Photo Source: Channel4 ‘First Dates’
I’ve decided to bang out this post based on something that is clearly inescapable across my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. The chances are, if you didn’t catch the First Date’s episode with Lewis and Jade on Channel 4 last week, you will have seen the aftermath across your social media unfolding.
At this point, I’m not sure which I’m more disturbed by. The general tone of voice amongst the thousands of abusive, vile and unnecessary comments based on Jade’s decision to walk out on her date, or, the way the media has presented this 4 minute or so clip to the world – further fuelling this troll culture we seem to have de-evolved into.
I’ll be the first to admit that when I first saw this clip, it wasn’t on TV. It was an excerpt posted by LAD Bible whereby they simply highlighted a small amount of the scene resulting in me feeling utterly gutted for the guy and judgemental of this girls actions. Not one to ever just accept that what I am being shown is the complete and utter truth, I decided to look-up the entire clip. What I found, showed me something very different.
For the most part, if I am to understand this situation in black and white, with absolutely none of its complexities in tye – I might understand that a guy called Lewis went on a blind date with this girl called Jade and she ended up walking out on him because he doesn’t share food or want to buy her nice shoes. As a result, he is left alone in the restaurant where the waitress breaks the news that Jade has, in fact, left the building. Muggy. I get it. Totally gutting and utterly embarrassing. The girl? So out of order. How can she do that? What is wrong with her?
But this is clearly not so black and white, and unlike the thousands of basic people lacking empathy, substance or any kind of understanding for the reasons as to why Jade may have actually left; those same people who are now on a mission to quite literally “hunt” her down and add their two pence – I am going to offer up some alternative, critical thinking, for you to ponder.
Some men prefer you to be like, at home, making a sandwich for him”, Jade, First Dates.
I speak from personal experience when I say I myself have been in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. One of the most difficult things coming out of this relationship was the post-traumatic stress that came from experiencing things that were seemingly normal for me at the time – but clearly not normal in the slightest when looking back in hindsight.
Not only had I been manipulated to thinking that I could not survive without this person – every move I made had a condition. Every new venture would be questioned, every choice I made would be evaluated. I’d be constantly second-guessing my intuition, convinced I was being cheated on – yet had no mental or physical freedom of my own to understand this outside of the lies being projected onto me daily.
I was expected to be the best when it suited them, but also made to feel the worst when it also suited them. My confidence and self-esteem would be built up by endless compliments and instantly shut down by numbing “truths”. I was stripped of who I was and the very parts of me that attracted this person in the first place were all stolen (like, identity theft). When I had nothing left, I was no longer good enough.
I made the sandwiches. I stayed at home and I said yes to everything.
Afterwards, I was trapped in myself, the torment and the trauma. I was alone and I had no idea what I was dealing with. With the help of therapeutic intervention, I was able to recognize that I had in fact been in a relationship with a Narcissist. When I realized what I was dealing with, my recovery meant that I would react abnormally to any perceived threats of control, manipulation or emotional abuse. Anything slightly similar, no matter how normal, would trigger me into absolute RUN mode.
I wasn’t behaving the way I usually would. I was a stranger to myself. Everything was a threat. I was terrified someone was going to steal more from me, another part of who I was would once again be lost.
It could be as simple as someone saying, “You should have sparkling water instead of Diet Coke Emma” – an adverse reaction to this would be absolute melt-down, “Don’t tell me what I should have, I’ll have what I want when I want. I deserve to make my own choices so don’t you dare speak to me like that. Don’t treat me like that” – hopefully, you are getting an idea of where I am taking the Jade and Lewis thing.
When I saw Lewis question Jade on her date, it triggered me. Lewis said, “Maybe you need someone to teach you that you don’t always get your own way”. To most, this seemingly innocent throw-away comment; a reaction to Jade’s entitled, brat-like behavior, was completely innocent. But to a ‘victim of trauma,’ this undoubtedly triggered Jade to quite literally, RUN.
In this episode of First Dates, Jade explains
I need someone that’s going to treat me like a princess, like giving you compliments and stuff and just making you feel good”. As Jade finishes, her voice slightly wavers and breaks as she says “coz I’ve had people in the past that didn’t make me feel very good”.
It doesn’t take an expert to recognize that Jade has, in some way, and like most of us – been traumatized by a past relationship and as a result, she is going to her extreme by almost demanding she is treated like a princess.
As the scene shifts to Jade talking in the First Dates room, the producers ask her who she is talking about? Jade laughs almost uncontrollably, a clear defence mechanism, as she responds ‘Like, past exes, with their like horrible comments about, I don’t know, about the way I looked and stuff”, quite visibly upsetting for her to say aloud, Jade laughs to distract herself yet again from getting emotional by saying “Ah, why’s it making me upset?”.
Here we establish that comments made by people have negatively affected her and had a huge impact. It’s obvious she is in search of someone who can say nicer things. Psychology tells us that it is only really up to us, the individual, to love ourselves first for foremost and not place emphasis on being built up by those around us. By allowing this, we leave ourselves in the hands of others to boost or destroy us. This often results in us having no sense of self, self-worth or self-love. It is clear to me that Jade is searching for resolve in the wrong areas but her trauma has blindsided her to this. Either way, she is searching for solutions, right? She is searching for love, right? What she is in search of is someone to love her the way she has been conditioned to understand love – like a “Princess” aka, textbook “traditional love”.
As the clip then heads back to the date in the restaurant, Jade is explaining to Lewis that she was in a serious relationship that lasted around 5 years, proclaiming that he “wasn’t very nice”.
Upbeat, flouncy and energetic music continues to play as Jade sits in the first dates room and explains
They like a girl that just says yes to everything they do. I was definitely that girl, and I didn’t have very good self-esteem, I guess and it just brings your confidence down, a lot. So, that’s why, like, I just yeah, want someone who says yes to me, so like, no is never the answer”.
Here, Jade recognizes that she became a woman who had no self-esteem as a result of being a ‘yes’ woman. This is hugely common in troubled or emotionally abusive relationships as questioning an abuser can cause negative outcomes.
I also question how ethical TV production companies are when they edit content in this way. An avid video editor myself, I know how much music can affect the emotion in a clip. If you watch the clip, does this music really fit the words coming out of Jade’s mouth? Surely, we have a responsibility to do this ethically, sensitively and responsibly? I am, of course, still assuming Jade has been traumatized by her previous partner’s behavior toward her, but I still question her “rude” behavior as it is most typically presented in those who have experienced some form of abuse. To conclude, I consider this because of the words that came from Jade herself, and in this case, I wouldn’t have said this music was particularly fitting and therefore insensitive.
If the music in this clip was perhaps more sensitive to the nature of what Jade spoke of, the clip would have a completely different outcome. The music alone could have evoked sadness, empathy, and understanding when Jade decided to walk away from something that clearly triggered her. As the audience, I would say we’d be less likely to seek her out and troll her but instead offer an understanding of her situation and some much-needed support.
As a result of this editing and portrayal of such, Jade has since been bombarded with online abuse, trolling and negative headlines reaching some of the biggest online sites in the UK. The Mirror called her out with a title stating, “Princes looking for love’ labelled a ‘disgrace’ on TV’s First Fates after eating man’s food, downing a tequila and then bails without paying“, LAD Bible’s “Woman On ‘First Dates’ Bails Without Telling Her Date” quite clearly paints that picture of that girl, and The Daily Edge headline of “Last night’s First Dates contained possibly the most disastrous date ever shown” is just as clickbaity as it is overly dramatic.
Now, I’m not here proclaiming to know Jade, know her story or know 100% that she may or may not be a victim/ survivor of abuse or narcissism but any downgrading comments from a partner can be called out as a form of emotional abuse. With this being clear in this episode, I wonder why, as a nation, are we so het up on demoralizing, destroying and publicly humiliating people across our social media – especially those people who are quite clearly vulnerable are concerned?
Sharing the video on your Facebook is one thing, cool, but so often I see sheep upon sheep jumping on the ‘popular opinion’ bandwagon as if they have no depth, substance or brain to think otherwise or conjure up their own opinion. Everyone has a story, everyone on this planet has been dealt a hardship or something painful – so why have we become so used to pulling people down and reveling in it? It’s as if, because we don’t know that person – our comment will never reach them nor affect them. This is the wrong mentality to adopt.
Right now, put yourself in the shoes of Jade. Put your assumptions, judgments and black and white thinking aside for a moment. Have you honestly never acted as if you completely have your shit together even when inside, you are crumbling away? Have you seriously never left situations that have hurt you, completely untouched, with no feeling or knock on effect? Have you really never been hurt so bad by someone or something that your life has taken a different course? Do you not avoid things that don’t suit or serve you? Are you human?
If Jade is not a victim of any of the above, which I would find very hard to believe, then she is certainly a victim of what is now, serious online abuse. A type of abuse that you may well be a part of without even realizing. I for one, cannot imagine being trolled by what must feel like, the entire world. If you’ve ever been bullied, you’ll understand that feeling of sheer dread and anxiety knowing you cannot escape – this is not dissimilar to that and in many cases, this is a lot worse. These are all feelings created by digital harassment. There is no doubt – this is what is happening – and IF I were a victim of emotional or physical abuse, searching for love, struggling to deal with my triggers but attempting to own my life and carry on anyway – some of these comments would undoubtedly finish me off. And this is something I am NOT OK with.
I’m raging about that Jade on #FirstDates. I’d have shoved that rack of ribs along with her phone straight down her neck.
— Saysha Freeman (@sayshafreeman) October 2, 2017
That wee Jade lassie has got a nose like a blind cobbler's thumb & is an absolute bin-cat to boot. #firstdates
— g r e g o r a ll a n (@mrgregorallan) October 2, 2017
The Psychology behind Online Harassment
The problem with online harassment is that it isn’t going away.
In terms of what we know about trolls, psychological studies tell us that trolls tend to be male and show higher levels of traits often seen in psychopathy. These include low levels of guilt and empathy. They tend to take little to no responsibility for their actions. Some, sadistic by nature, might even take enjoyment from causing other people physical and psychological pain. Weirdoes.
Trolls also seem to have this innate need to cause some sort of social mayhem and disruption. Research has found that trolling is actually more situational than simply just characteristic and can be divided into two categories. The first is based on an emotional state or mood, this can be dependent on the time of the day or day of the week, and according to Justin Cheng trolling is far more likely to take place at night and at the beginning of the working week. The second can be attributed to the context of the discussion a person may be having. This is particularly evident in the case of Lewis and Jade whereby we see a domino effect, or what I like to call the ‘sheep upon sheep’ where the more troll comments being discussed on a thread beneath a video, link or twitter feed – the more likely people are to join in and troll with them. How original.
In all of this, it’s evident to me that we really need to open that much-needed conversation about the kind of content we are choosing to share online, and in turn, comment on. The comments we make, whether you think they are constructive or not – are likely to affect someone, somewhere. Remember, the person/s you are speaking of are as real as you are. They have human emotions and can be broken as easily as they can be built up. Do you really want to be responsible for someone’s suicidal feelings, anxiety or depression? If you are not the troll, challenge what you see. Don’t stay silent. Of course, do not get carried away and sucked into endless online debates and comment wars – but don’t sit back and allow others to suffer at the hands of these abusers alone. At least, report them.
I use this example of Lewis and Jade’s ‘First Date’ to highlight how we could be more mindful about how we approach/share/interact with online content. I know very few people were able to see through Jade’s “attitude” and “rudeness”. I also know any decent body language expert would be able to explain how genuine she is behind her facade and explain the barriers she has put up in order to protect herself. From her own upset at herself and the guilt she felt for leaving the date in such a way, I can tell she has a conscience and a heart. For someone like Jade, I’m sure dealing with this wave of online abuse isn’t going to be easy either.
I hope, for the most part, this article has given you some food for thought. Let’s think deeper into what we are being shown and how we are being presented with it. I ask you to question everything, ‘Is this really the truth?’ and to understand that everyone has a story. No one deserves to be judged.
Imagine, if we could use our comments for kindness, love, appreciation and deep reflective thought – the world, and our future would look a little bit brighter.
Learn to be a part of that brightness. Lead by example. And please remember, not to feed the trolls.