I, like many people, have a desperate desire to be liked. Not in the sense that I crave adoration and praise, but I want to be the kind of person that makes people feel safe, loved, and appreciated.

I naively jumped into the public sphere when I was 19, and thought that the majority of people would share this goal. I very quickly learned that once you put yourself out there it’s extremely hard to be yourself out there.

The human brain was not designed to hear negativity from hundreds or even thousands of people, and we regularly see the effects of people succumbing to the pressure of being picked apart and scrutinised by others who’ve never even met them.

I also used to believe that everything written in newspapers had to be true in order to be published: a belief which has long since withered and died.

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I could talk about the multitude of people who have been bullied to the point of taking their own lives or mention specific examples of people from the current cultural zeitgeist who have once again made headlines for spreading vitriolic hatred towards people they don’t know, but I’ll leave that to cultural commentators and my journalistic colleagues.

I am not here to report the news; I am here to give my opinion, and my opinion is that often the more public someone’s life is, the more eyes are on them, the more lonely they feel. With the advent of the internet, the old saying that any publicity is good publicity no longer feels relevant. Where hate mail used to be sent physically and filtered out by an agent or manager, now people have an instantaneous and direct link to the person they don’t like and can say what they like with very few repercussions.

It might seem strange that people would seek out information about someone they hate or take precious time out of their day to engage in discourse based on rumours and gossip, but psychologically speaking it makes perfect sense. It’s sheer confirmation bias: bad behaviour, real or rumoured, undertaken by people we don’t like confirms to us that we are justified in our feelings about them. It’s incredibly sinister to watch, and I know from experience that it creates a kind of depersonalisation: a dissociation of the self that’s hard to describe.

There was a time when I would’ve done anything to make people stop disliking me, but the truth I’ve taken years (and many therapy sessions) to realise is that it’s not really me they dislike, but a constructed idea of me they have formed based on assumptions and inaccurate information. It seems we are becoming increasingly desensitised to hate; we see it so much that it’s now a normal part of the online experience. People say that everyone in the public eye automatically forfeits their right to privacy, as if it should be viewed as a price, and not a punishment.

I have seen things written about myself and others that are objectively, provably untrue, but to paraphrase the old saying, a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth gets its trainers on.

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It might seem strange that some media outlets would fabricate, exaggerate, and make space for outright bullying, but it starts to make sense when you consider that controversy means cash.

Truth might not sell as many papers or drive as many clicks, kindness doesn’t always make for a juicy headline, and compassion will rarely make record profits, so some media prioritise profit over principles and stir up hatred.

The relative anonymity of online discourse allows people to create distance between themselves and the recipient of their words, and even further distance between the recipient of their words and humanity.

The media have moral responsibilities which they frequently appear to neglect: an obligation to the truth, to fairness and to impartiality. Most of the major media outlets in the UK have recently run campaigns surrounding mental health and suicide prevention, and yet time and time again, we see disingenuous headlines published with the sole purpose of stoking controversy and animosity. I would encourage anyone within the media to consider the power of persuasion they hold over cultural attitudes, and to examine whether they are using that power for the collective good.

Many people who haven’t experienced online abuse give the advice to block and ignore, and I know this comes from a place of genuine concern and sympathy. The problem with this kind of sympathy is it often feels like an expression of pity, not of understanding. Telling someone to ignore hatred directed to them often feels like the person saying it doesn’t want to hear it discussed, doesn’t want to confront the reality that words do indeed hurt and can often have an extremely detrimental impact on mental health.

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It is often said that there is a difference between kindness and niceness. Niceness sits comfortably on the surface, keeping itself to itself and most of the time it does nothing more than inflate the ego.

Kindness takes effort: sometimes it’s standing up for victims and survivors, sometimes it’s making noise when others are silent, sticking your neck out for someone regardless of the personal consequence. It seems that maybe people should focus a lot less on being nice and a lot more on being kind.

When I was younger, my mum, as I’m sure many mums do, said to me ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’ Sadly, I don’t think that’s enough any longer. It is not enough for people to stay silent, to ignore injustice and hatred, and to let others spread poison and vitriol.

I genuinely believe that if most of the people who spread hate online got to know the people they discuss, or even saw them in real life, they wouldn’t feel comfortable saying the same things they write about them online to their face.

Maybe that’s the last vestiges of my naivety talking: a hope that people are, at their core, mostly good. Against reason I will cling to that because I have to believe that things can, and will, get better.