As someone who writes personal narratives, I feel a certain safety in focusing my work on my own life: there are many things I’m not expert in – foreign policy, economics, riding a bike – but I’m the definitive expert of what I’ve experienced and how it has shaped my perspective. There is a safe feeling also in that people can get upset at you for a hard-hitting opinion piece, but not for simply sharing a little slice of your life. Or so I thought.
I realized how wrong about this I was after publishing a personal essay on Huffington Post two weeks ago. The piece was about how my fiancé and I navigate being an Asian female/white male couple, and it ended up on the Apple News, Yahoo News, and MSN news homepages. This visibility exposed my partner and me to the underbelly of the internet: trolls and all their vitriol. They found every way to contact and harass not only me, but also him. I, in particular, was flooded with messages from people who felt they knew my life better than I did, telling me I’d gotten it all wrong, some more gently and some more furiously. Many were clearly very angered and offended by what I shared. They took my personal experiences to be a direct judgment on who they were, and fired back accordingly.