Metro Morning

Sports writer Julie DiCaro talks 'soul-sucking' mean tweets after video goes viral

Unlike celebrity mean tweets read aloud for laughs on late-night television, the latest viral mean tweets video is hard to watch — and that's the point.

'What they say affects us. It's real life, it's our life,' says journalist of daily online abuse

Unlike celebrity mean tweets read aloud for laughs on late night television, the latest viral mean tweets video is hard to watch — and that's the point.

In it, Chicago sports journalists Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain have several men read them real things that have been said about the pair on social media. The women have already seen the tweets, but the men haven't.

"It was really emotional and it kind of knocks you back a bit," DiCaro told CBC Radio's Metro Morning Wednesday, a day after the video was posted online. It has already been watched more than a million times. 
Chicago sports journalist Julie DiCaro would like to see Twitter tighten up its rules around harassment and stalking in response to online trolls. (Just Not Sports/YouTube)

"The first time you hear it out loud it's completely different from reading it," said DiCaro, who writes for sports website The Cauldron and is an anchor for radio station 670 The Score in Chicago.

"Especially having someone look you in the eye and say it to your face," she said. "I grew up in a family where we weren't even allowed to tell each other to shut up."

Many of the men struggle to read out some of the more horrendous tweets, including one that said, "I hope you get raped again." DiCaro ​spoke out publicly about her rape in 2013. 

The sports journalist says she deals with several different kinds of "trolls" on a daily basis, from those who make offensive comments like the one above about her rape, to those who aren't happy with her appearance, to parody Twitter accounts in her name that make fun of what she does and says.

Even the tweets that don't necessarily cross the line into death or rape threats are still sort of soul-sucking because they come at you in such an avalanche every day.- Julie DiCaro, Chicago sports journalist

"Even the tweets that don't necessarily cross the line into death or rape threats are still sort of soul-sucking because they come at you in such an avalanche every day," said DiCaro. "You feel like you're constantly under attack."

DiCaro says she has a great support system to help her deal with the online harassment, including a network of women in media who text each other about the insults they receive to "get each other through the day."

She says the harassment affects "pretty much any woman who has an opinion online," and they're all struggling to deal with it.

What effect has the video had?

In terms of results from the video that DiCaro and Spain created with the folks at the Not Just Sports podcast, DiCaro said she's already received apologies from a couple of guys who said they "didn't realize the effect their words were having."

"That was really gratifying," said DiCaro, adding she hopes more people realize that what they say online does count for something. 

"What they say affects us. It is real life. It's our life and it has an effect on how we go about our day," said DiCaro.

Besides making it clear to people that what they write online matters, DiCaro would also like to see Twitter tighten up its rules around harassment and stalking.

"I'm hoping [the video] will spur Twitter to take some steps to make it easier to report harassment and to make blocking a lot more effective so that you're not stuck with these people in your life," said DiCaro.

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