The cold, hard truth is that every day we are faced with a Gossip Girl episode in the flesh. This is a time when anyone can write whatever they want online, thanks to throwaway handles and the cloak of anonymity. The folks who "love to hate" have found their niche—and they’ve got a surplus of channels through which to play catty.
Anna Canlas, former beauty and fashion editor of Preview magazine and editor-in-chief of Stylebible.
How it started: "A blogger posted a photo of me wearing a digital print romper, taken at the Preview Ball, and then laid it out side by side with a collage of photos of sea creatures caught in plastic. The picture was funny, but the caption, ‘Someone tell this girl to stay away from the ocean,’ was a little offensive.” (A not-so-funny part: He tagged her on Facebook.) “You can always choose to ignore the negative comments, because you can’t take yourself too seriously, especially online. Some people are there just to spew negativity. I think they have a right to comment naman, because when you post something, it’s like agreeing to show yourself to the world.”
I think it's because...“I have never fit the mainstream idea of what’s pretty. I guess people here have a mentality that [it’s easier to pounce on me] because I don’t have famous connections or I’m not part of any ‘dynasty.’ Here, it’s all about the image—maybe that’s why I’m an easy target: I tend to not fit the norm.”
How I handled it: “There’s no use creating bad blood. Some people just comment para may masabi lang. They’re really not thinking.”
How it changed me: “Hindi na ako nagpapa-picture for Instagram. Super rare, pero meron pa ring mang o-okray. [One reason I think is] fashion in Manila has become so big that everyone wants to be a part of it. When they see an editor that’s working in a position they’d be interested in coveting, they will find fault in you.”
Janet Quiambao*, a brand manager for a multinational food manufacturer
How it started: Her nightmare started when she was hired to reorganize the company’s outdated production system. To do so, she had to work with Amy*, the person in charge at the time, via email. “We were trying to formalize all the changes. We tried discussing things, but Amy was being difficult. At the time, I thought she was just negotiating. She was power-tripping a bit—saying we needed to do things her way. At one point, she even stopped replying to me in our Yahoo group. [One time,] Amy had emailed me something to which I wasn’t able to reply during the whole weekend because of [a] storm. I think she felt like I ignored her. So, when I got back to work, suddenly, she was mad! And she even turned the whole Yahoo group against me.” (It started with snide comments posted on Facebook.) “They kept saying, ‘The new girl is power-tripping,’ and ‘The newbie is over-stepping her bounds.’ They made mean nicknames for me. They posted my name and personal contact information online. I was super stressed during that time because I’m a private person to begin with, but Amy and her friends were posting all sorts of things about me, 24/7.”
I think it's because...“It’s anonymous, so there’s no accountability. You can say whatever you want. It’s also easy to gang up on someone because there’s this mob mentality: ‘My posse will back me up.’”
How I handled it: ([She] purposely kept mum, preferring to let her detractors simmer down on their own.) “‘Pag kinausap ko pa, hahaba lang ’yung kuwento.”
How it changed me: “I guess the lesson is that you really don’t know what other people’s motives are, so you need to be careful. It’s harder to read people online. You can’t gauge their intentions.”
Rachel Nante*, a writer who used to pen celebrity news online
How it started: “One time, I wrote an article about a celeb, and her fans pounced on me.” She clarifies that it was a straightforward news piece, not speculative gossip. The content for her article had been collected from reputable outside sources, but the fans did not agree with it. “They started taking their anger out on me in the comments—which was okay, at first, because I understood where they were coming from. [But] on the same day, they started naming me on Twitter. They said things like, ‘Rachel Nante, how dare you!’ and ‘Who is this Rachel Nante? You should do your job properly!’ I’m afraid to Google myself or search for myself on Twitter in case those tweets actually still come out."
How I handled it: "I was upset, but there were [office] rules about not fighting back against trolls. I felt a growing sense of panic and helplessness—I also itched to tell my side of the story.”
How it changed me: “Anyone can act as cyber police and pounce on every little mistake you make, so it has made me more cautious about what I post."
* Names have been changed.
This article originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine’s January 2013 issue. Minor edits have been implemented by the Cosmo.ph editors.