In April 2017 my home was photographed for the largest interiors magazine in the UK, Ideal Home. The publication hit subscribers over Christmas and news stands at the start of the year.
Very soon the magazine featuring my home found its way to a comedian who published an image and tweet referring to me as a ‘blithering idiot’ for the way I choose to display the books in my living room. And then it exploded. Thousands of retweets and hundreds of comments passing judgement on a small bookcase of backward facing books in a Northamptonshire living room. Some of them jovial, others were actually witty but some were utterly sinister, particularly through a Facebook post originating from a book lovers page.
Over the next few days the storm became viral and the dividing opinion was picked up by The Daily Mail and The Independent. Yesterday, as I was driving to an appointment I was invited to give a comment to The Times. Unfortunately what these huge publications failed to document was that ‘Lauren’ had become a victim of cyber bullying. Over the last few weeks I have been referred to as a dumb slut, a psychopath and a degenerate. One facebooker even requested her friend ‘come and help me find Lauren she needs her head kicked in’, while another suggested ‘Lauren needs to die and be fed to pigs’.
I make no apology for the way I choose to store a tiny percentage of my book collection. You may call me shallow, call me pretentious, I do it for no other reason than to provide a display backdrop. I would like to come up with a profound reason why I do it, but there isn’t – it’s purely because I like the look of it, much like the impractical sofa you may have purchased purely for aesthetic reasons. I am not a book hater and contrary to popular belief, I can read. However as the daughter of someone with dyslexia, I also find the notion that this is a negative trait highly insulting.
I understand that by opening my home up both on and offline I invite feedback. Everyone has a right to an opinion after all but trolling to express your thoughts is not, and never will be acceptable. Day by day, I see plenty of interior images on Instagram that don’t float my boat and what do I do? I scroll right on by.
I haven’t wanted to draw attention to the incident for fear of perpetuating the keyboard warriors. I have declined requests to appear on the BBC, Channel 5 and Lorraine but I’ve chosen to use this corner of the internet to attempt to put the backward books to bed and draw attention to the real story here; the subject of cyber bullying. Over the last four years I have worked with a team of articulate, smart and kind women (and one man!) to create a safe online environment to chat about a topic of the day; whether that be as trivial as a new lipstick or as valid a conversation as the #metoo campaign. While we welcome healthy debate we have always advocated respectful behaviour. I am proud not only of the team and what we have achieved but of the community we have created and I feel I can highlight the story that the broadsheet and tabloid media missed.
The resources that exist to support victims of cyber bullying are often focused on children and the policies put in place by Facebook are woefully inadequate. I’m not aware of anything I can do beyond the general consensus to ‘grow a thicker skin and let it blow over’. Friends have suggested those writing the comments are ‘spotty juveniles tweeting from their mum’s house’ but I’m not entirely sure that’s the case, it’s far more alarming. I wonder if some people even realise their behaviour constitutes trolling? At the time of this post being published the offending tweet is still highlighted at the top of the comedian’s feed. I would like to think he meant no malice and it was intended as a bit of fun rather than an online bullying campaign. Anyone typing an offensive, rude, insulting or abusive online message aimed at another person is carrying out cyber bullying. I’d urge people to think before they comment on social media and question if they would be willing to say the same face-to-face. Would you really be comfortable for your friends, family or employer to read your interactions?
Do I regret the Ideal Home experience? Not at all. It was after all a childhood ambition fulfilled, however the comments from several thousand individuals have tainted the experience somewhat.
Thank you to all of you who have contacted me to offer support and let’s continue to highlight the cyber bullying aspect rather than my interior design choices. In light of the topic of conversation I would encourage you to be respectful in any comments you choose to post despite any feelings you may have towards the trolls.