Falen Bonsett wasn’t bullied as a kid.
But as an adult who has a big social media presence, she’s learned just how much it stings every time she reads a hurtful comment from a Twitter troll or Instagram meanie.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, it still hurts your feelings,” said Bonsett, who co-hosts “The Dave Ryan Show” on KDWB Radio (101.3 FM).
She said she can’t help but read comments — most of which are positive — because it’s part of her job to engage with listeners. But she usually doesn’t reply when people are nasty. Instead, she blocks them or deletes the comment.
When she sees a mean comment on another woman’s account, however, she’s quick to respond.
“I am much bigger into responding to other people’s trolls,” she said.
A few months ago, Bonsett saw a body-shaming comment on an Instagram post by event producer and Fashion Week MN co-founder Sarah Edwards. Bonsett was the first to post in Edwards’ defense.
What followed was a flurry of online posts that inspired a public discussion called “Donut Mess With Us,” organized by the creative consulting group noise m8kers. (Yes, there will be doughnuts, from Sleepy V’s.)
Bonsett, Edwards and other Minnesota women who have dealt with bullying are gathering on Jan. 31 at the AC Hotel Minneapolis West End in St. Louis Park to talk about bullying for adults — not just online, but also at home, in the workplace and in the public sphere. They’ll discuss the ways they’ve found to cope and brainstorm solutions.
Ticket proceeds will be donated to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, said noise m8kers partner Ra’eesa Motala.
“Social media has been such a great thing to connect individuals, but it’s also being used as a tool now for others to attack people and hide behind a screen,” Motala said.
Edwards tries not to let bullies get to her as she cultivates an Instagram following of more than 12,000 and posts photos of herself in one fabulous outfit after another. “My job is basically being in front of people and being judged and on the internet, so I’ve had my fair share of bullies,” she said. “It’s so weird how someone can say something, and it affects you forever.”
“I still think about, ‘Why does this person hate me?’ or ‘Why do they have such negative feelings about me?’ ”
But she’s trying to shift her mind-set, thinking instead about what’s going on inside a bully’s head and how he or she got to a place of posting nasty comments online.
“I really try to imagine, what starts a bully?” she said. “What happens? Is it something happening in their home? Is it something they feel inadequate about?”
Edwards has come to believe that social media invites people to constantly check how they stack up against others. She said she tries to live by the maxim attributed to Theodore Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
“I know he was not talking about Instagram when he said it, but I think it’s so powerful now more than ever,” she said. “We’re not supposed to compare ourselves to strangers on the internet all day every day.”