Emily — also known as blogger Fashioneyesta — told us about her experience of online hate crime.
Even though I knew these comments were coming from people hiding behind their keyboards it still filled me with a sense of fear.
Being a blogger, a YouTuber and a social media influencer you have to grow acclimatised to the fact that not everyone online is going to like you.
Receiving criticism comes with the territory of being online, but how do you deal with comments that aren’t so much critical but more hateful?
I have a disability, I was diagnosed with a congenial condition known as Septo Optic Dysplasia. The condition impacts both my sight and my endocrine system, meaning I am severely sight impaired and work with a guide dog and have a very demanding chronic illness.
I use my blog to talk about disability positivity as well as fashion and beauty. I started my blog and YouTube channel Fashioneyesta after receiving so many comments from people telling me in an incredulous voice that I didn’t “look blind”. So, I decided to make a space on the Internet where I could dispel the myth that sight loss predetermines how you will look and the things you can do.
But it seems that not everyone on YouTube agrees with my ethos. I’ve had a mixed bag of hateful comments. From people telling me to drink bleach to cure my disability to people outright accusing me of faking my sight loss based on how I look and act. Someone even went as far as to make a video of me accusing me of lying about my disability.
When I first started getting these comments, my mental health plummeted to a new low. Anxiety wormed its way into my life and I found myself becoming apprehensive to make content. I allowed other people’s words stop me from doing what I loved.
Even though I knew these comments were coming from people hiding behind their keyboards it still filled me with a sense of fear that I could put myself online and run the risk of receiving more hateful comments that could play havoc with my mental health. Never mind the 100s of positive, kind and sensitive comments I’d receive from my audience, my mind would always settle back on that negative one.
People need to understand that disability hate crime is just as bad as other forms of hate crime and prejudice. I sometimes think that disability isn’t so much talked about on social media guidelines and it can often be an afterthought when it is. I definitely think social media need to start recognising disability hate crime and ableism.
When reporting comments on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube there need to be specific options to report different kinds of hate crime, disability included. In real life, the police recognise the different kinds of hate crime and the same thing should apply to social media.
The truth is, the internet and specifically social media is instrumental to the disability community and the way we live our lives. We use it to get advice and stay social when our disabilities make it difficult to get out and about. We should all have the freedom to use social media and not have to face hate crime. But if we do face it there needs to be a clearer reporting system implemented by social media platforms to deal with it.