On Sunday I did something rather stupid. I spoke publicly about my concerns that One Direction’s Harry Styles may be suffering from depression. I did so knowing that the subject might be controversial but I also did it with the best of intentions.
At no point did I say that Harry Styles was actually mentally ill, the point was that he is in a very high risk group. I did expect to generate discussion, what I didn’t expect was the avalanche of hatred that came my way as a result of an article that I have since deleted.
Over the past 18-months or so I have written a lot about One Direction and their fans chiefly because I believe that both the band and their fans are given a bad press by the media in general. As a result of my writing I have supported fans, fan projects and fan charitable efforts both with publicity and with my own hard-earned cash. My experience with the One Direction fandom has, for the most part been a really positive one. I have established online friendships with many fans and found most to be caring, genuine mature people.
The last thing I expected was to become the victim of cyber-bullying myself. The disturbing thing wasn’t that people lashed out, I understand that reaction, it was that I became the focus of an orchestrated campaign that took its rise on social blogging platform Tumblr.
I most certainly did not expect a couple of influential bloggers whom I have supported publicly in the past to fan the flames of hatred. As a result I was being subjected to hatred from people who didn’t even trouble themselves to read the article and make their own judgement. Most simply jumped on a band-wagon they knew nothing about and spewed forth hatred. One even accused me of encouraging fans to self-harm! Words that I did not even utter in the article.
It was very interesting that a lot of people contacted me privately to provide their support, most saying that they understood where I was coming from and advising me to simply block the haters and move on. I find this difficult because after spending my entire working life in the armed services and the police fighting injustice and standing up for myself and others is second nature. That said I am all too aware that no-one wins fights on the internet. There are only losers.
The last few days have been tough. Anytime I post something online I seem to receive a barrage of hate, it doesn’t even matter what the subject is. I can only imagine the devastating effect that this type of behaviour must have on young people who are fragile and much less able to deal with this type of behaviour than I am.
Of course I realise that the vast majority of One Direction fans are decent and honourable people who would not dream of acting in this way. I have had lengthy discussion’s with some fans who disagreed with me over this article totally. Those people are the ones who convinced me that I was wrong to publish this article and that’s why I deleted it.
It is a simple fact that those who shout abuse and try to bully you into doing what they demand get nowhere, this behaviour leads only to people digging in and fighting with each other. In the end it is totally counter productive.
If I am totally honest I always knew that the One Direction fandom had a dark and sinister underbelly. The small minority who behave in this way are over-publicised by a media who try to paint all One Direction fans as obsessive and nasty and I would hate to tarnish all the lovely genuine and caring fans with that kind of label.
As you might imagine I was feeling a little isolated earlier today when a friendly One Direction fan sent me a link to this post from a writer at the Huffington Post. The post demonstrates that what I have experienced is nothing new. I am not the first “friend” of the One Direction fandom to have been treated this way and I am sure I won’t be the last.
It would be easy to lash out at the bullies because they have caused me a degree of pain. I won’t though because I am all too well aware that Bullies, especially those who choose the internet as their field of prey, are sad and pathetic individuals who need help. These are people with so little in their lives that their self-esteem is through the floor and as a result they see anything that challenges them to think beyond their narrow minds as a threat.
For the most part bullies are people with a sensitised amygdala who lash out at any perceived threat, real or otherwise. As the great Billy Connelly would say “they are more to be pitied than scolded I can assure you.”
If you are a One Direction fan who has suffered cyber-bullying I encourage you to speak out about it. One Direction NDA have a superb anti-bullying initiative in place so I would encourage you to get in touch with them if you need support.
I would also ask everyone to remember that to err is to be human. We all make an error of judgement every now and then and the world would be a much better place if we could just remember our own failings before we leap to condemn and harass others for theirs. We are all entitled to make mistakes, we are entitled to screw up now and then, none of us is perfect.
We all have the right to live our lives free from bullying and harassment even, or perhaps especially, when we make a mistake.
Finally to the many many people who reached out to check if I was OK or who defended me publicly I am honored and humbled by the kindness and understanding you have shown.
The experience has left me a little battered and bruised but unbowed. It was never my intention to cause anyone distress and genuinely regret causing anyone pain.
I wish every last one of you, even the bullies, love and peace.