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Health & Fitness The Terror Of Being Torn Apart On Gossip Site Tattle Life

21:25  04 june  2021
21:25  04 june  2021 Source:   graziadaily.co.uk

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I’m swiping my way through Hinge on a Tuesday evening, minding my own business, when I see a profile that piques my interest. Not because I fancy the owner of the profile, but because their bio contains what can only be described as a manifesto, and it’s all about influencers. This person isn’t an influencer themselves - their profile tells me they work in finance - but they appear to harbour some very strong opinions about people of influence. Opinions that frankly, seem ill-informed and a bit nasty.

a close up of a woman: tattle-life-influencer © Credits: Emilie Lavinia tattle-life-influencer

I consider how this person might react if my Hinge bio contained a similar paragraph about how much I loathe people who work in finance. I have nothing against anyone who works in finance, but I am an influencer – I have about 30K followers and use my platforms to discuss health, LGBTQ+ lifestyle and women's wellbeing - and seeing comments like this on dating apps, on Instagram, in the news and even in my own direct messages continues to shock me.

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So I wonder, why do the people who hold these opinions about influencers feel this way and why do they go out of their way to share them? Why spend time posting these views online? What is it about influencers that makes them ‘fair game’ for public critique, and in a world where we’re all telling each other to #bekind why are people of digital influence an exemption to the rule?

There are forums, private groups and entire platforms dedicated to dragging people who call themselves influencers, like Tattle Life. Tattle is a gossip site filled with discussion threads dedicated to different influencers, where anonymous accounts weigh in and trash talk the individuals in question. It sounds a little like an imaginary, cathartic public service ripped from an episode of Black Mirror, but unfortunately, it remains a very real run-of-the-mill website powered by predominantly female users.

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a person wearing a hat © Emilie Lavinia

Tattle threads hone in on an influencers’ looks, how ‘authentic’ or ‘honest’ their posts appear to be and, more often than not, how these influencers have failed to live up to the expectations of Tattle users. But why should they? When someone with a lot of influence posts on social media they of course do so of their own volition, but arguably, this doesn’t mean they enter into a contract with the public.

When a person of influence posts, sure, it would be ideal if they were honest and perfect and inspiring, but we don’t owe the public that - we don’t owe the public anything.

When a person of influence posts, sure, it would be ideal if they were honest and perfect and inspiring, but we don’t owe the public that - we don’t owe the public anything. It’s not our responsibility to meet the public’s expectations, to look or behave a certain way, to have a perfect relationship, a perfect body, perfect children or behave perfectly on or offline. But for some reason, the public believes that influencers carry this responsibility and that should they fail to deliver, they’re deserving of abuse.

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Just this week I made an appearance on Talk Radio to discuss corporate virtue signalling during Pride Month and the comments section made my skin crawl. Most of the comments were about my appearance – my lips, my hair, my boobs. There were some violent comments, some sexual ones and plenty calling me a 'hard-faced cow' and the like. My DMs on Instagram and Twitter following the broadcast were much the same. Interestingly, not one of the messages had anything to do with the subject of my interview.

You need only look to the likes of Jesy Nelson for evidence of this phenomenon. In 2019 the Little Mix star created a BBC documentary charting her experience of online abuse. I was involved in the making of this documentary, discussing my own experiences with Jesy and a group of other people who had experienced online bullying – a Miss England contestant, a journalist, mental health activists, all influencers of some kind.

Influencers are not perfect creatures but they’re in no way ‘fair game’ on the basis that they create advertorial content or share personal information and opinions online. These people are fallible humans, not some form of indestructible parasite. I saw what online abuse did to Jesy and what it’s done to other influencers first hand, and that’s what’s so interesting – regardless of what sort of influencer they might be, and there are many definitions, these people are invariably just young women being young women.

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Personally, I'm the sort of woman who's good at putting on a brave face despite being sensitive, but the nasty comments in my DMs or that I've seen about myself on public forums are upsetting. How could they not be?

The nasty comments in my DMs or that I've seen about myself on public forums are upsetting. How could they not be?

‘Because content creation and influencing is predominantly a female-led industry, it seems to generate an insidious amount of bitter, negative energy at the thought of women being able to make their own money independently,’ says Naomi* an award-winning blogger with 230K Instagram followers. ‘The influencer scope is a broad one and of course there will always be a minority of bad apples within every community. Because of these bad apples, people assume that all influencers are blaggers, lazy, vain, self-obsessed or arrogant.’

Naomi recently discovered a thread about herself on Tattle Life and found the experience emotionally crushing. ‘Discovering my thread on Tattle was heartbreaking, and I'm normally a pretty tough cookie. Reading pages and pages of people trying to find out where I lived, how much rent I pay, if I'm paying tax to HMRC, how much I earned a year, and posting private photos of my friends has been absolutely horrible,’ she says.

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‘I think these platforms are horrific and have been instrumental in ruining the livelihoods of influencers who have caused no harm to anyone. The mental health toll of knowing that people are insulting, doxxing and dissecting your very being can be a heavy one. There is an innate sense of cruelty in waking up each day and intentionally deciding to be horrible and fixate on the life of someone you've never met, for several hours.’

Daisy Kelliher is a reality TV influencer who has appeared in shows such as Below Deck Sailing Yacht. Her vocation couldn’t be more different to Naomi’s, to Jesy Nelson’s and to my own, but we’re all considered to be influencers. Before appearing on television, Daisy believed that she was prepared for any online bullying that might ensue, but admits that in fact, she wasn’t ready for what came next. Daisy's life and the lives of her co-stars became public knowledge and were subsequently discussed in tabloid comment sections and on sites like Tattle.

‘The fact that some people carry so much hate and anger is scary, it’s very intense and overwhelming,’ she says. ‘I think people who troll are deflecting their own insecurities and we live in a generation where people really feel like they know you. I think it’s led to certain people losing touch with reality and they really don’t think about the other person reading the comments and the effect it can have.’

It’s a fairly common adage, the explanation that someone is being unkind because they’re jealous of you. I’ve lost count of how many times my parents and teachers would say that to me while I was growing up. But can every single person that uses Tattle or fills comment sections with vitriol really just be jealous? The anonymity of sites like Tattle and their attempt to provide artificial arenas that mimic private conversations among friends engenders an environment where accountability is absent and people are able to indulge in saying whatever they want with no consequences. Of course, the difference between a private conversation with friends and a public forum powered by tens of thousands of users is that there are indeed consequences, even if they’re not immediately obvious to Tattle users.

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Celebrity Talent Manager Chad Teixeira tells me, ‘You would never approach an influencer in the street and say something unkind, so it baffles me that people think it is ok to do it online. Unfortunately, these sorts of comments are tolerated by social media platforms, which makes abusers believe it’s ok. There’s no accountability. I really don't believe that influencers and celebrities have a bad reputation by choice. Social media puts them under a microscope and they are constantly scrutinized by the public for simply being human and of course, this is harmful.’

The issue here is of course that despite ‘influencer’ being a blanket term to describe people who have online influence for myriad reasons, all influencers are perceived by the public to be fair game and sites like Tattle show no signs of disappearing. ‘It’s clear that a majority of these attacks on people of influence come from jealousy, resentment and an unhealthy level of scrutiny. Internet forums are nothing new, but we should refuse to acknowledge and actively discourage platforms which catalogue any form of negative abuse directed towards individuals,’ says Katie Wallwork, Director of The Fifth Talent, the talent agency operated by News UK.

‘The public forget that the people behind influencer accounts are real people. There’s a degree of separation with social media and it’s given people a guise whereby they feel unaccountable and detached from the impact of negative comments they are making,’ she tells me. ‘The reality is that many of these influencers are seeing these comments and it is a real risk for mental health, especially that of young influencers across the platforms. Tattle directly provides that detachment from the consequences of negative remarks.’

As an influencer who believes that I owe you, the public, nothing, where does that leave me? Should I leave social media and stop posting if I don’t want to live up to the expectations of the public or otherwise face very personal abuse? Or perhaps everyone that uses Tattle should live by the same contract of transparency and ‘fair game’ that they expect from influencers and use their real names, addresses and photos if they want to use the site? Perhaps Instagram and Tattle should shoulder some of the responsibility? Or perhaps we should do away with the term ‘influencer’ altogether? After all, there isn’t one word for all people who work in finance and I’m fairly sure, if not certain, that they shouldn’t all be judged and found wanting, based on one profile I came across on Hinge.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of individuals.

READ MORE: Inside Tattle Life – The Site Where Women Discuss Women

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