Not your job: Don’t play nursemaid to abusive, manipulative men online
Mental ill health is not a legal demand for your attention or an excuse for cruelty
“You are why I want to kill myself,” a total stranger messages me. “I have suicidal thoughts because of you. I hope you are happy, bitch.”
What was my awful deed? I had ignored his 48 messages, 2 calls and 1 email requesting to meet me.
This is extreme, but a lot of women (and men) experience emotional blackmail and manipulation online. This can be small, like paranoia complexes over the meaning of a tweet, or large, like threats of suicide. These can also be veiled threats such as hinting at suicidal thoughts should you not give into their demands.
It becomes dangerous when it becomes stalking or controlling. When a man I don’t know tries to contact me on more than three platforms, or gets hold of my work email, I usually block him. I don’t like people being able to track my every move or contact me no matter what.
I get it, I’m in the public eye and I choose to be, but I am under no obligation to be my follower’s friend or romantic partner, no matter how suicidal or unstable you are. Why?
Because I’m not your doctor, psychiatrist or guardian. I’m also, however deluded you are, not your friend. You read my articles and tweets. I may have liked a comment you made. You might have asked me a question once. That does not translate into a strong social bond.
Cruel? No, not at all. Call the Samaritans, Child Line, suicide help, FRANK, 999, whatever. Your mum. Your cousin. Your friend who you actually know. Not a 21 year old anthropology student who has no knowledge or interest in you. You won’t be able to pity trip or guilt me into interacting with you because I am not under any obligation to ‘fix you’.
I’m not your manic pixie dream girl. I can’t fix all your problems or end your depression. I’m a girl who is probably as confused and horrible as you. Also, how sick of you to use your mental ill health to blackmail me into responding to you? Surely you understand that that is wrong?
A man who threatens to kill himself or hurt himself because you don’t like him (or simply don’t want to be in his life) is abusive. He might well be very troubled or unwell, but that’s not a female stranger’s job. He needs a psychiatrist. He needs a trained therapist, not a pretty girlfriend.
I would highly - from my own experience - recommend against responding to such individuals. Tempting as it is to send them helplinks and soothe them, its a vicious cycle. They contact people they don’t know to get a kick out of attention, which they then mistake for love or care, which grows obsessive and paranoid. I’ve got messenger calls at four in the morning and super aggressive, paranoid messages for intervening.
Help is out there, but they need to do it without looking for saviour angel strangers.
Abuse is abuse. You matter too.