*This post is not typical of what you find on Salty Seattle. I will return to regularly-scheduled programming soon.
Yesterday I checked my blog comments as I do several times a week and I came across this on my “about” page:
“Ya your fuckin bentley is in danger! How would you like me to come to Seattle and take your fuckin Bentley and shove his head down one of your evil, freaky torture devices you use on innocent chickens! Your a fuckin ugly whore who thinks she’s hot. Your whoever up there died of a sudden heart attack from those fuckin peanut butter pies and you continue to make them?!!! You see no correlation between the torture on animals you promote, the shit ingredients you use and heart attacks and your ugly looks?! Get the fuck out of the matrix bitch and go kill your self!”
The name and email (possibly fake, but I don’t think so considering this facebook account and stream of commentary https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=101100978272&v=wall ) was posted as Charro Broimani firstname.lastname@example.org. The ip address linked to the comment is 22.214.171.124, which my tech-savvy husband legally used to locate a physical address. It belongs to a nice house with a swimming pool on a residential street in sunny Florida.
Initially I was stunned. For those of you who don’t know, Bentley is my 2-year-old child. I am no stranger to negative comments, in fact I receive several per week, including some who go so far as to send an email. These are generally left by people who I would consider to be internet “trolls,” or people who have nothing better to do than to pick online fights with folks they don’t know.
The trolling comments tend to be juvenile, wrought with grammatical errors, and ill-thought. I have gotten to the point where they don’t bother me. My typical course of action is to delete and ignore, unless it’s a comment with a difference of opinion, which I will leave intact and often respond to because I encourage social discourse and welcome all views.
This comment is very, very different. It contains language which can be construed as a threat to my safety, but more importantly, to the safety of my child. While I didn’t post the comment directly on twitter, I explained the ominous nature of it and asked of the twitterverse- what would you do? I received a barrage of responses from a host of different people- all supportive.
Many suggested that I delete and ignore.
Others advised blocking the IP address.
Some urged me to call the police, but most held little hope they’d be able to do anything about it.
Several people asserted that to talk about the comment only gives that person power, and so the best course of action is to tuck it under the rug.
I also sent out an email to some blogger friends of mine. One response in particular made the point that we really shouldn’t flaunt our children on our blogs. He suggested that there are sick people out there and letting them know that we have gorgeous little kids and seemingly-idyllic lives can provoke unreasonable people to go beyond online gawking.
I thought about that suggestion all night and in the morning I decided that while I love the friend who said it, I disagree. I feel this is akin to the mistaken belief that a girl in a short skirt deserved her rape. I do understand the need to protect my child from the world, but my blog is about food and my life. Bentley is a huge part of both of those things. It’s not as though I wax-on like a mommy blogger about his every poop and finger-painting, but he does make an occasional appearance and I believe if I were to stop mentioning him, I’d be letting the online bogeymen win.
A related analogy is one of proper attire. A girl’s dress should be tight enough that you know she is a woman, but loose enough to show she’s a lady. That’s how I dress, and that’s how I raise my child. You’ll know I’m a mother within a few minutes of talking to me, but I don’t identify so much with myself as ubermom that I’ll talk incessantly about my kid’s potty-training and turn you off the way a rakish cougar might if she were dressed only in a millimeter-long leather handkerchief. My ultimate decision to this aspect of the discussion is that Bentley stays, but only as frequently as he turned up before. What do you think? Do you have a child/husband/pet that you feel should or shouldn’t have a place on your blog, and why?
I deeply-appreciated the fact that so many of my friends chimed-in on what to do in this instance, and I finally settled on a course of action. Part of that includes this blog post. I wrote this because I want to make people aware of the options out there. Prior to yesterday, I’d never been down this rabbit hole.
After some internet research and several phone calls to local law enforcement, I learned that the proper way to report these types of crimes as designated by the U.S. government is via the website http://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx. A wide variety of internet crimes can be reported here, and I’m told (by the switchboard operator at my local FBI office) that all are investigated by the FBI. I filled out a complaint with all of the information I was able to collect on this individual. I urge you to do the same should you ever find yourself in a similar situation.
It is IMPERATIVE to report these things because we are in the pioneering days of internet regulation. What goes unrecorded goes undocumented and these very real and frightening problems fall through the cracks. Similar to the way many of us believe there needs to be more transparency in the blogging world about taking products and trips for free and then wholeheartedly endorsing them, crimes that takes place behind the comfort of laptops need regulation.
Most of us were raised well enough that we don’t say online what we wouldn’t say to someone’s face, but not all of us. As time goes on and people realize the internet is just as much a close-knit community as a church or a school and that everything you say can be traced back to you, we probably won’t see as much of this type of activity. But in the meantime, we need to prove that by holding commenters accountable. This is why I chose to report the incident as well as to post the details here. I opted to stop short of publishing the individual’s address who left the comment, but I hope people are aware of just how easy it is to obtain this information.
I know I’m not alone in receiving negative comments that go beyond simple disagreement. In addition to commentary, there are fake twitter accounts and even websites set up for the sole purpose of poking fun at people in extremely cruel ways. I wish the people who engaged in these acts would realize that they are talking about other humans- ones with hearts, insecurities and problems.
The world will be a better place when people learn to channel their own issues toward self-improvement instead of using jealousy and bitterness to tear down others who they perceive to be successful. The reality is that many of those so-called successful individuals worked their asses off to get to where they are. If the naysayers would do the same, they’d feel a lot better about themselves and the world around them.
*Thank you to everyone who contributed to this post in the form of suggestions and advice. I didn’t link to your blogs because I didn’t want to out you, but I want you to know that I really appreciate you taking the time to care to the point of offering your valuable opinion.