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How Did We Let This Happen?

I know that times are hard for so many of us. We struggle with everything from cooking three meals a day, seven days a week to juggling home school or some hybrid of education for our kids. We are working from home, not working or working tirelessly in essential roles to keep society and life moving in some way or another.

So we are stressed and very close to the boiling point at any given moment of any day.

But I have to say that I am shocked to my core with some of the things I have experienced in the realm of social media these last few months. And before you think this is a champagne problem for a celebrity chef, think again. We have lost a huge chunk of what powers the business of Christina Cooks. We struggle too. We work harder for less money and face an uncertain future, just like most people.

We count our blessings. We have each other and all of our loved ones are safe and well. Not everyone can say that. We are grateful.

I love my work. I love what I do. I love connecting with so many of my beautiful followers and I love how we share what we are cooking and how we are feeling in these challenging times. My social media communities have always brought me great comfort as I see the kinds of people that are out there helping others, serving others; making a difference in big and small ways.

I am writing because I think it’s important that we understand what is happening to us as a culture so we can stop it before we are ruined. 

I know that as a high profile person who chooses to work publicly that I also expose myself to the shade that people like to throw at public figures. Somehow, if you choose to work in the public eye, you are expected to endure the ugliness that people send your way. I have been told that it’s part of the job. But is it? And why should it be?

I have worked in public television for almost 20 years and my show is seen in fifty countries outside the United States. And while there have been a handful of people who have disliked what I do or disagreed with me over the years, I have never experienced or even anticipated the level of ugliness people are capable of showing.

Not until 2020.                           

After a six-year hiatus from television to focus on my travel business and to write a book, we decided to return to production, to what we like to call, “the world’s biggest classroom.” We premiered in January 2020 to great reviews; great interest in what I was doing on the show.

With the advent of COVID-19, a global pandemic, people became more and more concerned for their ability to fight infection and the impact of food on their wellness. People sent questions about cooking and how to keep their families well and safe. We were, frankly, overwhelmed by the outpouring.

And then it started.

In my direct messages and inboxes on various social platforms I began to see little ugly comments creeping in. It seems that everything from the length of my finger nails to the length of my hair; to the fact that I have some grey showing in my temples to the window on my set which is not a real window; from the photos with my crew not wearing masks (just for the photo) to me using smoked chipotle peppers from a can, certain people were more than a little annoyed.

And yes, I fully agree that their criticisms are small, petty even. It’s not their critique of how I do things or how I look that got to me, it’s the level of outrage with which they write: all in caps underlined so I fully get the picture that they are OUTRAGED. One viewer said my nails made her want to throw up. I have never in my life been called “disgusting and nasty” so many times. I have been told on Twitter (the sewer of social media) to “just shut up and cook” and to “die of cancer.”

I have been called a communist (for being vegan), a libtard (also for being vegan) and told to “shut the f#@k up talking about the impact of meat production on the planet.

Wow, right?

I know there is a whole school of thought that if you’re not rocking the boat, you’re not working for change. I get it.

But I want to talk about how these things make people feel. A dear friend summed it up like this: if you’re talking to someone and something awkward or ugly gets blurted out, you can almost understand it. Sometimes people are at a loss about what to say. They’re uncomfortable. But to write something, spell check it and say to yourself, ‘yup, that’s what I want to say to her’ is a whole other thing. It’s intentional and premeditated.

I am writing not only for me, but for anyone who suffers these barbs, threats and insults. I will never figure out what makes it okay for someone to message someone they do not know and tell them to die or shut up or that they are nasty or disgusting. Does this feel normal to you?

Most of my following are the loveliest of people; kind and compassionate, even if they disagree with me. When one of these ugly comments come in, I feel gutted by them. You read right; gutted.

We live in a time when ugliness is accepted, almost our normal way of being. I can’t imagine what truly famous people, like movie and tv stars, politicians and other public figures endure. And why must they? Why do we feel that we can say anything that pops into our heads to people we don’t know? Does it make people feel better about their own lives? Do we have ‘beer muscles’ because we can hide behind our little keyboards, tapping away hell bent on shattering someone’s feelings? I just can’t believe that.

So here’s the thing. As we move into fall and the weather cools, how about we let our outrage over petty things cool too? There’s plenty in life to be truly outraged over, from climate change to world hunger, but my finger nails? Not so much.

All I ask is that as you write that ugly comment or message, take a step back before hitting “send.” Take a moment and think of the effect it will have on the person receiving it. And then think of how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of such ugliness.

And if you hit “send” after that, then the karma is all yours, baby.

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