Supermodel Chrissy Teigen is aspirational for a lot of women for a lot of reasons: Her beauty, her self-deprecating sense of humor, her intelligence, her relationship with “Sexiest Man Alive” John Legend, her adorable children, the exotic locales from which she often posts to social media. And yet, when it comes right down to it, Chrissy Teigen is just like the rest of us. Turns out no amount of fame, fortune, or followers can make Twitter bearable for women with opinions.
“It’s time to say goodbye,” Teigen wrote in her final Twitter thread. “This no longer serves me as positively as it serves me negatively, and I think that’s the right time to call something. My life goal is to make people happy. The pain I feel when I don’t is too much for me. I’ve always been portrayed as the strong clap back girl, but I’m just not. My desire to be liked and fear of pissing people off has made me somebody you didn’t sign up for, and a different human than I started out here, as!”
Wow, do I feel all of that. Godspeed, Chrissy Teigen. Keep running and don’t look back. We’ll follow when we can.
“Here we go,” you think. “Here comes DiCaro to lecture us all about online harassment again.” And you’re right, because it’s still a huge problem for women, and in particular for women working in media, and sports media in general. This week, thanks to a political tweet that rankled right-wingers and garnered a retweet from Donald Trump Jr. and an appearance on Sean Hannity, the nicest thing I’ve been called this week is the “c” word — and the number of people who find it completely normal to reach out a total stranger and tell them they hope they get raped to death continues to surprise me. My most recent message on Instagram (five minutes before writing this piece) was from “Anna,” who began by saying “Hey! You big fat bitch!” and ended by telling me to go “chug (racial epithet) cock.”
This is not an abnormal day for women working in the media. And Tiegen has managed to give voice to something I’ve long felt but couldn’t articulate - the constant abuse on Twitter changes who you are.
“So, big deal,” the trolls love to tell me. “Get off Twitter if you can’t stand the heat.” Believe me, dear reader, we would love to.
Luckily for Teigen, she has a huge platform outside of the Twitter world, notably on Instagram, where she has 34.3 million followers, and her Cravings by Chrissy Tiegen account is still active on Twitter as of now. Teigen has the resources and platform to kick Twitter to the curb and not miss a beat when it comes to marketing her work. Wherever she goes, her dedicated fan base will likely follow.
But for many of us working in sports media, Twitter is where we’ve put most of our energy for the past decade, at the advice of… well, everyone. It’s where sports news breaks (there’s no such thing as a Woj Bomb on Facebook), it’s where we’ve cultivated a following, and it’s where we promote our work, making the decision to leave Twitter all the more difficult. Does cutting Twitter out of our lives mean we’ll be behind the curve when it comes to sports news? How else can we push out our work to the masses? Will people just forget about us and will the content we’re creating (and by extension, our outlets) suffer?
Just this week, after a deluge of harassment across every messaging platform I’m on, I tried the ol’ “Twitter’s positives no longer outweigh its negatives” trope, which is almost exactly what Tiegen said before deleting her Twitter account today. I was seconds away from deactivating my account, as well. But I am not Chrissy Teigen; I am a regular person who relies on social media to promote my work, including a book I launched just last week. How will my publisher feel if I unceremoniously tossed my biggest platform in the trash in the middle of a virtual book tour? In the end, I settled for locking the account down for a few days.
I’m far from alone. Even a year ago, women in sports media talked privately and wistfully about leaving Twitter for good, but few were actually contemplating doing it. A year in quarantine, however, has made everything worse. People seem angrier, less mentally healthy, and more willing to vent their rage on complete strangers online. Harassing a person for months or years at a time has become a legitimate hobby for a certain segment of Twitter users. Trolls are allowed to create multiple accounts to get around blocks, which probably doesn’t matter, as Twitter never takes actions against abusive accounts anyway, no matter how egregious their violations of community guidelines are.
Looking back, I’m not sure when letting a fellow human being know that you’re praying for their death became normalized, but somehow it did. And those kinds of tweets are directed at women in sports media, often solely for having a differing (or any!) opinion on sports, more than you would probably believe. These days, my friends in sports media talk about the logistics of getting off Twitter in a far more practical manner. More and more, it’s something we desperately desire to do, but can’t see how to do it without substantial career losses.
So here we are, stuck on a platform where we are abused by the masses daily, but which we feel tied to because of our jobs, our desire for information, our coworkers and employers. Twitter was once a fun place: remember everyone watching To Catch a Predator (#TCAP) on Sunday nights? Remember the black/blue dress debate? Remember DeAndre Jordan being held hostage in his own home by the Clippers? Those were good times. But those moments are fewer and far between these days — though the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Shrimp Tail guy being married to Topanga was an all-timer — and the bad days are happening more and more frequently. Someone figure out a viable alternative to Twitter, stat.
Hats off to Chrissy Teigen, who also spent years weathering online harassment, for having the ability and the guts to let Twitter go. Here’s to many more of us figuring out how to do the same.