So, someone tied balloons to my door with insults written on them – tales of trolls

August 22, 2017
trolling trolls rosemarymaccabe

This isn’t the first time for me to write about trolls. I last wrote about my experiences when someone went to the trouble of writing me a long, insulting and (of course) anonymous email. Before that, it was a slightly more naive look at what this all means – about the trolls themselves, about me and about how, really, I never really had it that bad.

In April of this year, I recorded a video for YouTube where I read out some mean tweets that had been directed at me, following my discussion of sexual harassment (asking for it, surely). I finally got around to editing it today – and, while I’d never see a semi-decent piece of content wasted, even now, five months later, it feels outdated.

You can watch it anyway (because, y’know, #allaboutdemhits) – but, even while I edited it, I felt vaguely unsettled. Maybe it’s the way I’m smiling and laughing at just how bonkers these tweets are; I don’t remember feeling particularly upset at the time, and I think that comes across in how I read them out. But the moment I’d uploaded it, I started to get comments from people who were surprised not only at the content of the responses to me, but at my blasé attitude to them.

“You think that’s bad?!” I felt like screaming at them. “Things have got so much worse since then!”

Me, my trolls and I

Ever since around May of this year, I have been receiving consistent, constant messages from someone – I think it’s one person – on Twitter, with a similar theme. This person has an issue with the post I wrote about my rape (TW: rape, sexual assault). They think I’m recategorising a sexual experience I regret as rape; they think I’m disgusting; they think I’m an attention-seeker.

When they tweet me, they call me Rosie. One day, they started talking about how much nicer I am in real life. They don’t know why I act like such a bitch online – they’ve met me several times and I’ve been perfectly nice. It was so, incredibly creepy. I started keeping screengrabs, in case I ever need to go to the Gardai about it. (Although, it feels like one of those things that, by the time I “need” to go to the Gardaí, it’ll be too late.) One of their tweets read: “Oh, I know you well, Rosemary.”

They have created 16 different accounts – that I could find when I recently went back through my tweets – in the past four months. (That’s one a week, on average.)

Shouldn’t I just ignore it?

My reactions to these tweets are pretty much split down the middle. Half of the time, I block, report and “ignore” – if ignoring is classified as not responding online. In the real world, I feel a bit sick. I feel vulnerable and frightened and I feel upset that someone hates me that much.

I’m not all that surprised – earlier this year, when I wrote a piece about how I don’t think overexposure on social media is good for children, an Irish DJ-slash-store-owner put a public post on his Facebook page about how much he hates me. It got 121 comments; human beings, under their own human names, suggested that I needed a few punches. So: I know that some people really, really dislike me. They’re entitled to that.

The other half of the time, I respond. I retweet my trolls – I highlight the fact that this shit goes on all the time. When you’re a woman who’s in any way opinionated and not afraid to share said opinions, well, people don’t like it. And please: don’t pretend to me that there’s no sexism involved.

Take the Snapchat article; mine isn’t an extreme opinion. It’s been written about dozens of times. It’s not like I suddenly suggested we send all immigrants to internment camps; I merely suggested that documenting your child’s every move on social media wasn’t wise, or kind. The pitchforks came out pretty much immediately.

When trolls come out of the cave…

Then, during the summer, I woke up one day late. It was Saturday and, because I get up at around 6.30am every other day, I had a lie in. We didn’t open the front door until about 11am – to find that someone had tied three balloons to the front door, with insults scrawled on their rubberised bellies. I still wonder how many of my neighbours saw them there, tied to the door knob, before we emerged to take them in.

I sobbed for about an hour. I called the Gardaí. The man I spoke to didn’t seem to understand what I was saying. “Balloons? And what has you being a blogger got to do with this?” I felt like an idiot. He told me that, if I wanted, I could go down to the station and make a statement, “just in case, God forbid.” I didn’t. I suggested moving house; Stephen told me to calm down. I suggested getting CCTV, but we decided it would just make us paranoid. (How awful would it be to spend hours trawling through CCTV footage of your front step, just waiting for someone to come along.)

…I go into mine

Instead, I decided that I’d had enough.

It was as if something had snapped; when I talked to my therapist about it, I explained it as if I was the little boy, with his finger in the dam. Suddenly, the pressure had built up too far and I just couldn’t hold it all together anymore.

I know that some people will say I deserve it. I’ve spent years rabble-rousing, sharing my opinions and unrequested critiques with anyone who would listen (and read). I can’t count on two hands the number of people I’ve pissed off, or who – probably quite legitimately – think I’m a dickhead. Like I said, they’re entitled.

For those same years, I could take it. I wasn’t afraid to be opinionated and I wasn’t going to back down because I’m entitled to my opinion. I’m entitled to share it. It’s not a sin to be critical and, overall, I thought, Ireland was way too much of a love-in at times. But I realised that I didn’t want to be someone who opened up their front door to find sinister balloons tied to it. (Who would want that?!)

I haven’t really talked to a lot of people about this, but for the last few months, I’ve been afraid. I haven’t been going to events because I’m afraid people will be talking about me. I haven’t been socialising much because I’m afraid I’ll see someone I vaguely know or, worse, that I won’t see someone who knows me. (With the help of a friend, I’ve had some success tracing my troll and I know where they are – too close for comfort – although I’m not 100% sure who they are, which is disconcerting.)

That’s it, I quit?

I thought, for a while, about quitting the internet altogether – but it’s been such a huge part of my life for so long that the idea of living without social media, without sharing and connecting and writing and reading and commenting, seems too bizarre to contemplate. But I’ve taken a step back. I’m changing careers (and I won’t pretend this hasn’t been a factor in that decision). I spend more time offline now than I do on, and I feel calmer than I have in ages.

There is a big part of me that thinks I’m giving up and, in doing that, letting the trolls win – but then I realise: I don’t care. I ndeireadh na dála, this is my life and I’m the only one I have to worry about. If stepping back from the internet; if keeping my opinions to myself; if shutting up and sitting down and getting into line makes my life easier, then why not? Because, honestly, the alternative isn’t worth the hassle.

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  • Reply Mairead August 22, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    I really hope you find out who that person is. Weird that they’ve met you several times, so creepy. Well done on taking the higher road, life’s too short to battle through that shite when there are better things you can do with your time.

  • Reply Maria August 22, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    I’m so sorry to read about this. What you’ve been faced with is really abusive and distressing. I’ve been following your blog for a while, and enjoy the fact you’re opinionated. Like in real life, with people I meet, I don’t feel the need to agree with everything people say online. But I really don’t understand the casual verbal violence that’s thrown about online. Or why it’s now practically normal.
    Wishing you all the best,

  • Reply Jenny August 22, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Holy shit! It is not cool that someone has scared you so much that you have been afraid to do your job or speak your mind or Even socialise. My god someone in the guards needs to treat this as harassment! My parents have been harassed by a neighbour and finding the right Garda to report incedints to made a huge difference. You need to find the right guard to talk to. This is not ok!

  • Reply Ríona Mulvihill August 22, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    So brazen to leave them on your door! I’m shocked! You are an amazing writer and I love reading your content across all your mediums. You will do great whatever you do as you are talented and smart x

  • Reply Sinead August 22, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Dear creepy stalker of Rosemary,(I presume you’re going to read this and perhaps leave a nasty comment?)

    Leave her alone and get yourself some help; what you are doing is unhealthy.


    A decent human being.

  • Reply Mrsmaggot August 22, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    Jesus Rosemary – I remember seeing the balloons on twitter and being horrified – it’s just so invasive and creepy and disgusting. What makes this so much worse is how you were treated by the Gard. Violence and harassment of women is clearly not taken seriously in this country – this is yet another very disturbing face of that.

    I know it’s far less important but I’ve always enjoyed your content, writing and opinions but duck it. Your health and wellbeing and peace of mind are far more important. The very best of luck in your new career xxx

  • Reply Anne August 23, 2017 at 10:52 am

    This is terrible, what sort of person would spend this much time and energy making someone else feel scared. I love your content, such a pity your taking a step back but totally understandable. I hope you find out who is behind it.

  • Reply Jean August 23, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Keep the faith Rosemary…. Haters gonna hate… You are very brave… Its Sad there are so many vicious people around who have nothing better to do with their time.

  • Reply Rose August 23, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Surely be to God that is stalking? Surely you should talk to a detective and show her/him the evidence? I do find this creepy, and, as I’m an outspoken woman whose opinions regularly piss people off, I am angry on your behalf. Free speech? Me granny,

  • Reply Audrey August 23, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    There are lots of people that I dislike, and I am sure I am disliked by lots of people. The thing is, they don’t need to know, and nor do I. What is the motive behind informing someone of your dislike for them?

    Is it not enough to just dislike someone, and move on? If you have acknowledged a dislike for a person, wouldn’t the logical next step be to avoid interacting with, or crossing paths with that person where possible?

    What does it say about a person that feels duty bound to force their dislike of an individual on the individual? What needs does it satisfy? Does it make the person feel empowered? Does it make the person happy to see the individual wounded? Do they enjoy inflicting hurt? Get off on causing upset? Get pleasure from knocking the individuals confidence or making them doubt themselves for a moment?

    Have they ever actually asked themselves these questions in order to identify what motivates them t behave the way they do?

    There is a beauty blogger that I cannot stand – everything she does annoys me. The way she looks and talks, the way she dresses, her lifestyle…. her personality…. literally EVERYTHING about her and what she does just gets my back up. One day I was watching her snaps and I really wanted to write to her and just tell her what an absolute gobshite I thought she was…. she had annoyed me to the point that I felt compelled to let her know. I was all set to let her know, and then I stopped. What the hell was I doing? Why did I so badly need to let this woman know how she made me feel? Especially when this woman has absolutely no idea who the hell I am or have any idea that her just going about her life could cause me so much frustration. So I asked myself all of the questions I mentioned above, and I came to a horrible realisation – I was jealous. I was absolutely, insanely, overwhelmingly jealous.
    I was jealous of her appearance, her figure, her freebies, her lifestyle. I was jealous of her travel, and especially jealous that she got to travel first class and business class, and receive the VIP treatment wherever she went. I was sick with the jealousy. How dare she have all that? Why should I have to pay for everything, while she had it all sent to her for free? The sheer injustice of it all had almost me over the edge, but here’s the thing – I was the one with the problem. It was very humbling to acknowledge that my reactions to her had been motivated by jealousy, but a quick ‘unfollow’ later all was well with the world once more.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I still don’t like her… but she doesn’t need to know that.

    Did I think that by telling her what I thought of her that she would change? That I wouldn’t be jealous anymore? I really don’t know – but people need to take responsibility for their actions and put some time into assessing what motivates them to behave the way they do. They should also ask themselves what they hope to achieve by doing or saying whatever it is they intend to say or do, and stop projecting their own insecurities and obsessions onto other people.

    Christ Rosemary, I have no idea if any of that helps at all, bar me admitting I momentarily teetered on trollism….. !!! But the point I was trying to make, was that it said more about me, than it did about her and the very same logic applies here. You are not the problem, they are.

  • Reply Katriona August 23, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    I’m really saddened to read this and hope that you are ok with your decision and the fear has gone away. People can be cruel and I for one loved your posts and opinions

  • Reply Carmel breheny August 24, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Dear Rosemary
    Im shocked and disgusted at the treatment you’ve received for being an intelligent articulate ballsy woman. People fear what they don’t understand. People are jealous of things and people and it seems you have become a target for others insecurities and jealousies. I haven’t always agreed with everything you’ve said but guess what? I’ve never told you because you have the right to your opinion as I have the right to mine. Please don’t stop being you, all the best , you’re looking amazing, stay strong Cx

  • Reply Elaine Mc Callig August 24, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    This is absolutely disgusting, and such a violation of your privacy. The fact that it stems from your sexual assault story, which was extremely brave to publish and I’d imagine has helped a lot of women, speaks volumes about what kind of scumbag this person is.

    I’d keep documenting everything and if you haven’t already thrown out the balloon I’d keep it too just in case. It might be worth putting in a statement with the Gardaí now that you have a feeling of who this person is so as they could keep tabs.

    I’m really glad to hear you’ve been doing better, just remember that when trolls target you they’re the ones with the problem. No happy person goes around giving such vile abuse to another person.

  • Reply Sasha Kinch August 25, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    This is so horrid to hear. Really feel for you… take care of yourself, stay strong.

  • Reply Lorna Sixsmith August 26, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Crikey, that is a bit disconcerting to say the least! Hope you’re okay and staying strong.

  • Reply Lauren September 18, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    Rosemary, this blog post is so sad. I feel so bad for you that you’ve gone through this. It is disgusting. But also very unsettling and scary for you. I want to tell you to keep going and ignore the crap and trolls but if I was you I’d probably do the same because is it worth the hassle? Probably not. BUT that does NOT make it OK for some crazy sad loser to make you feel like that and if people don’t agree or like you they don’t have to read it. Can’t they just ignore you like a mature and respectful human being? They are bullies and bullies are unhappy with their own lives and deflect that and you should not let them get under your skin. Keep doing what you’re doing. We need more of what you do, not less. Wishing you all the very best.

  • Reply Hazel October 6, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    As a very infrequent reader of your blog, and a sometimes viewer of your instagram feed, let me say:
    F**&^%$£%^*^&^%$^&kkkkkkkkkk these people – absolute cowards.
    People need to grow up, and Get. An. Actual. Grip. Or hobbies. Think of the time and effort required? Get a camera installed.

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