real life

As soon as Serena turned on the television, she realised she'd been painted as the villain.

When Serena De Comarmond sat in front of her television to watch the first episode of Channel 7’s reality show Instant Hotel, she had a good feeling.

“We were so excited about what this was going to do for our careers,” she told Mamamia. Serena is an author, and planned on harnessing the publicity to promote her books.

The 37-year-old thought she knew exactly what she’d signed up for. From the makers of My Kitchen Rules, the premise of the show is somewhat similar. A number of teams compete to impress each other with their homes that they’ve transformed into ‘instant hotels’, and then they present a score. Serena had competed alongside her best friend Sturt.

Serena was next to her partner Ian on the couch, when, only a few moments in, she realised what had happened.

“I’d been painted as the villain,” she told Mamamia. 

The episode had been heavily edited, Serena said, “to make me look like a mean and nasty and conniving individual.”

She braced herself for “a little bit of hate,” aware of how she had been portrayed. But that is not what she received.

The comments people left on the Instant Hotel Facebook page were vicious. “They were saying that I was a bitch, I was a whore, I was a slut, I was evil, I was shifty, I was a cheater…” Serena said. “The worst words you could use to insult a person.”

Despite the fact Serena had been part of a duo, the hate was overwhelmingly directed at her.

LISTEN: How one woman is responding to internet trolling. Post continues below. 

“They called me fat, they called me a pig, they said I had a really ugly pig-like nose,” she said.

The disparaging comments on the page were not met with reason, or even with any dissension. Some comments gave way to a thread of 20-or-so replies, with images of pigs having sex with people, Miss Piggy, or pigs being killed.

When asked how those insults made her feel, Serena thought for a moment and responded, “First of all, it was shock.

“I couldn’t believe that people who didn’t know me would get so angry and so riled up about something that I said. I really felt their anger and their hatred,” she said, still in disbelief.

Comments made about Serena on Facebook. Image supplied.
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Post made by a viewer on Facebook. Image supplied.
Comments made about Serena on Facebook. Image supplied.
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In a subsequent episode, a narrator referred to her as "sneaky Serena" - a characterisation that Serena completely rejects.

She had children approach her on the street and say, "I heard you are really sneaky and that's just not cool," and, "my mum says you're really mean..."

The words of adults had transferred onto them, and soon enough the public mood was expressed in the school playgrounds of her own children.

They were told how mean their mother was, which had been Serena's greatest fear. She could handle the cruelty, but her family is where she drew the line.

Serena's two kids appeared on one episode of Instant Hotel, only for a moment, where they'd been offered butter or nutella on toast.

Serena. Image supplied.

"I got trolled by someone who watched that and then wrote, 'why is she offering her little pig children that for breakfast,'" Serena told Mamamia. 

She was being trolled incessantly on the Instant Hotel Facebook page, and people were sending her private messages, saying they wished she was dead.

One man's hatred was so strong, that at 3:12am, he found her business website, searched for her work email address, and then sent several messages saying he wanted to kill, or more specifically to "drown", Serena.

An email received by Serena via her work website. Image supplied.
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"There was so much rage... and the hatred. What did I do with my 38 years on the planet to get to this point where this is happening to me?" she said.

"That night we just booked tickets, and left."

Serena, her husband and two children, went to Bali in a desperate attempt to get away from it all.

Still there, Serena has found one strategy to fight back at the those who continue to torment her.

"I started a hashtag called #outthetrolls," Serena explained.

When people private message her death threats, or outrageous insults, she screenshots the conversation and then posts it on their own Facebook page.

"If it's good enough for you to say them to me in private," she reasons, "then they're good enough to shout to the world."

Serena's message is simple. Abusing people on the internet has real life consequences. It leaves the recipient in a state of total disarray, questioning their own self worth. It can feel as though the whole world detests you, which is one of the most basic human fears.

The people who are being burned at the stake, via Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, are not okay.

Eventually, when the television show is done and dusted, the tide will inevitably change.

But Serena's experiences, and those of her family, are the kind that affect a person for years and years to come.

Click the link for more information about Serena's book, Love Me? Love Me!

LISTEN to the latest episode of Mamamia Out Loud, here. 

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