fear it and don’t criticize it. I am proud of the way I look, what I have achieved and for telling my story.

FYI: I have two forms of Ichthyosis – a mix of Netherton’s syndrome and erythroderma. My skin is shiny because I use paraffin. My body is less red than my face as it’s not exposed to the elements, but it is generally more painful. Ichthyosis is survivable – I have lived a very full life.

Thanks for linking to my blog too, so people are informed of the real me rather than through the speculation on this thread. For those who missed it, you can read more about me at http://carlyfindlay.blogspot.com

The original poster gave me an apology. A bit backhanded, but I thanked him all the same:

“I’m reading all this and I apologize!

I was looking for “champagne fridge” on Google images. When i saw your picture, I thought “WTF!” and further: “allergic reaction“, also your hair looks a bit on fire so I put it here.

Hopefully you see it as a good promotion for your blog and chapeau to you for being awesome!”

I felt a bit sick at that. So many people dissecting my photo on the Internet. But then I remembered.

When this picture was posted overnight, I was content lying in the arms of my love, having just seen a band and eaten a great meal – a night filled with laughs, and these posters were making fun of a stranger on the Internet. I think the location of this post, and the title is a clear indication of the original poster’s intent. However, I say the others who joined in with the ridicule and the armchair diagnoses are just as voyeuristic.

I am resilient. I’ve got thick skin. These are just words on a screen. I am safe and loved, strong and intelligent, and can fight back with awesome.

But I worry for those who can’t. What about those people who are mocked online and do not have the strength or words to defend themselves? Or even continue living?

This isn’t just curiosity or having an innocent laugh. This is the ridicule of a stranger en masse. Think about how that impacts a stranger. Their parents, their partner, their children. Stop being a coward behind a screen. Get out there and experience people of all types.

The comments on Reddit showed me that the Internet is full of pretty awful people. But it also showed me people are so kind, and are willing to learn.

Thank you to everyone who went in to bat for me. Thank you. One of my worst fears happened and I smashed it! Fighting back with awesome wins every time.

To see how I live with ichthyosis & to find resources about it, here are some links:

What is ichthyosis?

Ichthyosis and appearance diversity resources

Ichthyosis awareness month 2013

For more of what happened with Carly and people’s reactions to the internet trolls, and how she navigated the internet storm, read more at her site here.

Carly Findlay is a Melbourne based writer, tv presenter on No Limits, and speaker. I also work full-time. I have a life long serious skin condition called Ichthyosis. I have used my blog (and other media outlets such as Mamamia, The Hoopla, ABC’s Ramp Up and DiVine) to raise awareness about issues of appearance diversity and chronic illness. I write and speak about what it’s like to look visibly different.

Cross-posted from carlyfindlay.blogspot.com with permission

  • http://courtingdestiny.com pia

    Wow. Just. Wow.

    This is incredible. Beyond incredible.

    Thank you

  • http://tisbest.org/discovergiving Karli

    Carly, your strength and perspective in the face of such ignorance is so inspiring. Any time any of us can look cruelty in the face and respond with compassion is a reinforcement of our humanity. Yes, humans can (and are and always will be) so unspeakably brutal to one another. But we can also be so very gentle and kind. You are an example of the latter, and I’m so thankful to you for sharing your thoughts. It’s so good to be reminded of the good ones. That there’s someone in this world so lovely and beautiful as you gives me hope. Thank you for that, my sister.

    For another dose of strong, valiant womanhood, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c62Aqdlzvqk

    Brave starts HERE.

  • http://www.greeblemonkey.com/ Aimee Giese | Greeblemonkey

    Well done Carly! Thank you for sharing your story, and handling everything with such grace!

  • http://mommynanibooboo.com Jenni Chiu @ MommyNaniBooboo

    Grace is one of the most beautiful qualities there is. You have it in spades.

  • Ingrid

    You are wonderful.

  • http://www.rumblemarketing.com Carol Schiller

    This post was absolutely incredible on so many levels. I can’t wait to share it with my teen and tween so they can learn from you just exactly how to do deal with trolls – whether online or in person. With strength, self-respect, and a big-picture perspective that shows who’s really boss of what matters in life.

    My favorite part was this:

    “When this picture was posted overnight, I was content lying in the arms of my love, having just seen a band and eaten a great meal – a night filled with laughs, and these posters were making fun of a stranger on the Internet. ”

    Thank you for this wonderful post.

  • http://www.ExtraordinaryMommy.com Danielle Smith

    You have a gift: for tolerance, for kindness, for self-awareness and for grace. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • http://ryan2point0.wordpress.com/ Ryan Tracey

    Unfortunately the internet is a hangout for morons, and cowardly ones at that.

    It doesn’t matter what you do, there are always plenty of d’heads out there eager to throw rocks.

    What’s the difference? You produce, they don’t.

    1 constructive contributor is worth more than 1000 deadbeats. Just as 1 supportive comment is worth more than 1000 snipes.

  • http://www.theradicalhousewife.com Shannon Drury

    “Fighting back with awesome wins every time.” I love this so much that I might need it printed on a poster. Thank you, Carly, for being awesome!

  • http://legalpoint.co.in LegalPoint

    This is not your own doing. Strange people passed such silly comments. Must appreciate your courage.

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