The first time I felt the digital sting of another woman was in 2011. I was living in Bangalore, India and had excitedly uploaded a blog post about the Indian wedding I’d attended. It wasn’t one of those elaborate weddings that span days like you see in Bollywood films. It was a wedding on a budget, in the small apartment of a work mate, and it was wonderful. Night-and-day different to any wedding I had ever been to. Plus it gave me the excuse to buy a sari after living in India for only two weeks!
As a foreigner, I felt grateful to witness firsthand one of Indian culture’s most prized ceremonies — the sacred hours-long wedding that hasn’t changed much over the centuries. In the blog post I ran through the traditions one by one and shared commentary on how I interpreted them (often wrong!) and detailed funny moments that stood out for me.
Well, Indian brides who stumbled on my blog post because they had googled ‘Sanskruti Silks’ (where I bought my sari) or ‘wedding shoes’ were not pleased to read the account of me joking about the fun I had at the wedding. I know that because they emailed me. I was called everything from a bitch to (hold your horses!) a cunt! Although my all-time favourite insult was the woman who told me she hoped my husband beats me.
The first hate email really shocked me so I shared it with the bride and groom. The bride asked me to post a comment stating that she and her husband really enjoyed reading it and had a big laugh over it. Their family and friends have also read it, along with most of our colleagues at work (the bride was a work mate). Yet only strangers who weren’t there hated me for it.
That was my first taste of that sort of female.
During my three years in India, I would go on to receive more hate emails but the mass majority of the trolling on social media or my blog seemed to come from men. Depending on the topic at hand, the comments would range from blatantly sexist or lewd to the worst of them … the men who would angrily degrade me when I would share a personal experience on topics like being groped in India. And from 2013 when I left India up to now, that tradition has carried on.
Until last month.
It Started Like This
A man broke into my apartment in the middle of the night wielding a machete, terrorising me until I screamed so loud my neighbours heard me and he ran out. On his way out he was confronted by my neighbour wielding his own machete who tried to detain the man. Sadly the man escaped and my neighbour ended up in the emergency room from two machete lacerations (read the full story from the TribunBatam newspaper here and their follow up article the next day just about me here).
After about 200ml of vodka to calm my nerves, I started vlogging about what I had been through and what I was feeling. As the day went on I continued to record moments, including with the police. Then I launched it.
And that’s when the female troll appeared.
NOTE: I’ve copy/pasted all of her comments below, with comments in Bahasa translated with Google Translate to English. You’ll also find screen grabs of my messages with her.
I’m not overstating this. After posting the video, I received 300+ messages, comments, and calls from family, friends, and people who follow my channel or who found my video.
There was only one person to troll me or say even the slightest negative thing. Her name is Mutiara (normally I wouldn’t give real names but she posted publicly).
On my own post on Facebook, she commented … but not to ask me a question or message me. She said I was a beautiful liar and needed to be deported from Indonesia (thanks for the beautiful part, I guess!). And she started spouting lie after lie about me, that included:
- I posted the video to get attention because I wanted to get an extension on my soon-to-expire visa (no, I’m a permanent resident)
- Apartments in Batam have good security (no, mine had zero that night and for weeks following the attack)
- That if it were true, I would be dead (no, and I’m grateful to the attacker for not hurting me and sad every day knowing my neighbour was hurt trying to restrain him)
- If it were true I would be speechless for a days and always with an expression of fear on my face (that’s in the movies, not real life…)
- Robbers wouldn’t only take a camera, they would loot my apartment (no, he broke in looking for the ex-residents/my landlords’ safe that he had burgled before, he’s the same man from CCTV footage in my bedroom a year before I moved in, which you can see in the video that this troll commented on)
- My face looked anguished because I stayed up all night planning this (no, I went to bed at 1am and the attacker entered at 3:45am)
Wait, It Get’s Worse
Mutiara inspired two other female trolls (Afrina and Angelica) to join her “conspiracy theory” and one went on to identify my apartment building! I had just been attacked. What kind of terrible person publicly shares where I live after such a traumatic scare?
She went on a bit more. Without knowing that I work with tourism boards and that I’m am specifically passionate about promoting Batam tourism, she also said that what I was doing was selfish and I didn’t care about the people of Batam.
Then I Made A Mistake
I had the idea to write this piece and I thought it would be good to approach it more subjectively. Since her commenting was so singular and unique, I decided to reach out to her and ask a few questions. I messaged, introduced myself, and asked if I could send a few questions. She agreed but said if the questions annoyed her that she would not answer.
I had three questions for her:
- Did you try to research / learn about me before commenting?
- Why did you believe I was lying?
- Do you regret making those comments?
She Replied As You’d Expect
She stuck to the narrative that she believed, even though I shared with her that literally every comment she made was false. Then she doubled down and asked, ‘if I expected that people would pity me and start to think badly of Batam?’
Highlights of her replies:
- Stop thinking that people don’t speak English or that they’re stupid (Note: that was a sharp turn she took from claiming I’m lying about being attacked to … what? … I’m a being a racist?)
- If you want to earn money by living here than you need to be more respectful
- People aren’t suffering from Covid-19, they suffer because of your video
- You need to write articles about being kind to others
- … and my favourite >> that she is my big fan!
Reaching out was a waste of time. I realise there is no way to find common ground with trolls like this sadly. What kind of person — let alone a woman — goes to such lengths to be negative when they can clearly see I reside in Batam and promote tourism here because my channel is literally overflowing with Batam travel videos.
After that I muted her on Facebook so that I wouldn’t be notified if she messaged again.
But she did!
And it is the oddest twist of this entire story.
She messaged one more time. I found it a week after she sent it and here it is in a nutshell:
“Angela I don’t hate you, I like you. I commented on Facebook to protect you from people who don’t like you. You need more viewers on YouTube so you should work harder to get people to like you. I have a brand new camera that I will give you to support your job. Please advise you are happy to accept the camera.”
Then I guess because I didn’t reply in a timely manner, she blocked me on Facebook. So even if I wanted to reply for her kind offer to loan me her camera I can’t now.
Here’s What I Don’t Understand
The feminist in me says that I should consider all trolls or hate emailers equally. Yet the ‘me’ in me feels that women should still be there for each other in times like this. To offer support. Not to spread lies and pile hurtful comments onto someone who was already having a really shit day.
Am I right though? Nope, probably not.
Trolls and hate emailers should be judged by their words, not by whether they’re male or female. Although 99% of trolls I’ve encountered are men, that doesn’t mean there aren’t female trolls out there ready and waiting to lie and throw out conspiracy theories like the best of the guys.
What I do know is that I flushed out all of my PR training that states VERY CLEARLY to never engage a troll. I didn’t engage her online but I did by messaging. I don’t know what I was trying to accomplish. Maybe it was just to get the ONE person who trolled me to admit they were wrong. Which says what about me exactly? That I’m insecure or a narcissistic?
Well, whatever it was, writing my first blog post on trolls in eight years was cathartic and helped. If you’ve read all the way to word 1,525 I thank you 😉
Stay safe and healthy, friends. See you back here soon xo
Our Messages >>
- Mutiara >> Where she live in batam, which apartment ? I was thinking she’s just make story about her life and good content to get attention . Coz many foreigner is never get this story and they live in full of security in Batam. Shes just trying to get attention for her friend being living in Batam. This isn’t right. Many expatriates living in batam and they live very good security especially in apartments. I really hate people who trying to make story to get attention. Living in apartments in batam, need very good security. Living in apartments in batam not cheap. What bullshit story she make. I believe she’s beautiful liar. Shes need kick out from batam-Indonesia . I know most of foreigners make the story because her visa has expiry or the date of expiry visa left few days. She should be speechless for a days after the incident with fear on her face. Her face like tiring being working. If true happen robbery in batam, like her story shes already dead. Coz the craziest robbery is they not take only camera and laptop. They will took all the stuff inside the house or apartment. I believe her mental is sick. I believe she’s struggling to continue life with limited money since shes need to pay her expenses in batam try to get out batam coz her visa will expire.
- 2nd Female: Angelica >> I think this is the case in the beautiful [REMOVED APARTMENT BUILDING NAME], I am not mistaken … because I heard yesterday there was an issue there
- Mutiara >> yes robbers only take money up to tens of millions. That’s a small fortune, the robber if hungry must take all the contents of the house. Even if you take it a bit, then the area wants to run anywhere, just want to go in there is 24 hour security. Then if indeed the intention to rob many of his other possessions must be exhausted. Took just camera, it doesn’t make sense huh. Then her wound is too small. The robber must have been a big prick. It’s strange right?
- Angelica >> ??? I also don’t know too well, I just heard my friend say there was an apartment yesterday in [REMOVED APARTMENT BUILDING NAME].
- 3rd Female: Afrina >> I also do not believe, because her face is not battered and all the assets are not looted.
- Mutiara >> If she wants to find content, she shouldn’t let so many people lose their jobs by damaging tourism. Maybe she just saved herself, but damaged the name of the tourism industry. If it really happened, must have been someone who always goes in and out of her house, attacker must be a worker there who maybe she didn’t pay, so that person took back something valuable to compensate for not being paid. If it was a robber, it’s really little. It’s strange. My point is simple, in Covid 19, all businesses are dead, but hundreds of people shouldn’t lose eating with their families just because of her case. Try logic, how come the robber can know the ins and outs of where she lives? It means it’s not an outside robber class. That person must always enter that place. He was working there like daily habit. Yes, his actions are as if our area is a high crime rate. Read all over the world again. Probably she does not pay people who work at home.
- Angelica (this is her 1st draft, she edited it later to something softer) >> yeah, bro … she shouldn’t have done this because she contacted the police, saying there’s a crime where it isn’t. Yes, her actions are as if our area is a high crime rate but crime is all over the world. Probably she does not pay people who work at home.
- Mutiara >> I think she wants to use the police report to extend her residence visa in Indonesia and get a free stay in the area. She must have a goal so she can live easier. Plus at her current age, she wants to continue to live that way even if she does sacrifice a lot of people and people’s lives.
- Mutiara’s final comment >> her face was tired not because of fear but because of planning something or working late into the night. If someone is really robbed, she couldn’t even talk all day. If this is only fabricated, she has sacrificed the lives of many people and the good name of the region or even the country for the sake of her own survival.