What is the difference between harmless joking and online abuse? 1 week ago

What is the difference between harmless joking and online abuse?

Molly Mae doesn't like the food in Italy.

That's it, that's the story.

The Love Island runner up, YouTuber, and self proclaimed influencer jetted off to sunny Venice during the weekend, for a trip that was filled with lazy evenings, glistening canals, and food that she didn't enjoy.

Yep, Molly Mae may be the first person in the world to publicly call Italian food disappointing. And unsurprisingly, the internet did not let her get away with it.

Ironically, much of this criticism occurred in and around World Mental Health Day, a time for recognising the struggles that many people are facing in their daily lives and for reminding one another to always be kind.

Arguably, there is a solid justification in criticising an influencer for travelling around Europe in the midst of a global pandemic when the next time most of us are likely to see the inside of a plane will be 2022. At the least, it's a tad selfish, and as the most, it's dangerous.

If an Irish influencer did so, there would be uproar. But despite the glaring irritation that exists in seeing people with a lot of money having a lovely holiday while you're stuck at home, under the UK's current travel guidelines, Molly Mae didn't actually do anything wrong by going to Venice.

Italy is exempt from their advice against non-essential travel at the moment. So are a whole load of other countries, which compared to Ireland's literally empty Green List poses a lot of questions - but that's another article for another day.

While some took issue with Molly Mae going on holidays at all, others took issue with the fact that she went on holidays and then proceeded to very publicly complain about the food. In Italy, nonetheless.

And yeah okay, sharing a blanket statement that all food in Italy is crap is ridiculous and vastly incorrectly. It doesn't make sense. It's wrong. It probably shouldn't have been shared on a public platform due to the inevitable roasting it was going to garner (and did).

Alas, it happened, people took the piss. They rolled their eyes at yet another celebrity sharing something questionable and got on with their day. No harm done, except to the poor shop who sold Molly Mae her allegedly subpar ice cream.

But then Molly Mae took to Twitter and responded to the slagging: "It’s the preaching about mental health day on Saturday and then continuing to unnecessarily rip into someone on Monday for me," she wrote.

Her tweet begged the question that many of us have been left wondering since the beginning of this year: at what point do harmless jokes become trolling? And what is the difference between the two?

Molly Mae is a woman who has experienced her fair share of digs and abuse. There is a clear difference between the two: one is an often harmless slagging, and the other a vicious splurge of hatred, akin to calling a size 10 woman fat and ugly.

Influencers like Molly Mae tend to get both. Some presume that a 21-year-old woman should be able to deal with having her appearance torn apart, and others expect a person in the public eye to be able to take a joke.

And while some can, and do, others can't and won't. There is a glaring difference between abusing a person online about their body, and making fun of them for seemingly hate Italian food. This we know, it doesn't need to be questioned.

There's also a massive difference between warranted criticism and vitriolic hate. The former is needed and valid, the latter is not. But how can we, as social media users, be sure that the two aren't getting twisted? Not in how they are shared by us, but in how they are perceived.

We can't wrap celebrities in bubblewrap and protect them from every jibe made against them on the internet. No one is immune from criticism, especially when valid. But we can stop being shocked when they express hurt and dismay at being slagged online. It's understandable, really, when you are usually subjected to much worse.