When you say the word troll to body-positive blogger Ana Carolina Rojas, she’ll stop you right there. “I know the current trend is to call these people trolls and haters, but I don’t see these people as haters or trolls,” she tells Yahoo Style. “I see them as people. Many do this more as a hobby to get reactions, so there is no real judgment, just a perceived one. The name-calling seems antagonistic to me, as if I am ‘battling’ them, and I’m not. I’m using their responses for a bigger and more important purpose.” Well, whatever you want to call “them,” Rojas is unfortunately very familiar with them, as is any body-positivity advocate.
She shocked social media a few weeks ago when instead of hiding from or ignoring hateful comments, she gave the commenters a platform. She planted their comment, and her witty response, on the photo they meanly critiqued and then reposted it on Instagram. And people loved it.
“I’m not surprised but very thankful that the message resonated with so many people,” she says of the response from that post.
She proved her bravery and her dedication to the cause earlier this week by standing up to a commenter again in the same way. Rojas posted another beautiful bikini pic, and some bitter follower wrote “Disgusting” in the comments. She responded by reminding the commenter that if he didn’t like what he was seeing, he could block or hide her posts. She then put a collage of the comments on Instagram, in same style as last time this happened, with a seriously powerful caption.
“I operate on 3 pillars on this platform. Education, Community Building, and Perspective. I use whatever opportunities I can to share each one with you,” she began. “Not everyone who runs into my page will understand, appreciate, or agree and that’s all OK,” she admitted. “Now, when I get comments like this I like to take advantage and address them in a new way to 1) practice what I preach 2) address my third pillar of perspective. The intention is to hurt me on a personal level and to feel rejected and possibly shame because a person isn’t personally attracted to me. Instead, I offered a solution to help that person avoid me in the future because maybe their new to Instagram and don’t know how to. The reality is probably that person came into this space and wanted to, above all else, make me feel disgusting.”
She admits that her approach is a little “snarky and sarcastic” but she’s not “insulting them and trying to return their energy,” because she doesn’t need to.
“I use my responses to show others how they could potentially do the same,” she tells Yahoo Style. “Being able to see a different perspective is really important to change a habit or pattern of behavior. When someone calls me ‘disgusting’ the reader puts themselves in my place and they feel they are the ones being called disgusting.” Many of Rojas’s fans wish she would blast these people by showing their Instagram handles. “I blank out their names and faces so I can help others work through their fears and take the attention and energy away from that specific person,” she explained. “With a blank space for a face and name, they are now free to put the name and face of the person who might have actually said something to them or someone who they fear MIGHT say it. If they can somehow see themselves responding to that person in a new and powerful way, then they might actually be able to do it in real life.”
Rojas feels these comments represent the “useless things that we’ve been taught to be so afraid of,” and her goal is to be the role model she once needed. “I think of what could have really had a big impact if I had seen it and this is what sort of came of that.”
Most of the time, she ignores the mean messages, as she should. Especially when they come in direct message form. “That’s a whole other world,” she says. “They’re empty words and wasted energy but because my platform is to take these conversations and fears head on, I do it.” And we’re so glad she does.
Hopefully, we’ll she a positive response come out of one of these exchanges at some point — nasty commenters seeing the error of their ways and learning from it. No such luck yet, though. “They sort of just move on or come back with another ‘insult,’ but that’s the nature of what they do,” Rojas said, unfazed. How does she avoid feeling affected by their hurtful words? “These comments are not aimed specifically at me, so it’s impossible to take it that personal. They go on as many accounts and possible — probably just hitting copy-paste — then sit back to see how much they are responded to. It’s the reaction of those that read my response that matters to me the most. They move forward. They don’t respond to them, although some do; they generally stay focused on the new thought process and that’s awesome!”
Don’t expect to see these exchanges brought to light all the time, though. “It happens on just about every other post, so it would take up so much more of my platform than I’d like if I showcased every one of them, but I will continue to sometimes because as I gain new community members, I want to refresh those who have learned and continue to educate those who haven’t had a chance to see it in action. We’re at 25,000 now, and so the need to repeat lessons is important because it’s that many new people joining in on the conversation.”
Rojas takes all of this — the positive response, the new followers, and even the angry ones — as a sign that she’s heading in the right direction, “because in between all the noise of negative there is a far, far, far greater cry for more positivity and empowering perspectives,” she says. “I absolutely adore all of the gratitude and optimism that shines through all of this. Men and women breathing a sigh of relief because they feel less alone and more empowered to embrace their own lives. We’re so much more than how another person perceives us.”