I feel bad for Miranda Sings, in the same way that I feel bad for anyone in a hard situation, but I find myself uniquely able to relate as another person who’s been publicly shamed, separate from her or my individual allegations and accusers.
A public shaming is a wound. A slash across your face that never stops bleeding. The most under-discussed element of “cancellation” is the immediate shattering effect it has not on your career or emotional life, but on your identity.
A large scale shaming will, within two days, find its way to nearly everyone you know in real life. You are now, as your public image is destroyed, also being forced into individual endless deeply personal conversations with almost everyone you want or who wants you in your life, based not on your actions towards them, but based on something they have read.
Every emotionally mature adult who cares about you in a real way will be there for you, and understand your situation. But emotionally mature adults can occasionally be rare to find, and aren’t always who you think they are. Compassion and humanity and kindness spring up from very unexpected sources, sometimes.
But so does binary judgment, the screaming fathomless pit of angry voices that form a public shaming online, that crystallize it into a broken kind of Dorian Gray potrait, forever frozen reflecting someone else’s recollection of who you were. You resent that portrait most when meeting someone new.
If you were any degree of famous, explaining who you are is now a risky game of “will this person fear me? Be mean to me? Have a good experience but then block me one day later when they read the articles or whatever form the shaming took? Will self reported accounts of a person I might’ve been 6, or 10 or 15 years ago determine their opinion of me now? Will a single glance into my past delete the real life me that exists right here right now in front of your eyes?”
For some people, it’s no big deal.
They let their experiences guide them. But for other people, it’s like a Halloween mask I can’t take off.
Trying to make some kind of appeal seems pointless. You’re doomed.
When my shamings started, I felt what I think Colleen felt. I think she felt resentment, anger, the bad boundaries she discusses in her statements letting emotions run over reason. A tremendous, unstoppable urgency, “Do something now!”
I remembered those feelings. It was like gasoline. Bad blood fire, the kind I’ve been taught not to trust. Suddenly you go into like…Joker mode, this wild disbelief and abandon that NOT ONLY are you fired from your job and NOT ONLY have 80% of your passive friends abruptly vanished and not only are your mom and dad being confronted with horrible stories about you… But if you don’t do something now, it’s forever.
It seems to demand a response. Surely, there must be some way out of this. Or at least to address it in a way that seems fair, with less people just finding ways to insult you or those close to you.
But after 10 years of the modern form of public shaming, allowed to digitally calcify, one thing is devastatingly clear: no response will ever be enough.
I did not initially respond to my shaming for nearly two years, and I’m happy with that decision. I needed time to think and take it seriously and talk to people.
But I did this only because of a skill I’ve learned that I don’t think most people have. I don’t trust my emotions. They haven’t served me well. My first instincts and impulses and reactions are often too big, or wild, or childish. I’m cyclothymic, and I’ve worked on controlling my emotional reactions my entire life. Wading through these raging and swirling tides of emotion has been the central struggle of my adult life.
While the shaming was hot, I kept writing statements. I kept writing these embarrassing, half formed statements of what I wanted to say, and then I’d tear them up. I read them now, I cringe. Before my manager left me, she would proofread them for me and uniformly tell me they were terrible. She was correct.
When the suicidal thoughts crept in as it felt like everyone I’d loved actually hated me and everyone who still loved me would spend their life being punished for it, I wrote my wildest response.
This truly was my Waterloo, me coming in guns blazing. It was born of pure coal black anger, obsidian shining stuff risen deep from inside a volcano. I attacked my accusers, some with screenshots. I belabored over the allegations. I expressed accountability and regret towards the actions I can remember and total vicious denial against the stories I felt to be false.
It was written not like a thing to be read in court, but like a direct letter to everyone I was angry at and everyone who was angry at me. And then, a little voice spoke to me. It was my voice, reminding me to use the trained thought patterning and meditations I’d learned in years of special schools and adult programs I’ve attended, struggling to regain my better self in moments like this.
The little voice said “If you speak now, every everyone will be listen and this will be what you said. You don’t know what’s next, no matter what your giant emotions tell you.”
So I said nothing. I spent three months at McLaine Psychiatric Hospital, being analyzed, going over the incidents of my shaming alongside medical professionals, different types of psychotherapists and psychiatrists, under a suicide watch. No one sent me; I wanted to know what’s was really wrong. I wanted to fact check everything. I’m happy with the results I found over time, patience, thought and meditation. I get who I am now, who I “really am” if you can even really get that.
The shaming is frustrating in other ways, but I really noticed it this time with Colleen Ballinger. Her response clearly came from that first, promethean burst of resentment. It must’ve busy and manic and very now now now.
And now, her weak and immature emotional response, in that moment in her life, when she was under more emotional and psychological stress than she ever had experienced before, she allowed herself to make a decision, will define her online, probably forever.
“There’s nothing criminally serious in these allegations, they’re just kind of loser-y parasocial behavior between an emotionally immature adult and their fans….It’s awkward and weird and not cool, but…Why not just treat it all as kind of a joke?
She forgot the golden rule. NOTHING is a joke on the internet YOU SAID IT and WE GOT YOU and NOW YOU’RE DEAD FOREVER
With your management and agents and friends and family and strangers all screaming at you in some kind of digital colosseum, your life being torn to shreds, the darkest element at the heart is:
It’s not about you. You’re not human anymore. You have been reduced.
It’s about the narrative.
She’ll be trapped hearing the world Groomer and images of her with that ukeulele for the rest of her life. She’ll be reminded about them every day. It’ll always somehow come up. Like torture.
Long after she’s changed her behavior and learned her lesson, it will not matter. Nothing will matter.
The hate will feed itself every time she says the name Colleen Ballinger to someone new. Because strangers will now always be there to remind everyone she knows not just that these incidents happened, but that Colleen Ballinger is a bad person who shouldn’t be trusted.
People will be doing that to her for free, at every opportunity, ten years from now.
That’s what her name means the the internet now.
I feel bad for her. I really do. In a specific way she’s only starting to experience.
Shamings, the more you learn about them, really make you question what “fair” is in reasoned conversations. People occasionally still try to equivocate and tell me that my actual almost-murder where someone was arrested by the LAPD was, still, somehow a sane consequence for that article existing, in the same way I supposed hurricane deaths are a consequence of Miami existing. That is, if they acknowledge it at all.
So often, how someone even discusses a shaming can betray something kind or cruel about their own experience. So much so that you’re lost in these endless diegetic discussions of “was I good was I bad was this maybe not that bad and then this is even worse” YEARS AND YEARS after they’ve been psychologically helpful to you, or been addressed in real life…and now, these insanely intimate conversations are being had, regularly, with strangers.
I feel bad for Miranda Sings because I see exactly the pain and rage and impotence. But you know what I’ve learned about public shamings?
If you ignore them, they just … Haha I’ll be honest they get worse
if you do anything to talk about them, worse
try to make new art, worse
try to be honest?
worse someone tries to murder you? no one cares shut up subhuman
I feel sorry for Miranda Sings.