There’s something on my mind… Something that I have been meaning to share with you for a while now, but I've been scared to do so. Don't take me wrong - I've always been quite personal in my blogs, but for some reason this topic feels different. It’s something close to my heart, so I wanted to make sure that my message would be clear & understood by everyone.
And then I realized that it was simply impossible to do so - whatever I would write or say, there will always be someone who will not agree with me. And that in itself was the crux of what I wanted to tell you.
We live in a day and age where perfection is preached yet inherently unattainable, but being truthful & imperfect is judged and shunned - especially on social media. Where openly making mistakes is just another reason for being called hypocrite, and saying “no offense, but *insert something offensive*” is considered a form of constructive criticism. We claim to be a generation who is openminded and free-spirited, yet if I stray away from your idealistic perception of me, compassion and empathy is no where to be found.
I have been publicly on social media since I hit my twenties. When I started with my blog featuring iPhone 6 mirror selfies in my tiny studio in Groningen, I never thought that one day this would grow out to be my fulltime career. I also had no idea about how scrutinized my personal life would be, or how much hatred I would receive for certain life's choices.
“She is so disappointing because she went to law school, but didn’t become a lawyer.” “She says she went to law school, but she only did a LLM and not a JD - she’s a liar.” “She thinks she’s pretty but she’s just short and too fat.” “She is too smart for being just a YouTuber and she is ruined her career.” “Now that she lives in LA she is just a basic influencer with no personality.”
I find it hard to admit that these words hurt me. I like to see myself as a strong person, who overcame enough of sh*t to be able to deal with some negative comments. Most of the times I don’t respond and simply ignore these messages. I don't let it get to me. That’s what I did my whole life; I’ve been bullied a lot and I would never stand up and defend myself, as I knew people would find it entertaining if I engaged in the drama. But some days, these messages would hurt like hell. Some days, they would feel like validation of my own worst insecurities and doubts. Some days, they made me feel so low and sad, I found it hard to find the motivation to do the simplest things such as get out of bed or make myself food. Even though they were just mere words, the right (or should I say wrong) words can be extremely powerful. You should never underestimate the power of what your message conveys.
Side note: These kind of messages fueled my passion for studying law, and choosing freedom of speech as my main research topic. I've always been a strong believer in the EU legal system for freedom of speech, where protecting minorities was valued over absolute freedom of speech. I believe that some things are better left unsaid, and have no value to add to our society, such as hate speech. However, I was curious to see how different legal systems approached this issue, so I moved abroad, to study the US consitutional system (first amendment) of protected and unprotected speech. I was shocked to see how hate speech was protected (protected here means not limited by the US consitution, and therefore legal) under the US law. Some of the cases I had to study (such as the Skokie case) just blew my mind with how extremely hurtful and unnecessary they were. The philosophical fundament of the US first amendment, the idea of "a marketplace of ideas", where good speech will always filter out the bad speech, seemed very naive to me. It's based on the idea of there being "a bigger amount of" or "more powerful" good speech than bad speech, so that the bad speech would be filtered out eventually by the good. However, with the combination of allowing (almost) everything to be said, together with the ease, low-effort, and popular form of entertainment of writing hateful things online nowadays, good speech will have to work twice as hard to filter out all the cr*p written online. The marketplace of ideas never anticipated the extreme amounts of information and opinions our society would have to deal with in current times. With writing a hateful comment only taking a few seconds, and being done pretty much anonymously, it's a highly effective way to impactfully hurt the person in question, with no personal consequences. And I had enough of it; So I guess this is my attempt of trying to filter out the bad speech, with the good speech. I want to speak out.
The simplest truth in life is that I am not you. You and I are two self-consciousnesses separate from one another. I am following my path of life, and so are you. I will not judge you, and I ask that the next time you want to judge someone else, you don't do it publicly. Just take a breath. You will think of the power and impact your words have, because trust me, they do. There are some words I will never forget, like dms I’ve received saying I inspired you to go to law school or college, or the time someone wrote that her boyfriend thought I should kill myself, because the world would be better off without me (after that I stopped reading forums in general). Instead of reflecting your opinions on me, take a moment to self-reflect on yourself. Because I truly believe that if we spend more time on self-reflection, and less time on judging others, you will become a better person, and create a better world too.
HAVE YOU EVER DEALT WITH HATE ONLINE (OR OFFLINE)?
P.S. Hope you enjoyed these pictures of happy me at LACMA, LA :)