Opinion | To all the bullies on social media

Kate Hoover
Social Media Manager

At 15 years old, I was convinced I had found what I was put on this Earth to do. At 15 years old, after being initially rejected, I demanded a position at my high school student newspaper (which I got and eventually became the paper’s editor-in-chief my senior year). At 15 years old, I sent an email to the managing editor of my local newspaper asking for an internship and ended up being the youngest – and only, at the time – intern they had. At 15 years old, my student newspaper handed me a “Most Ambitious Journalist” award at the end of the school year. At 15 years old, I was passionate, tenacious and full of determination to become a journalist.

But oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Now I’m The Panther’s social media manager because – I’m going to be completely honest with you – I just couldn’t handle the stress and pressure of hard-hitting journalism in this current climate. Don’t get me wrong, I still love journalism and I’m still ambitious, but I’ve learned I need to transition my ambition away from journalism in order to preserve my mental health. No one told 15-year-old me that being a journalist was going to suck this much. How was I supposed to know that I would become labeled as the “Enemy of the American People”? That my passion would soon become, arguably, the most hated profession in the country?

Being a journalist is a thankless job. Though I’m not actively writing or editing anymore, being social media manager is just as thankless and in some ways, even more hurtful.

I doubt people realize that there’s a person behind every single social media post. I see every Facebook reaction, read every comment and track every mention. A majority of the interaction and recognition we receive on social media is negative. And it’s so hard for me to not take it personally.

Would these people say their social media comments to my face, if given the chance? Probably not. But they have no problem with insulting our hard work on the internet, hiding behind the comfort and safety of their computer screen and knowing they’re untouchable. I can’t respond in the way I’d like to. I can’t argue. I can’t try to make them understand. I just have to sit back and take the hate comments, one after another.

I don’t think the word “troll” does it justice anymore. It’s so much worse than trolling these days. These commenters aren’t always simply voicing their personal opinions – which everyone has a right to do and that’s fine by me. But a lot of these comments are personal attacks. They’re harassment. They’re vicious. They’re rude. And they’re relentless.

Don’t you have better things to do than bully a student newspaper almost every day? We’re just like every other college student. We work incredibly hard, but we’re not perfect. We make mistakes. And we learn from our mistakes just like every other college student. But we just can’t seem to catch a break.

I need to learn to tell myself that these commenters aren’t coming after me individually as social media manager – they’re coming after the newspaper as a whole. The hard thing is, The Panther is a part of me. Every student on The Panther staff feels like my family and I’m so proud of every single piece they put out. That’s why I can’t help but take each negative interaction so personally.

I’m only human. And though I wish I could say these things don’t affect me, they really do. So, to all the hateful commenters that are reading this (and I know you are, because you never seem to leave us alone), all I ask as is one thing: have some sympathy, please. For once.