For Caroline, Megan and me.

When Megan Markle and Prince Harry got married on the 19th March 2018 at Windsor Castle, like millions of other people I watched the event on TV with an overwhelming sense of pride and joy. Pride that a member of the British Royal family, someone at the pinnacle of the British establishment had chosen to marry a divorced woman of mixed heritage. The joy was that in arranging and planning her wedding, Megan did not shy away from her African roots, indeed the opposite was true, she embraced them, from the brilliant Kingdom Gospel Choir, to the multitalented Sheku Kanneh Mason and who could ever forget the awe inspiring Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon. Megan was clearly a woman proud of who she was and strong enough to say to the world, “this is me”. I loved her for that. That was less than two years ago. It took less than two years for the joy and happiness of that day to turn into something entirely different, the absolute opposite of what we all felt on the day of the wedding, to the point where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced on January 8th 2020 that they were leaving this country and their Royal duties and to live in Canada.

What followed that announcement was a flurry of commentary from people about the rights and wrongs of the said departure. What was really unnerving though was the amount of vitriol and bile that was being spewed about the Duchess, when less than two years ago, she was hailed as the fresh new and inspiring addition to the royal family and our society.

As the news began to sink into a shocked and amazed country, several well-known commentators decided to join in the ‘lets knock Megan’ club. I was appalled by some of the things that were said, Eamonn Holmes , openly talking about the fact that he had never met her but he just didn’t like her, then of course Piers Morgan, making unpleasant and derogatory comments about her. All of this was too much for me to bear, so like many other people, I took to twitter to voice my opinion. What followed was an experience that I will never forget.

My tweet on January 16th was in response to some very negative social activity about Megan, particularly from certain high-profile men in the media and was in response to some horrible things being said about the Duchess.

My tweet said, “Recognise a pattern here? Ignorant, arrogant, older white media men @Schofe @piersmorgan @EamonnHolmes using their privileged positions on the airwaves to question the reality of an unfair and inequitable UK society. #RacismStillAlive

I am guessing that many people reading the tweet would say that it was a bit rash and foolish for me to write that , I accept that and on reflection I would agree that perhaps i could ahve worded my tweet differently, however what happened next really shocked me. Piers Morgan responded to my tweet with four words,

“Don’t be so Racist”

That’s when the online abuse started. The comments I received following his response were astonishing. I am not someone that is easily shaken or upset, but the vitriol and unpleasantness being heaped upon me from around the world took me completely by surprise. It was not a pleasant experience.

The experience made me reflect on the experiences of other women, women like the Duchess of Sussex,  Diane Abbott MP and of course the late Caroline Flack all of whom experienced something similar but for much longer periods of time. The amount and kind of abuse that I endured for 48 hours, (with the likes and retweets) was enough to leave me feeling shaken and upset, however to receive such unpleasant and cruel remarks on a daily basis would surely affect your mental health, sense of self and wellbeing.

I dealt with the experience by telling myself that those people didn’t know me, rationalising and talking myself up was my way of coping with the onslaught. That said, there can be no mistake, being trolled is an unsettling and anxiety provoking experience.

The people writing the tweets, the so-called keyboard warriors, seem not to know or care about the consequences of their actions and seek to heap maximum distress, hurt and pain on their hapless victims, there then becomes what can only be described as a feeding frenzy where the trolls seek to outdo each other with the levels of unpleasantness they can generate, safe in the knowledge that the messages are anonymous and there will be no repercussions.

When Caroline Flack, tragically died on the 15th February, it made me really think about the tweets I had received in January, the tweets and comments the Duchess and others receive on a daily basis and how low it makes you feels. The fact that these people not only receive these comments on twitter, in the newspapers, on the radio as well as by letters and email is terrible, the distress they must feel incalculable. I can imagine depression and anxiety would descend on the individual very quickly, with nowhere to turn and no way to turn the tap of vitriol off I am not surprised, Megan decided to leave the UK and sadly Caroline took the ultimate and irreversible way out.

Recently, a colleague told me that they too had experienced online trolling and how frightening it was, she was shaken up by it and so was her teenage son.

Being trolled was definitely one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had, it truly was nasty.

Caroline Flack posted a tweet a while ago which her friends retweeted after her death. Its poignant and oh so true.

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

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