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'I was being relentlessly trolled online. Turns out the culprit was living under my roof.'

As told to Ann DeGrey

I got so much joy and satisfaction in sharing my passion for health and well-being on Instagram. But it slowly went downhill as I encountered the dark side of social media: a relentless troll. I'd managed to accumulate nearly 10,000 followers, and I was proud that my account was a space I’d carefully filled with positivity and encouragement. Yet, the presence of this troll, hiding behind a name I didn't recognise, cast a devastating shadow over my efforts.

The troll's comments were a relentless barrage of negativity that seemed designed to cut deep. 

"Who'd listen to health advice from someone who looks like they've never been to a gym?"

"Fish lips much? Did you think we wouldn't notice the Botox?"

"Are those breasts even real? So fake, just like your wellness tips."

"Your 'healthy' recipes look like they could give someone food poisoning. Stick to what you know, which clearly isn't cooking."

Every notification became a potential attack, turning what once was a source of pride into full-on anxiety. Of course, my troll had a private account so there was no way I could properly investigate her identity. It didn't help that she used a photo of a singer Cyndi Lauper from the 1980s – although that actually eventually proved very helpful when it came to uncovering her identity. Whenever I blocked her, she reappeared under a new name but still with a Cyndi Lauper profile picture – it was like she wanted me to know that I couldn't get rid of her.

Watch: Mia Freedman discusses how she deals with online trolls and a constant barrage of criticism. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

At first, I tried to ignore the hateful comments, repeatedly deleting and blocking her. But they grew more frequent and more personal. My roommate, Yumi*, noticed the toll it was taking on me. She'd always been a huge support to me over the two years we lived together. She was living in Sydney, far away from her family in Japan, and she was always so kind to me. She brought a sense of calm and thoughtfulness to our home that I really appreciated. Yumi was also a lot of fun and we'd become good friends. When she suggested we team up to investigate the troll, I was relieved not to face it alone.

We spent nights poring over comments, trying to look for any clue that might reveal the identity of my tormentor. Despite our efforts, the trail seemed cold. I was so upset and thought about deleting my account, even though it was a big part of my life and livelihood. Who could hate me so much? And why?

But then it all unravelled in the most unexpected way.

I was in Yumi's room while she was at work, searching for a laptop charger she'd offered to lend me. As I rummaged through her drawers, I stumbled upon a collection of vintage memorabilia, but what caught my eye was a collection of Cyndi Lauper pictures that looked like they'd been cut out of magazines. 

Driven by a sudden hunch, I delved deeper into other drawers where I found a notebook filled with notes on various topics, including social media strategies and observations. Tucked between the pages was a slip of paper with login details for several accounts, including one of the troll's usernames, associated with the Cyndi Lauper avatar. The connection between Yumi's little collection of Cyndi Lauper pictures and the troll's choice of avatar was too specific to be just a strange coincidence. I felt absolutely sick as the pieces of the puzzle finally clicked. My heart stopped. It couldn't be. But the evidence was unmistakable; Yumi was my troll. 

The confrontation that followed was one of the most difficult moments of my life. I showed Yumi the evidence I'd found, and she cried as she admitted to everything with an apology. Why did she do this to me?

There were no reasons given that made sense to me. She began by admitting that creating the troll account and posting nasty comments was a misguided attempt to cope with her own insecurities and jealousy. She said that seeing my social media success and the positive feedback I usually received made her feel inadequate and invisible.

She also said that the anonymity of the internet gave her an outlet to express these frustrations, though she quickly realised it had spiralled out of control. "I didn't realise how horrible I could be and then I couldn't stop myself," she said.

Listen to The Quicky where we discuss the dangers behind social media 'likes'. Post continues after podcast.

It was also clear that our friendship could never return to what it had been. There was no way I could trust her and I couldn't stand being in the same room with her. I was going to ask her to leave, but she had already decided herself. 

What Yumi left me with was a lot of unanswered questions, not only about why she chose to hurt me but also about the masks people wear. The experience forced me to reevaluate the way I engage with social media and the people in my life. If someone who seemed as sweet and kind as Yumi could be this nasty to a friend, then what about the other 'nice' people I was friends with?

Despite the pain, I chose to continue with my Instagram account. I shared a post about the pain of losing a friend and my followers were very supportive. The ordeal made me realise the original purpose of my online presence: to spread positivity and well-being. This upsetting episode with Yumi, though painful, was a harsh lesson in the complexities of friendships and also the challenges of surviving on social media.

*Name has been changed due to privacy.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

Feature image: Canva.

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