Naive, Scammed, Abused

Warning! Really long, rambly post ahead!

I mentioned Brittani Louise Taylor in two previous posts from 2012, which was about 800 years ago in blogging and social media years. She still remains one of my favorite YouTube personas because of her unflagging optimism.

For a few years, I took a break from YouTube but recently Googled the names of all the old personas I used to watch just to get caught back up. Kind of like stalking checking in on old friends.

A lot had happened to Brittani in the time I had ceased to watch YouTube. She got engaged, got pregnant, had the baby… But then her fiance Milos mysteriously disappeared from her videos. Brittani’s YouTube audience then waited about a year for her to reveal any information about the breakup, and she finally told the whole story in her book, A Sucky Love Story, which was published in December 2018. Because she wrote a book, one would think that this had been way more noteworthy than the typical breakup.

Indeed it was.

Turns out that Milos had lied about almost everything. He was already married, not actually a doctor, faking cancer, addicted to pornography, and quite possibly part of the Serbian mafia! He even scammed Brittani out of a lot of her money because he never actually worked at all, and she feared that he would kidnap her son and take him to Serbia, and she would never see him again. Almost sounds made up, right? Possibly a ploy to gain money via book sales and YouTube views? If the latter, it’s probably justified to some degree because she’d certainly want to regain some money after getting scammed.

This post is not a review of the book per se, but a cautionary tale about a cautionary tale. Brittani stated in a video that her primary goal in writing the book was to raise awareness of abuse and try to help others who are in similar situations—a noble cause. In reading reviews of the book, I somehow stumbled across a gossip forum whose members were saying that what Brittani experienced was not really abuse because almost no physical abuse happened (aside from a bent pinky finger).

That made my blood boil. Abuse is abuse. Emotional abuse is one of the most insidious kinds because it’s not immediately obvious that it’s happening. Before you know it, you end up ensnared in the web of a person who uses you and doesn’t care at all about your happiness or needs. This person proceeds to cut you down and make your life a living hell, while you are so intimidated that finding a way out of the situation can seem nearly impossible.

The members of the gossip forum even blamed Brittani for staying with Milos for so long and accused her of staying with him because (1) he looked good and (2) he supposedly had tons of money. Kind of a low blow to lay the blame on a victim of abuse. Maybe those factors were reasons she was initially attracted to him, but no one can help the reasons they are attracted to someone. Over time, the worse the abuse gets, no amount of justification and your original reasons for starting a relationship with someone cease to matter at all.

In a past relationship, I was in an emotionally abusive situation, and that’s why I sympathize so much with Brittani’s story. You do hesitate to call what you have experienced “abuse” because you are not being physically hurt, but it is abuse all the same. You wake up one day and realize that you’re not the same as you were before, and the reason is that the person you are with—someone who supposedly loves you—has brainwashed you into believing that you are unworthy.

You do a lot of backtracking and looking into the past, trying to figure out if it was your fault for winding up in such a situation. You wonder what will happen if you try to escape. You might make a plan for such an escape, and the plan may fall through, or you may actually go through with it. When you do break free, it is like an immense weight being lifted from your shoulders, and the full realization of what happened to you—to your mind, your emotions, and your self-worth—hits you. You can have your life back again. But you blame yourself. You feel the need to tell everyone you know about what happened, just so they understand why you have been so different. You feel the need to justify your relationship with the abusive person. “I was stupid.” or “He tricked me.” or “He wasn’t who I thought he was.”

To make a long post even longer, I was “triggered” (I hate using the word, but it’s the only one that fits.) by listening to Brittani’s story, and I was “triggered” again by the gossip forum. Even if the details of a relationship and its demise are laid out in a book, you can never accurately judge a relationship unless you are one of the two people in it.

However, judging solely from what the book says, it seems to me that Brittani wanted love over all (and who doesn’t?). She was tired of working and making a life but not having anyone to share it with. She turned to the Internet to find someone because it is incredibly difficult to meet a person “organically” in real life these days, especially if you’re an introvert or are very busy. She found someone who checked all the boxes and treated her right. Everything seemed to be moving along fine… until it gradually became undeniable that she had to get out.

In the book, Brittani acknowledges that hindsight is 20/20. There are always red flags. You may dimly recognize them when they present themselves, and you’ll probably hear that little voice in the back of your head warning you, but you dismiss all the warnings because you just want to be loved, damn it. You set your sights on a person, you tell yourself that you will weather every storm, you will make whatever sacrifice you have to, and you will change yourself to become “better” or “perfect” for this person. But they will not do the same for you.

I find that it is pretty much useless to tell someone to watch for warning signs and red flags because a person may recognize them as such but dismiss them anyway. (“But I love him!” or “He will change someday.”) Escape strategies are probably the better thing to teach teenage girls or anyone who is in a new relationship. Always Google a person and do whatever you can to find out if they are who they say they are. Do a background check and don’t feel guilty about doing it. You’re looking out for your own safety. Internet dating is not to blame.* You can just as easily meet a creep in real life.

By her own account, Brittani was naive and didn’t have a great track record with relationships in the past. Her naive, bubbly, sweet personality portrayed an innocence that was very easily taken advantage of. It is sad that innocence, a good quality, is almost a negative quality in the dating world. You don’t want to be too innocent, but you don’t want to assume the worst of a person either. It is a fine line to tread.

The bottom line… learn how to escape from a relationship with a toxic person. Once you have a plan, enact it as soon as possible. Do. Not. Feel. Guilty. For. Getting. Out.

Turning back to the content of the book itself, I found it to be an easy read (because of the writing style, not the subject matter). Brittani’s sunshiny persona is obvious throughout the book and even on the front cover. The members of the gossip forum had issues with that, too (“How can an abuse victim be so happy?), and all I can say about that is… it is probably just her schtick as a YouTube personality. If she were to write a dark, dismal tale, it wouldn’t fit with the rest of her content, so she attempted to find humor in the situation. And once you are out of such a situation, you actually can see the humor, if there was any there at all. It certainly doesn’t mean that abuse is a laughing matter, just that a tale can be told from any number of perspectives. If Brittani wanted to cast it in a darker light, she definitely could have.

*But I may be biased toward the good side of Internet dating because if not for the Internet, I would never have met my husband. I mean, come on… how are two socially awkward nerds supposed to meet in real life?

Seven Deadly Sites

I read a cool article that compared different social media sites to the seven deadly sins (so I guess in a way, the author was saying that the Internet was hell?), but I found that some of them weren’t totally accurate (at least not for me), so I reworked the list. Here’s the original:

Lust = Tinder (It’s some kind of dating site, but I’ve never used it.)
Gluttony = Instagram (Because people post pictures of food.)
Greed = LinkedIn (More money, more jobs, more problems.)
Sloth = Netflix (It’s not social media, but the comparison is accurate.)
Wrath = Twitter (Oh, so many heated arguments about nothing!)
Envy = Pinterest (Because people post so many perfect-looking projects.)
Pride = Medium (I’ve never heard of it.) or Facebook (People posting about themselves all the time.)

Here are mine, but they’re not strictly social media:

Lust = 4chan or porn sites (Seems like those are the granddaddy of lustful temptation, not necessarily Tinder.)
Gluttony = Pinterest (I’m not on Instagram, so I see more food and recipes on Pinterest.)
Greed = Tumblr (I follow a lot of notebook and journaling blogs, and I want to buy everything I see on there.) or Amazon (for obvious reasons)
Sloth = YouTube (I watch more YouTube than Netflix, and it’s so easy to say “just one more video… it’s only 3 minutes!”)
Wrath = CNN.com or any news site (The world has so many problems that it makes me angry.)
Envy = Blessed Is She (Ironically an uplifting Catholic site, but it makes me envious because the site features those who are much better writers than me.)
Pride = WordPress (I’ve debated many times about whether I should shut down my blog because I’m trying to figure out why I’m posting. To show off or because I honestly love writing? This is my main Internet home, so in a way it’s my Facebook—I don’t think I could ever give it up.)

What are your seven deadly sites?

Special Snowflakes

You might ask yourself, “Am I special?” The short answer is “yes and no.” Any thought you have, any difficult situation you’ve been in, any particular talents, etc., that you have are already owned by someone else. What makes people “special” or “unique” is the combination of all of those things, along with your physical appearance, social network, etc. But if you’re a realist, you know that nobody manages to stand out very much in the world unless he or she is one of those incredibly rare people who stays in the public eye for a long time and achieves either fame or notoriety.

So why should the world of online “success” be any different? In this article, a millennial bemoans the fact that YouTube fame isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. For one, that fame doesn’t necessarily come with fortune. A YouTuber can work hard for weeks to create a short video, get millions of “likes” and comments, but receive no monetary reward.

This “crisis” isn’t that surprising. Artists have slaved over their art for thousands of years, never making much money in their lifetime. I would imagine that it would be even more difficult for someone posting videos to YouTube to achieve fame: it’s free to create your channel, which means anyone with an Internet connection can make one, and almost everything you can possibly think of to make a video about has already been done before, probably better than you could ever do it. It’s the same for writing blogs or novels or drawing or sculpting or any other artistic endeavor.

Does that mean you’re supposed to give up and quit making videos or writing or doing what makes you happy? Of course not. If you love it, do it. But I think content creators are wrong in expecting that they should be able to automatically make a living from their hobbies. You shouldn’t expect to get money just because your subscribers or readers admire you and see you as special. It is only the top 0.1% who make enough money to live on, but because they are at the top doesn’t necessarily mean they have something that you don’t. There are many combinations of factors that go into a person becoming famous and/or rich, and being “special” or “unique” is just one of those factors.

tl;dr: Everyone’s special, but not everyone’s special enough to be famous.