What to Do When the Internet Is Making You Miserable

Is your phone on silent? Good.

Spend an extra ten (fifteen twenty thirty sixty) minutes in the shower and burn it all out of your body. Washing away stress is such a quaint description—scald off all the shit and the sludge and the slurs and the grime. Towel it away and put on your favorite outfit: the nostalgic t-shirt you stole from an ex-boyfriend turned yellow at the neckline, or those tacky “BYE HATER” sweatpants you bought for five dollars at Rainbow during a clearance sale. Or maybe a leather jacket, or that old team jersey. Wear what makes you feel like yourself and run your hands over the fabric, part armor part embrace. Remember that night you met your best friend? Remember that road trip to your new city? That was a good day. This is a good body to live in. Continue reading

Why I Will Never Support Herpes Dating Sites

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Photo by William Iven

Positive Singles. Meet People With Herpes. Truster. Hift. Hope. H Date. Hmate. Herwks. That’s right, friends. It’s time to talk about herpes dating websites and how much I hate them.

Herpes dating services have been around since the Internet was invented, thanks to a powerful social stigma that makes disclosing your STI status a frightening prospect for many of us. In a world where we are judged for having a sexually transmitted condition, telling a new partner about herpes means risking a rejection that plenty of herpes+ people would rather avoid. I get it. There is a market for these services, and I don’t want to dismiss the experiences of the people who use them. Please do not read this essay as judgmental. I don’t mean to knock the insecurities of people with herpes: I want to address the companies that profit off of them. Continue reading

How to Give a TEDx Talk When the Internet Wants You to Shut the Fuck Up

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CW: threats of violence, encouragement of suicide and self-harm, gendered slurs, sexualized harassment

On Saturday morning, I woke up at 7am. I took a shower, got dressed, did my makeup, chugged a Diet Coke, and picked up two of my best friends. We swung through the Middletown Dunkin Donuts for coffee and breakfast, and then we drove to Connecticut College to attend its TEDx event. I paced back and forth in the speaker green room as my friends fiddled around on the piano and cracked jokes to keep me calm. My pulse was slow and I found myself less nervous than I expected to be. The day had a beautiful inevitability to it. A year to the day I had gone viral for the first time, I was about to give a talk about herpes stigma, the talk I’d been waiting to give for what felt like forever. I was ready. I was excited. And I had nearly canceled three days before. Continue reading

How News Genius Silences Writers

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I moderate Facebook comments all day. While the rest of the Internet shuts off comments on publications, Facebook comments aren’t going anywhere—they count as engagement to help rank posts in the newsfeed, and there is no way for an admin to turn them off. As the host of a large media non-profit’s page, it is my responsibility to remove comments that are hateful while not censoring our audience. I work to create positive discussion by hiding the most appalling instances of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, and by banning consistently hostile users. If we can’t turn off our Facebook comments, we need to own them.

As a result of this daily grind of filtering the worst instincts of humanity, I have a thick skin. I also know the value of sites that protect their creators. As a herpes+ sex blogger, I avoid writing for publications that do not moderate their comments, or, in some cases, even encourage negative comments through outrageous headlines. Websites that are known for their horrendous comment culture use it to drive additional traffic—online reading as public shaming that anyone can participate in. I have had my lifestyle, my intelligence, and my sanity raked over the coals in the comments of sites like BuzzFeed and The Daily Mail. The sexual nature of my writing is a beacon to the seriously disturbed. When I confided my terror in a male friend after going viral for the first time, his response was essentially: What did you expect? It’s the Internet. Continue reading

Peeple Launches Today. Here’s Its Plan to Profit from Harassment

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When news of Peeple, the so-called “Yelp for people” that lets you rate anyone you know like a restaurant, swept the web last year, I was horrified. A tool that lets my abusive ex-boyfriend write whatever he wants about me and post it for the Internet to see? A tool that lets anyone with my cell phone number start my profile on the website without my consent? A tool that sends notifications to my phone without my permission, theoretically allowing my ex to override my block of his number? Continue reading

A Friendly Reminder That You Don’t Know Me

not the person I saw on youtube

An odd thing happened this weekend: an idiot on Twitter really wanted my attention. I say idiot because this young gentleman truly seemed to be stupid rather than malicious in his persistent need to speak to me despite my obvious disinterest. This young gentleman joined Twitter just to communicate with me, a suggestion he denied despite the fact that he followed only myself and Ellen Degeneres. You see, in his eyes I was beautiful. I was attractive. He did not care that I had herpes, and he wanted me to know this. When I told him that his tweets were making me uncomfortable, he sent me many more of them. When I told him I would block him if he sent me one more message, he sent me a video of himself singing as an apology. I was unimpressed, so he continued to tweet at me, calling me fake and judgmental.

His most telling statement? “You’re not the person I saw on YouTube.” Continue reading

Why STDRegistry.com Is Disgusting, and Outing Your Ex as STI+ Makes You an Asshole

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A few weeks ago I wrote a carefully crafted essay on my conflicted feelings about individuals who fail to disclose their herpes status and the criminalization of the transmission of sexually transmitted infections. These are painful topics, highly subjective and personal, and I delicately side-stepped any absolutes on what is and is not immoral. My experience is mine alone, and my feelings of rage and hurt toward my “giver” do not mean that everyone who transmits an STI has the same knowledge, responsibility, and moral ineptitude as he did. I am not interested in condemning or absolving anyone.

Judging by the email I woke up to this morning, I was being too subtle. But we’ll get to that soon. Continue reading

Everything 2015 Taught Me About Harassment

Twitter_BlockIt would be easy to say 2015 was about herpes. In reality, this year was about my voice and the Internet and growing up and falling short. I conquered some demons by capturing a specter in words. I gained a few thousand Twitter followers. I broke my own heart and never wrote about it. I moved into my first apartment. I met new, important friends.

But 2015 was mostly about harassment. I got harassed a lot this year. My friends were harassed. My mother was harassed. I spent one of the final days of 2015 in court waiting for her to testify against her stalker. We sat on a rigid bench for six hours and I thought about 2013, when I was harassed, properly harassed, for the first time. The first time, I didn’t know what it was or what to call it other than he won’t stop texting me and what do I do. I knew not to answer and just watched the missed calls rack up. Then there were texts, and then Facebook messages. There weren’t a lot, but a handful was enough to turn up the dials on my anxiety. It felt like all the air had been quickly sucked out of the room. I did all the right things, told my parents, saved screenshots, and eventually it stopped. I created a Dropbox folder of evidence if I ever… needed it, for some reason. I knew I could go to the dean about it and get a no contact order, but at that point it seemed safer to go quiet. And so I hid. And shook. And cried. And kept hiding. Continue reading

“Who Has The Time To Count Facebook Likes?” Fuck You, I Do.

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I get so pissed off when people rag on social media. You know that conversation, usually at a cocktail party (oh who am I kidding, I’m twenty-three and I go to cramped apartment parties or loud bars where I have to strain myself to reluctantly listen to sermons about modern technology), when someone you thought you liked starts talking about how social media is turning us all into automatons unable to relate to each other. Twitter, the end of empathy. Facebook, the death knell of human connection. Tumblr, the downfall of social justice activism. “I mean, who has time for it?” they ask, gesturing with their bottle of expensive and undrinkable Brooklyn Lager. “Who has the energy to count likes?”

I do, I almost say. Continue reading

To The Woman Who Announced Her STI on Snapchat

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I learned about you when I Googled myself—as a narcissist is wont to do—and discovered I’d been mentioned in an article about you on the Daily Star. I’m not entirely sure why my efforts to destigmatize herpes were mentioned in the article, which was a masterpiece of stigmatizing, sensationalized journalism that in no way respected your humanity. Perhaps it was a nod to the morality they were chucking out the window in favor of page views. Either way, your story stuck with me once my initial “ethics in herpes journalism” rage passed.

You’re my fucking hero. Continue reading