Lara Croft, viral photos, FaceBook, mean girls, privacy, being kind: She’s right. I feel bad because I have laughed many times at these pictures. (But I must say the folks that go to WalMart ought to know better by now.) I don’t think I have shared … but i cannot say for sure. I will try to be kinder going forward.
The first thing I needed to do was figure out where the picture came from. That wasn’t hard — it came from me. I’d posted the image on Facebook, but like so many before me, I’d failed to pay attention to my privacy settings when I uploaded it. Instead of restricting access to my friend network, I’d inadvertently given access to the whole world.
But Facebook made it easy to find people who had commented on the images. By now, the picture had metastasized through reposts on Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, 9Gag, FailBlog. But looking through the Facebook “like” function, I could track down the most offensive commenters.
Most of them were women. Shocked? I wasn’t. Anyone who’s survived high school can tell you how women slice each other up to make ourselves feel better.
In the months since, my attitude toward these throwaway images of mockery on the Internet has changed. I no longer find them funny. Each one of those people is a real human being, a real person whose world imploded the day they found themselves to be a punch line on a giant stage. I speak up whenever a friend gets a cheap laugh from one of these sites. I ask one simple question: “Why do you think this is funny?” Very few have a good answer. Mostly they just say, “I don’t know.” Reminding people of our shared humanity hasn’t exactly made me popular, but it feels like the right thing to do. I know what it’s like to be the person in that horrible photograph. I can’t inflict such pain on someone else.
I’ve also learned to keep a tighter rein on my privacy settings online. I don’t always succeed at keeping my content private, but I’m certainly more guarded now.
And while my self-confidence took a large blow from the experience, I’m getting over it. My photographer friend Terri did a photo shoot with me after it all went down. She’s a retro pinup photographer, and I’ve been posing for her for a while now, but that particular shoot felt great. Just to be seen a little bit more as I wanted to be.
But 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. 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.
And no, I won’t be putting the pictures online this time.