We don't realize just how important it is to set our privacy settings until someone violates them, as was the case with Caitlin Seida. According to an article written by Caitlin herself on Salon, the writer and former paralegal got a message from a friend on Facebook one morning that read, “You’re internet famous!” The friend had linked to a photo of Caitlin dressed as Lara Croft for Halloween. It was a photo that Caitlin had posted to her personal Facebook account, but had been taken and republished on a site that was specifically for mocking other’s appearances. Over the image were the words “Fridge Raider”.
Surprisingly, Caitlin said she wasn’t all that angry at first but, rather, somewhat amused. As she admitted, “Who doesn’t laugh at unfortunate shots of poorly dressed strangers? I’ve certainly done it before; the Internet runs on this kind of anonymous scorn.” When she scrolled down, however, the hateful comments hit her like a freight train. One comment read, “What a waste of space” while another read, “Heifers like her should be put down.” One commenter suggested she commit suicide “and spare everyone’s eyes.” There were hundreds of hateful comments like these, most of them noting the audacity she had for dressing up like a sexy video game character.
“How dare I dress up and have a good time!” Caitlin wrote about seeing the comments. To Caitlin, dressing up as her heroine was a simple decision. As she put it, “Croft is feminine but dangerous, well-educated but athletic, and she’s also easily recognizable, which makes a Halloween costume fairly easy.”
The shots at her weight were not only offensive but, as Caitlin explains, without merit. She struggles with polycystic ovarian syndrome and a failing thyroid gland and, although she watches what she eats for the most part and exercises “an inordinate amount,” the numbers on the scale rarely change.
Here’s where the story gets good — Caitlin set about getting her own sort of revenge on the hateful commenters. She tracked down the most offensive commenters on sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, etc., and sent them notes. Not surprisingly, most of them were women. As Caitlin says, “Anyone who’s survived high school can tell you how women slice each other up to make ourselves feel better.”
She sent these women a note that read, ”You’re being an asshole. Why don’t you just do the right thing and delete the post and stop sharing it?” Caitlin said their reactions were typically not defensive or remorseful but many of them were startled that she could read their comments. These women didn’t realize that, although they had set their privacy settings, once you go through a public page on Facebook, the whole world can read what you write. Take that, mean girls!
Caitlin also set about the arduous task of sending out copyright violation notices, and many of the images were taken down. She wasn’t kidding herself to think that it was possible to get them all down, and even made sure to repost the picture for the Salon article — making sure it was on her own terms.
Another bright spot in this story? Caitlin said that, throughout this whole agonizing and lengthy process, she did see something positive occur. “For every three negative and hateful comments, there was at least one positive one,” she noted. One commenter even pointed out that it looked as though Caitlin had polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Caitlin admits that the experience caused a huge hit to her self esteem but says she’s gradually gotten over it. “I refuse to disappear. I still go jogging in public. I don’t hide my flabby arms or chubby ankles for fear of offending someone else’s delicate sensibilities,” she writes. “I dress in a way that makes me happy with myself. And this Halloween, I’m thinking of reprising my role as Lara Croft just to give all the haters the middle finger.”
Although it was tough to read at first, we love this story and this courageous author. How about you?