Earlier this week, Ed Sheeran announced he was taking a step back from Twitter after receiving abusive messages. It’s an all too familiar tale with Twitter, but exists on other forms of social media, too. Celebrities often find hateful comments thrown their way, but you certainly don’t have to be famous to be a target.
The sad truth is that success often brings about hatred, criticism and abuse. Whether that’s a celebrity, a person from a viral video, or a popular Wattpad writer—which brings me to the main topic of this post. Even writing the phrase “popular Wattpad writer” makes my stomach squirm due to its unfair connotations of rude teenagers who don’t deserve their success.
A couple of days ago, a writer with over 70,000 followers said she’d received a message from a Wattpad user attacking her because she hadn’t responded to the user’s original message fast enough. It didn’t matter whether that writer was a nice person, a kind-hearted member of the community who always helps others; her worth had been based on a number, her personality irrelevant because her success automatically meant she must be a bad person.
I wish I could say this was a one-off, but sadly many “successful” writers suffer abuse from people who somehow feel they’re owed something. Unpopular as this opinion might be, they’re not owed anything. Sending someone a message does not mean it’s compulsory for them to reply. If they don’t respond, that doesn’t mean they think they’re superior. It probably means they’ve got a lot going on in their personal life and can’t physically keep up with every message they receive.
To be clear, I don’t consider myself “famous” by any stretch of the imagination. As a member of the Wattpad Stars with 30,000 followers, I’d call myself successful. That’s my personal opinion, but my readership has grown purely through posting stories. I’ve never asked anyone to read my work and I’ve never employed any sly tactics to gain followers, because if there’s one thing I hate about having success on Wattpad, it’s not knowing whether people you talk to are genuinely interested in you or if they have an ulterior motive.
“Can we be friends?”
This is one I get a lot. It’s a strange one because, in real life, you’d never ask permission to be someone’s friend, so why do it online? It automatically makes you wonder what they’re really asking. What does this friendship involve if you feel the need to ask permission? In any case, I always say yes. I don’t have set criteria people need to meet, and I’ll be friendly with anyone. Unfortunately, it often transpires that there’s an ulterior motive behind the friendship: a few days later, they ask you to follow them because, you know, you’re friends.
“Someone dedicated a story to you.”
Whenever I receive a dedication, much like whenever I receive a comment I want to reply to, I flag the message in my inbox to revisit when I have chance. Most of the time, people have written something lovely, explaining why they dedicated the chapter to me. It’s heart-warming and makes me feel like they truly appreciate me as a writer and not just a robot who churns out chapters.
On the flip side, there are people who take advantage of successful writers to try to increase the reads on their own story. They don’t care about that writer as a person—they only care what that writer can do for them.
I’ll give you an example: a few months ago, I received an email about a dedication. As usual, I flagged it and then had time to check it out a week later. By that point, the writer had deleted the dedication to me and replaced it with a dedication to another writer (one with over 100k followers).
I’ve had it even worse in the past, too. Someone dedicated a chapter to me, I replied and thanked them, then added the story to my library. When I had time to read the story, I noticed they’d deleted my dedication and dedicated it to someone else. They’d got what they wanted from me—a vote and a comment—and they wanted to get that from someone else, too. It seems like a sly way to get successful writers onto your story in the hope that it’ll result in their followers checking you out, too. Just have a bit more integrity, and I can guarantee you’ll have more success as a result.
“You deserve to lose followers.”
It had been a huge amount of time since I’d updated: a whole 20 days. When I did update, I received a comment on the new chapter saying I deserved to lose followers because I wasn’t updating quickly enough.
I don’t expect people to follow me due to the speed of my updates; I expect them to follow me because they like my writing—or, dare I say it, they like me. It was another example of someone basing the worth as a writer on the number of followers. I was in the middle of my final year university exams that month. Writing, much to my displeasure, had to take a back seat. That doesn’t always mean anything to some readers. You’re treated like a machine whose sole purpose is to produce chapters. It didn’t matter that I might have something going on in my personal life that meant I’d been unable to write; all that mattered was that my chapter had been uploaded later than usual, and that readers had had to wait longer than usual to read it. The ironic thing was that they obviously enjoyed the story—and hence my writing—if they felt so passionately about the speed of my updates. They just didn’t spare a thought for the person creating that writing.
“You’re not like other popular writers.”
That’s because we’re not all the same. This brings me back to my original point: generalising a whole group of people and assuming the actions of a minority must equal the behaviour of the majority. Some writers receive thousands of comments a day and it is simply impossible for them to reply to them all, and extremely difficult for them to even read them all.
“You’re not like other popular writers” is obviously intended as a compliment, but you can’t help feeling like your title of “popular writer” means you don’t care about your followers and that it’s therefore a surprise when you interact and chat. We’re human beings, not a group of faceless enemies.
Now, I’m not saying that every single successful person is a wonderful, caring individual. I know there are people out there who are rude and thoughtless. I’ve even experienced it myself when friends I made online have gained popularity and subsequently unfollowed me. It was a real kick in the teeth—not because I lost a follower, but because someone I considered a friend made a conscious decision that I wasn’t worth their follow anymore. So, of course, I understand where some of the resentment can come from, but it’s important to realise that not all people are like that.
This blog post has been brewing for a long time, but I only recently had the courage to post it. I’ve no doubt that a lot of resentment towards successful people stems from jealousy, which is probably a controversial opinion to express and, whilst I’m not one for being controversial, we need to speak out against the trolls and encourage kindness instead. A lot of popular writers bite their lip and simply accept abuse as part and parcel of being successful. It shouldn’t be like that. If you want to become successful yourself, work towards perfecting your craft. Don’t bring down those who’ve already achieved it simply because you feel like you deserve it more. One day, you might find yourself on the receiving end of it, not knowing what hurtful message you’ll receive that day.
Being separated by computer screens should not mean it’s more acceptable to attack a person. If you wouldn’t say it to their face in real life, don’t say it over the internet. Once you start feeling happy for those who’ve had success, you’ll start feeling happier within yourself, too.