Welcome to Troll Talks, our Anti-Bullying week influencer discussion all about online hate and trolling. Although we’re massive social media fans, we recognise that it’s opened up new ways for trolls (people) to hurt and bully others which we just won’t stand for. We value kindness and positivity above all else at River Island and strive to make our corner of the internet a welcoming one. Chessie, Skirmy and Callie spoke to us about what it’s like working as an online content creator and their experiences dealing with online hate.


Meet Chessie


Tell us about your experience with trolling and how did it affect you?

My first experience with online bullying was about 5 years ago and a delightful human decided to set up an anonymous account with photos of me, side by side with photos they had edited of me. The captions said things like ‘Chessie King minus 10kg, the ideal weight for her’, ‘Goodbye salty, thick, cellulite legs’ etc. They had, with a lot of time on their hands, edited my body to half the size it was in the original photo and that was the catalyst. That sparked off all of these trolls and online bullies to rally round and come to together because they feel like they’re part of a community. However, I’ve realised over the years and with experience that it’s nothing to do with me. Unfortunately, they’re the person who is saying these horrible things and they’re the ones that need help and support.


How do you protect yourself against online trolls?

I use the Instagram filter for words in comments and my list is the funniest sentence you could ever read. It’s full of the keywords I have blocked so they don’t make it onto my page and if anyone comments a certain word I won’t see it.


How do you stay positive when receiving negative comments?

With age you realise that there is so much more to life than looking at comments from people who don’t know you. I always try and go back to being my own best friend and taking my own advice. I think ‘what would I say to someone that I love? What would I say to my best friends if they came to me saying they were struggling with being bullied online?’ I’d say, ‘they don’t know you and they are insignificant to your life’. They’re crying out for help and sometimes all they need is a response and sometimes I do reply. I used to be quite sarcastic with my replies 4/5 years ago but now I ask, ‘are you okay? What can I help you with? Do you need support?’ because that’s the underlying theme with trolling and bullying. They need to blow out your candle to make their fire shine brighter.


What advice do you have for people experiencing trolls/online hate?

If you are going through cyber bulling or trolling I’m extremely sorry because it’s horrible and no one deserves it. My top tips would be to block and delete, to use Instagram’s tool for blocking of key words. Speak to someone in your support system and if no one fully understands what you’re going through, family or friends, then there is professional support out there.

If you know someone who is going through it or you see someone online being targeted, don’t reply back to the Troll – that is exactly what they want. They want to be seen and to create a commotion because they thrive off attention. Instead of replying to the Troll, contact the person being trolled to let them know you’re there for them and listen. 


What do you love about social media?

Despite the negative side of social media with the trolling and online bullying there are some extraordinary things to come from it. Huge positives like connecting communities, being able to share experiences and finding your own little bubble. Knowing that you’re in control of your phone and it doesn’t control you helps to create a better relationship with social media. I came off for twelve weeks and was fully off Instagram, I deleted the app. Since then, I have such a deeper understanding and appreciation for the app. 



Meet Skirmy


Tell us about your experience with trolling and how did it affect you?

The first time I experienced trolling online was when I first started vlogging in 2007. It was around the time YouTube had just started so it was a completely different world back then. In Lithuania, we used to have our own YouTube and it was a great opportunity to build your audience when only a few people doing it. After posting several videos, my content was automatically boosted on other social media platforms and my viewership skyrocketed. With all that attention came all the negative comments about the way I looked, my mannerisms and things I said which really affected my confidence. I was just 16 years old and still trying to understand myself as an individual. Every little comment I received I took personally and that was probably the main reason why I stopped vlogging. I just wasn’t ready for it!


How do you protect yourself against online trolls? 

I came a long way since my first stint at content creation and now I feel much more comfortable in my own skin. So, trolls and their comments are not something I take personally anymore because at the end of the day, they don't know you in person and almost all the time it's more about them than you. Lately, I started restricting troll comments by using the 'restrict' feature on my Instagram and in some cases - block. We just don't need bad vibes coming our way, no ma'am!


How do you stay positive when receiving negative comments?

Meditation! Nothing takes away the bad thoughts more than deep breathing, zen music and thinking about all the positive things in your life.  


Do you think the lines between constructive criticism and online hate have blurred?

I wouldn't say so. You should be able to recognise constructive criticism when it comes from the person you trust and from someone you think is good at what they do. Otherwise, it's just an opinion coming from a stranger.


What advice do you have for people experiencing trolls/online hate?

Just take a deep breath, dress up, look stunning and just do your very best - every single day!


What are three things that people can do to feel more positive about social media?

My top tips would be to only follow people who inspire you, to remember that it’s okay to mute content that makes you feel bad and finally, focus on doing your own thing!

What do you love about social media?

It's a great way to connect with people and create a nice digital space for yourself.


Meet Callie


How do you protect yourself against online trolls?

I definitely use the block features on social media platforms in particular on Instagram. By using a content filter you can enter any words that you don’t want to see into your settings. This way you’re blocked you from ever seeing those kind of comments on your feed. I think the biggest thing with dealing with trolling is once you see something hurtful it’s hard to forget about it so the best way to protect yourself is to avoid seeing in the first place. 


How do you stay positive when receiving negative comments?

The truth is I don’t always stay positive I think we have a habit of promoting toxic positivity. I really believe that it isn’t a helpful tool when discussing issues like this because it makes the responsibility be on the victim and not the perpetrator.

Of course, I do like to stay positive and try to focus on the good which is why when my friend told me to look at the number of mean comments I get in a numerical sense compared to the good it helped a lot.

When I compare the number of kind comments that I received from like-minded women compared to the occasional nasty comment (often from men) it helps me refocus on what’s important. The nasty comments are a tiny smidge in comparison to the large amount of goodness and kindness I receive. 


Do you think the lines between constructive criticism and online hate have blurred?

I think it’s important to be open-minded and accept constructive criticism to avoid creating an echo chamber however I think the lines have definitely been blurred. It’s okay to share an opinion, express an alternative view or simply say you don’t agree just as long as those opinions don’t relate to racism, fatphobia or someone’s human rights. What’s not okay is when another person makes an unhelpful rude or aggressive comment using their right to an opinion as a way to say hurtful and harmful things.


What advice do you have for people experiencing trolls/online hate?

Honestly there is no right or wrong way to handle it. Sometimes I brush off comments very easily and other times I can find myself in a very dark space where I feel like I never want to be online again. I think it’s important to just feel the feelings that you have. It’s also important to reach out to friends and family and don’t suffer in silence by yourself.


What are three things that people can do to feel more positive about social media?

Curate your social media feed

If people or accounts are making you feel sad or hurt or upset unfollow them or mute them. Follow accounts that make you feel happy inspired and joyful.

Put in some boundaries

Make some ground rules of things you won’t accept on your page. I think having that in your mind (even if you don’t set them publicly) really helps with how you feel comfortable and show up in your own space.

Set specific time for social media in a positive way

I think people always talk about social media being such a negative place but instead of thinking of it as a waste of time, carve out time where you can just enjoy it. Maybe that’s an hour after work or when you have a long soak in the bath.


What do you love about social media?

I love that it has brought so many communities together. When I first started blogging in 2012, I had no idea there was a community of plus size women speaking about their struggles. Without social media I would never have improved my self-confidence and esteem. It has allowed me to meet amazing like-minded women and people that I get to engage with all the time.

It’s also a really amazing educational tool where we can engage in activism and support smaller independent businesses.