The Internet is a nasty place. For one weekend, I was the least popular person on Twitter, according to Washington State University fans. Not Miley Cyrus, not Barack Obama or Taylor Swift, but me.
On Friday, Yahoo Sports published a blog post I’d written for The Loyalty Report, a trash-talk pre-game series that runs on the blog The Post Game.
By Saturday, my Twitter, email, Facebook and Instagram exploded with comments from Washington State fans. I was called a slut, whore, cunt, bitch and many derogatory female-based terms. I had a hash tag: #MeganCoghlanSucks.
I have no strong feelings against Washington State. There is no reason for me to despise the school and its fans. But if you want some smack-talk, sure, I can deliver.
I wrote my post based on examples of previous posts in The Loyalty Report series, which were provided to me and were quite similar to my final product. The Yahoo editor published the post and told me he loved it. Then people from Washington State formed a mob.
I expected negative responses, sure. When you talk trash, you expect to get trash back. But the overflow of sexism and cruelty that flooded my inbox and social media accounts was far out of proportion for a trash-talk column before a football game.
As if they’d never heard their sports team take a hit before, people were getting worked up enough to track me down all over the Internet or find my phone number just to call me a cunt. Because they didn’t like a thing I wrote.
The support I have received from people who actually know me far outweighs any comment from a Washington State fan telling me I should go blow the entire defensive line. I was lucky to have support from those who know me, but my weekend gave me an up-close view of a familiar news story.
Rebecca Ann Sedwick was a 12-year-old girl who committed suicide in September after being the victim of vicious online bullying by the new girlfriend of a boy she once dated — just one of a string of victims who made the news for being driven by peers to commit suicide.
And cyberbullying does not just happen to teenage girls. Miami Dolphins football player Richie Incognito was accused of harassing teammate Jonathan Martin over text, voicemail and more earlier this month. It bothered Martin enough that he took a leave of absence from the team and Incognito was suspended.
This trend in online bullying has reached 25 percent of young adults, according to the i-SAFE foundation. My post was not meant to be groundbreaking journalism; it was written for a smack-talk specific blog. It was stuff you can expect to hear a bunch of guys say around the water cooler.
But none of those guys would receive emailed suggestions to get a boob job. They wouldn’t get called a slut, and they wouldn’t have their phone numbers posted on the Internet. They wouldn’t be told to “get back in the kitchen,” and “try being a housewife instead.” And some people just thought it would be cute to send penis emoticons.
I locked my Twitter account as a result, but the comments traveled to dailywildcat.com, the campus newspaper where I serve as co-sports editor, even though my article was not written for the Daily Wildcat. Sorry I didn’t get around to congratulating the Cougs on their win sooner, I was too busy deleting crass comments about my parents from my Instagram account.
The reaction to my post was more of an attack to my personal character than any kind of constructive criticism. As laughable as much of this online activity may be, it still angers me when someone who knows nothing about me makes a threat to me or my family. The spiteful comments did not make the Washington State fan base look better than what I wrote.
Some people even tweeted that I was now on suicide watch and sent me a suicide hotline number as a joke.
I’m sharing my experience because there is a much bigger problem here than the story of me and an angry mob from Pullman. I am not ashamed of what I wrote. I am ashamed of the reaction.
Trash-talk is a part of sports. Harassment, sexism and threats should not be.