Many people on Instagram hate me. What now?
May 5, 2019 1:37 AM   Subscribe

I made a comment on a somewhat well known person’s post that came across terribly. (Not at all my intent but I can understand why it was read that way). I deleted the comment in question — sort of as a knee jerk thing, I know in some spaces that’s bad etiquette — and apologized for it but I’m still getting all sorts of nasty comments tagging me. Now it feels like my online reputation is on the rocks — can you help assuage those fears?

I’ve temporarily disabled my account so I can take a mental break and my profile picture is of a pet and not me, but I still feel quite exposed. I worry that all the angry comments from people will haunt me — that friends will somehow see them, even if they don’t follow the account they’re being made on. The comments make it sound like I said something in the neighborhood of a rape joke or ethnic slur (not the actual situation but the equivalent). Before I temporarily disabled my account I turned off comments on MY posts to just my followers and then turned my account private.

But I’d like for anyone who comes across the comments tagging me to not be led to my profile at all. Short of deleting my account and starting over, is there a way to avoid that? Googling it makes it sound like I can change my profile name but that the comments will auto update with that name. Is there a way around this?

I can’t think straight seeing a bunch of strangers writing long comments about what a piece of shit I am — it’s gotten me thinking complex plans like “okay, if I reenable my account and rename myself something new, then create a brand new account with a burner email address that uses my old username and never put anything up on it, will that fool Instagram into linking to the fake and blank profile?”

I welcome other thoughts on how big a deal it is that people will see my username dragged on just one post for having said something ignorant. Perspective is needed! I see people putting a screenshot of idiotic things people comment in their Instagram stories to name and shame and worry this is happening here. It’s in a social justice type space that often turns into that kind of shaming circle when someone messes up — and I definitely messed up. Apologizing directly and naming the harm I did without making excuses honestly seemed to make it worse and now I’m just disgusted at how many people felt the need to go off on me. Will it not matter in a few days? (Also, yes I have read and own the Ronson book about being publicly shamed. Maybe that’s why I worry that it will be that bad for me.)
posted by the thorn bushes have roses to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think the biggest thing to remember is that online spheres move pretty fast, there are other things to be upset about and people do move on. There is to much to be upset in life for this to come up forever.

Just wait a little bit and move on, it is embarrassing but not the end of the world. You're fine.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:07 AM on May 5, 2019 [15 favorites]

Sucks and I'm sorry you are going through this. As someone who once had Google search results dominated by a piece called "The Hate of Johngoren..."

The Ronson book is great. But I can't imagine your comment would receive the same long-lasting attention as, like, the Justine Sacco one he talks about, unless it were truly extraordinary. If people have to work hard to keep fame going, it must be the same with infamy. Google search results might be terrifying now but they will pass and change. ("The Hate of Johngoren" is no longer in my results.)
posted by johngoren at 3:33 AM on May 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Go completely quiet for a week, including removing the app from your phone so you’re not tempted to check it.

I might be wrong but I don’t think your followers are updated on mentions of you in other comments—and most people I know on Instagram don’t even look under the tab that shows you what your friends are up to.

If you have friends who are part of the same community or follow the same account that was involved in your comment, talk to them about it in person.
posted by sallybrown at 4:36 AM on May 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Instagram doesn't hate you. Instagram hates some abstract entity on the internet, who they will forget about very shortly. Give it four weeks and then change your username and post something completely dull and innocuous just to test the waters, but chances are very high that nobody will cast pitchforks in your direction. Don't start a whole new account.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:49 AM on May 5, 2019

Just take a break and things will move on pretty quickly. You talk about etiquette, but I feel like tagging someone in a negative comment is really bad etiquette, a form of bullying. You are right to switch off for a bit. Don't worry.
posted by 0bvious at 7:00 AM on May 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Your followers will only see posts you are tagged in if they go to your profile and look at photos of you that are tagged with your username. Most people don’t do this. Your followers won’t see comments you’re tagged in at all unless they happen to come across them - there’s no way I can find to see comments that are @specificusername.

I agree that you should leave your profile private for a week or more - assuming that you’re not a public figure already, this will blow over quickly - I’d guess probably within a day or two. “Some random person on the internet said something offensive” just isn’t going to get much traction.

It might be helpful to block people who comment about you - if you block someone, their comments/posts won’t show up in your activity, though they will still be able to mention you. They won’t be able to message you (and you can also report harassing comments). More on blocking here - it’s more useful if the same person is repeatedly mentioning you vs lots of people doing it once.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:02 AM on May 5, 2019

This is a timely post for me, because it is a mad world (Youtube, Gary Jules), and I've been reflecting on how often I find myself saying, 'yeesh, if only people actually knew me,' especially when I get slagged on for things that are absolutely not true, and especially when massive amounts of favorites join in to confirm it. I know who I am, and that I'm just an online avatar here. My profile and posting history tries to defend my reputation, but often it doesn't seem like people bother to read it, or maybe they do and it makes me more of a target - I try to not speculate on what other people are thinking, but the baseless accusations that attack my integrity do keep me from sharing more about myself, because it could become fodder for worse. I also have to make hard decisions these days, because I'm medically fragile and I've got more upsetting fights brewing IRL, especially after my beloved Firefox starts working again, so I suggest putting your health and well-being above all else.

I also suggest that we both remember that our pseudonymous online identities can be reborn, and we can do better next time. I also think we can make our own choices based on the online environments we're trying to co-exist in, and I know nothing of how Instagram works, but I know I have to set my own limits here. Your situation sounds a lot worse than mine, so you may want to review resources on the MeFi Wiki Get a Lawyer page that are related to online harassment and abuse. Additional resources designed to support people experiencing online harassment and abuse are listed on the MeFi Wiki ThereIsHelp page. I also think that your self-reflection and empathy about this is a good sign - the fact that you care about being bullied makes it seem like you are in touch with the good person you are, despite the unjust harassment and abuse you are experiencing. Personally, I think maintaining your personal sense of integrity is a key part of finding your way through things like this.
posted by Little Dawn at 7:27 AM on May 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

It will not matter in a few days.

1. I am an old person, online-wise, and people who did really genuinely shitty online things in social justice spheres are now rehabilitated with ever increasing speed, never mind people who made one stupid comment and apologized.

2. I once did a bad thing in real life - I planned a terrible event that went predictably terribly, and had to fight my org in order to get us to apologize at all since they didn't take the situation seriously. I felt horrible. Basically suicidal, to be honest. I apologized personally and wrote the apology for my org, apologized in the flesh to everyone I could, etc etc. And it passed, people were very decent about it. I would say I lost some standing and trust, but that was reasonable given what I did. And I stress that this was a bad thing that happened in real life, not just a passing comment.

3. Strive to make your reputation a good one, and people will give you the benefit of the doubt if you occasionally do something bad and make a sincere apology. If you don't have a track record of being an asshole, people in general will think, "this person is basically okay, they made a mistake and apologized, unless I see evidence that this is a chronic problem I will assume it does not reflect their character."

4. Consider your online environment. When I fucked up, my IRL social world reacted appropriately - they were angry and frustrated, but, like, no one said, "Frowner is a monster, they deserve death threats and shunning". It was upsetting. I was extremely ashamed and disappointed in myself, but it was reasonable to be disappointed in myself. If people are responding to a stupid comment for which you apologized as if you are history's greatest monster, they're not great people to be around and you should consider better ways to deal with your social media. A stupid comment with an apology made by a private citizen in a low-influence situation is not the equivalent of a real-world event, a high-profile online event/publication, a comment made by a person with a lot of social power, an article in the Atlantic, a conference talk, a cruel remark that intentionally uses slurs or strives to hurt, etc. "You are a piece of shit"- type pile ons in that situation are driven by people's personal stuff, whether trauma or taking pleasure in shaming others, and they are not a sign of a healthy corner of the internet.

If your online environment routinely causes you anxiety, fear and shame when you are actively trying to be a good online participant, you should consider whether you are a particularly anxious/shamed person and whether your online environment is toxic. I actually went to therapy after the event, because I recognized that my long-term panic and suicidal ideation were coming from my depression and anxiety rather than an appropriate response to what had happened. (I also took "here is what I am going to do to make sure I never do this again" steps as part of my apology, but that was reasonable and appropriate.) In addition, I stepped back from some of the toxic parts of online where I'd spent time; that had nothing to do with the actual mistake I made, but being in those spaces was not teaching me to be a better person so much as sending me into self-hate spirals.
posted by Frowner at 9:19 AM on May 5, 2019 [20 favorites]

It’s in a social justice type space that often turns into that kind of shaming circle when someone messes up...I’m just disgusted at how many people felt the need to go off on me.

Does that make you reconsider whether you want to be part of that space?

The world is full of spaces. I guarantee I've never heard of the space you're describing—or your username, or the "somewhat well known person." I'd make the same guarantee about my friends and colleagues, and I'm absolutely certain it's true about every person I admire. This space may feel important to you, but that's a choice you've made and not an objective reality.

I'd encourage you not to care about what people think of you. (Obviously that's a platitude to some extent; I trust you can navigate the principle.) However, if you are going to care what people think of you, then let me offer this as one such person: I am quick to forgive anyone who makes a comment that "comes across terribly" because we all misspeak and also because we all grow and change, and by contrast I'm not keen on anyone who makes the ongoing choice to participate in communities that "often turn into shaming circles."

If that space is what you want to call home, then so be it. You asked for perspective, and my perspective is that there's a lesson to be taken from "I dislike how I feel on the receiving end of a behavior these people exhibit frequently" and perhaps you can use this moment to become more productive and much, much happier.
posted by cribcage at 10:01 AM on May 5, 2019 [8 favorites]

The advice people give is to apologise quickly, briefly and sincerely if you have done something wrong, and then to step away. Lock down your accounts and let it ride out. Then you can either carry on posting your normal content or walk away depending on what you prefer.

Given that you have deleted the comment, I think the important thing here is not to add fuel to the fire, or make things worse, so I'd leave everything locked down and be in different spaces online and IRL. If you are a private citizen (that is, you are not famous IRL, you are not internet famous, and you're not representing a business you own) then most likely it will die down by itself really quickly.

But please, take care of yourself. Public shaming, even when the public is small, is a horrible thing to have happen. Do not treat it as a balanced judgement on some mistake you have made. It is nothing of the sort.
posted by plonkee at 10:48 AM on May 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Something that I have seen work is to temporarily remove all your other posts and have a single post that says, essentially, “I recently made a comment without sufficiently thinking it through, and thus accidentally said something super (offensive/racist/transphobic/whichever). Many people have helpfully pointed this out to me. I am both horrified and mortified by this mistake and have deleted the comment. If you are here to tell me what a terrible person I am, please know that my brain has gleefully beaten you to the punch, usually just as I am trying to go to sleep at night. Thank you for your time.”

If you leave that up for a couple of days, that’s usually enough time for people to realize that you are not the monster they want to attack. You can then put your regular content back up and leave the mea culpa in case it flares again.
posted by KathrynT at 11:58 AM on May 5, 2019 [10 favorites]

Thank you for these helpful and compassionate answers/ideas! Today was much easier with this needed perspective.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 12:28 PM on May 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

I’ve definitely clicked on usernames (that were tagged in comments) that came up empty because the user had changed their handle. So I think that option is open to you too.
posted by hungrytiger at 2:41 PM on May 5, 2019

Don't do what I did in a similar situation and mostly nope out of social media for a decade. That will lead you down a really weird and unpleasant path.

I'd encourage you not to care about what people think of you.

And I'm going to ignore the platitude-y aspect of this and suggest that you ought to consider more about what people think of you in light of what you did and evaluate the community accordingly. Like in this case, you're part of a community where presumably people are eager to mob you or anyone else for a minor infraction, and may not realize that Occam's Razor is a thing. Do you really want to take part in a community where that's an accepted response to disagreement? So long as you're not minimizing whatever contribution of yours set this situation off in the first place, this sounds toxic for everyone involved. Hopefully you can find a more reasonable group of people to engage with in the future.
posted by blerghamot at 6:09 PM on May 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm a conservative (ish) guy who lives in Portland, OR, and frequents sites like this one and Boing Boing where my ideas are definitely in the minority.

When I post my genuine feelings about things, I am often called a troll or worse because there's no *way* a rational, intelligent person could possibly hold that view. :-)

When the name-calling starts, I just mentally acknowledge that this is the first time in human history where people all around the world can instantaneously communicate with each other, so it isn't surprising that the variations in humanity cause a bit of friction. It's not me - it is the human condition.

So I shrug them off and go about my day. AverageJoe6947 might thing I'm a #$@% troll, but does that really matter?
posted by tacodave at 5:02 PM on May 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I think disabling Instagram for a week or so is the only option in this kind of situations. But if you are missing your insta photos or videos, then you can save them on your phone for offline viewing with the help of other websites.
posted by alex1211 at 8:25 PM on September 26, 2019

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