Apparently I'm a Troll

Ashley Cleland

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

A wellness influencer called me a troll. Accountability is not trolling, even if she seemed to think so.

It was my morning casual swipe through of Instagram stories, some lovely images of a kiddo playing on a beach, a friend’s engagement, and then I saw it, after her story of a smoothie.

A wellness influencer, who carefully curates a feed of vibrant fruits, family, and peace for over 37,000 followers which used to include me, broke her rose gold and turquoise aesthetic with a picture of a horrifying tweet.

The tweet was by Pastor Greg Locke, a Tennessee pastor who refuses to follow restrictions and guidance by the CDC amid a pandemic.

Screenshot from Twitter

My mouth dropped open. I truly thought this woman who so passionately advocates for health must have been calling out Pastor Locke for being so reckless with the wellbeing of his church and everyone they come in contact with in their community.

Nope. She added “current mood” and “100%” to her shared story.

I found it so unsettling and irresponsible to share and then advocate for ignoring guidance to wear masks/face coverings and practice social distancing.

I don’t know this woman personally. I considered just unfollowing her and moving on.

But thinking of her impact and all of her followers, I couldn’t stay silent. I politely direct messaged her: “Just reaching out to let you know that this post is problematic. Many outbreaks have been linked to churches, weddings, and funerals where guidance was ignored. Please consider changing to add accurate information or deleting your post.”

I included a link to the CDC and one other source.

She responded, “News flash: science says masks don’t work.”

I asked her to cite her source and she shared an Instagram post made by a single doctor. This doctor stated that masks don’t work, but did not share any research or data to back up her claim.

This tactic feels familiar, like when White people share a video of one Black person saying they don’t believe in racism or white privilege to support their point even when overwhelming evidence says otherwise.

To top it off, she followed up with: “Stop! You are a troll!”

Troll? I was seriously taken aback.

I’m a woman on the internet. I’m also a woman who writes about sometimes uncomfortable or controversial topics.

Honey, I know trolling. This ain’t it. This is accountability.

My last message to her: “It is not trolling to send information from the scientific community as opposed to one doctor. You have a big following. Please reflect on your impact and take care.”

Then she blocked me.

People of influence, on social media or otherwise, need to be able to distinguish between trolling and accountability.

Trolling is often off-topic or designed to derail the conversation, hateful, and focused on personal or ad hominem attacks. It is an unfortunate reality of the internet, especially when women, people of color, and marginalized groups speak up.

Accountability is holding someone’s influence, words, or actions to a high standard of truth and positive impact. In the case of the influencer, her words and actions sharing that tweet were not truthful and could have a negative impact on 37,000 people and everyone in their communities.

As a feminist, I am compelled to stand up for marginalized communities. We should not stay silent, in particular when Black people are disproportionately impacted and women are harder hit financially by the pandemic.

I would never troll anyone and in particular another woman because I know firsthand it is scary and upsetting. But I’ll hold people accountable any day.

If we truly want the needed changes to happen in our communities and our world, we can’t hide from accountability just because it is hard to hear. Accountability is necessary for growth.

No one is expected to be perfect, even after an Instagram filter. But if you are unwilling to be held accountable for your words, please do us a favor and stop sharing them with the world.

To paraphrase a certain superhero movie, with great influence comes great responsibility.

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Educator & Writer. Fearless Feminist.


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