As one of the original ‘influencers’ (a label I still struggle with), I’ve been sharing my life online for a little over a decade. I started my journey on YouTube when it was still a fairly small website, I remember installing Instagram on my phone when it was virtually unheard of, and I’ve seen myriad other social media platforms rise and fall. Throughout my time on the internet, I’ve experienced many of life’s ups and downs, just like everyone else. Unlike everyone else, my journey has been self-documented, so I can look back at my video diaries that entertained millions of people and reminisce.
I was 22 when I started, and now, about to turn 33, I can step back in time and watch myself go through these moments whenever I wish. I bought a house, travelled the world, got married, worked on far many more ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunities than that turn of phrase should allow. I lost my step-father to cancer, wrote a book, got divorced, branched out into traditional media, fell in love again, wrote a film, bought another house, did a stint as a presenter and am now engaged to be married for the second time.
It still blows my mind to look back on my adventures. It often feels like I’m watching someone else, and I believe, that for some people, this is where the problem begins. For my audience, I am someone else and we all judge other people. I’m the first to admit that I do it all the time. It’s totally natural, we just tend not to act on it because telling someone the negative opinions you have of them is socially unacceptable and will invariably cause more harm than good. However, when put in the context of social media, that judgement finds itself in a very unique position where people can say what’s on their mind from behind a username without seeing the hurt it causes and without fear of repercussion that a social faux pas will lead to.
Without exaggeration or embellishment, I am subject to hate comments, unwelcome opinions and online bullying on a daily basis, but I fully accept that it’s part of my job. I put myself out there and unfortunately, it comes with the territory but I count myself lucky that I was given the chance to grow a thick skin. When I started, the internet was a smaller, and much kinder place (at least it was to me). My audience seemed to love watching my escapades and the support I received was phenomenal. I could go weeks at a time without reading a single negative comment, but that has changed so much now that I find myself wondering if I’m looking back with rose-tinted glasses.
As social media has grown larger, it has also become more competitive as we all spend an increasing amount of our lives consuming other people’s existences. An unwelcome side effect of this is that the rates of online bullying have shot through the roof. Research by Ditch The Label found that this year alone, bullying has increased by 25 per cent.
Not everyone who is subject to this online hate has the coping mechanisms that I was given the time to develop and, as such, the consequences cannot be overstated. The negativity I receive built gradually and I was able to develop my hard exterior in response, but very few people have that benefit. I witnessed this first-hand when I started featuring my fiancé Sarah in my content. The majority of my audience were happy that I had found love again, but a small portion of them were very vocal about how Sarah would never compare to my ex. Some started rumours that I had cheated, others were cruel about her heritage, others still went further and began researching her so they could cut as deep and personal as possible.
Perhaps the worst thing I read was an individual who had so much hatred toward us both that she wished Sarah was infertile so we could never bring a child into the world. For the most part, this was water off a duck’s back for me, but for Sarah, who had never been exposed to it, it was crushing. Being with me was a bit of a double-edged sword for her in so far as, had she never known I existed she would have been free from this bullying, but by being with me, at least I was able to impart some of my experience that helped her deal with it.
With this in mind, although it’s shocking, unfortunately it’s not at all surprising that about half of those who experienced bullying in the last year say it has affected their mental health and around a third developed depression. There is a real and worrying negative correlation between happiness and time spent online. The problem is nuanced, complicated and very modern, but nobody can deny the evidence that bullying has a lot to answer to.
Social media is a wonderful tool that has allowed us to tap into other, like-minded people and to communicate with anyone in an instant. It has the ability to spark change in the world as we are all seeing with the Black Lives Matter movement and I owe my career to it. However, it’s also addictive and a tool that is all too easily manipulated, warped and twisted. That same ease of communication comes with a massive caveat that people can communicate whatever they wish, without accountability and that is something that needs to change.
For Anti-Bullying Week 2020, Screen Shot is supporting the anti-bullying charity Ditch The Label in its mission to raise awareness of the consequences of bullying and online abuse through our campaign Not Just a Comment, which features 6 inspiring change-makers who know first hand what it’s like to receive hate online. They shared with us the worst comments they receive as they come together to highlight the impact that words can have on each and every one of us. Read the facts, hear the comments, share with anyone who you think might be suffering from bullying and donate if you can to help support the incredible work Ditch The Label is doing. #NotJustAComment
Adult film actor Josh Moore celebrates his sexuality and identity both on-screen and in real life. As an OnlyFans creator, he stands up for sex workers’ rights while challenging stigmas surrounding HIV. Moore has perfected the art of ignoring haters and carried on being his fabulous self by always speaking up.
That’s why for Anti-Bullying Week 2020, Moore sat down with Screen Shot to speak about online bullying and the impact it has on people’s well-being in support of the Not Just A Comment campaign. He shared more about the ways he deals with online hate so that you too can learn from his experiences.
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It’s something that has always been interesting to me, and now it’s a real passion of mine—sex for me is a beautiful and powerful and art, and I love being able to create something that pleasures others.
Oh absolutely. You have to change and adapt pretty quickly. As soon as you reach any sort of social media fame, it comes with a price, and that, unfortunately, is trolling. My self-confidence took a battering for many years at the start of my career due to this.
I always try my best to raise awareness on a lot of different matters, since starting in the industry 5 years ago, the stigma surrounding HIV and sex without a condom has changed massively, and we in the industry have the power to influence that through porn and our social media. I think that’s very powerful as there is zero sex education out there for young gay men!
I also think that we, as sex workers, are becoming more visible and more mainstream, thanks to the ‘Cock Destroyers’ Sophie Anderson and Rebecca More, the playful female porn star duo that has captured the nation’s hearts and really shows the humanity and joy behind sex workers and their career. But we still have a long way to go when it comes to our rights and the stigma we face, so I’ll always be there on the front line battling that!
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I would tell them that being your authentic self brings so much joy. I’m not saying it will be an easy road to travel—sometimes to get there, it’s hard being LGBTQIA+, coming out especially or being confused. But please explore yourself, find what works for you, and be proud and open to do so! Because until you can be yourself and show the world who you really are, I don’t think you can be truly happy.
I try to be as mindful as I can be, but as a human, we all make mistakes. I myself have made mistakes and said mean things online when I’m frustrated or angry, but remember before you post anything that it could potentially hurt someone. Leave it for 10 minutes, calm yourself down, think about the human on the other side of that tweet or comment, and then come back to it and rethink posting.
I have a mantra when I’m feeling a little shaky or not so confident, I quietly say to my self ‘I am beautiful, I am powerful, I am strong and I’ve fucking got this’. It always helps me, and please try it, it can help you too! You need to tell yourself these things, even if you don’t feel them, make yourself believe! Fake it ‘till you make it!
I’ve set boundaries in my own mental space, if I receive a negative comment, I will totally ignore that person—I won’t even block or delete, they will just not be acknowledged. Because what they are looking for when they troll you is a reaction and blocking is a reaction, it makes them feel like they have won. So a total lack of acknowledgement is always my go-to move.
Stop the censorship of LGBTQ+ people on Instagram. The platform is full of female celebrities showing almost everything, but we as sex workers and gay people are reported, banned, and blocked every day for the same pictures.
Go out there on social media and be an anti-bully. Go spread love, joy, and positivity! Tell people how beautiful they are, tell them they are doing great, that their hair looks amazing and their outfit looks so cool—you never know, your comment may make someone’s day, or even save a life. Always remember that your comments hold power.
For Anti-Bullying Week 2020, Screen Shot is supporting the anti-bullying charity Ditch The Label in its mission to tackle online abuse. Our Not Just a Comment campaign features 6 inspiring change-makers (including Moore) who know first hand what it’s like to receive hate online. They shared with us the worst comments they’ve ever received as they come together to highlight the impact that words can have on each and every one of us.
Share with anyone who you think might be suffering from bullying and donate if you can to help support the incredible work Ditch The Label is doing. Share the hurtful comments you’ve received online using #NotJustAComment and raise awareness about the impact of online bullying.