Cyber Bullying: Are You Doing it Without Knowing?

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It's been a weird couple of weeks for me. As many of you know I was on the receiving of a very personal and embittered cyber campaign that attempted to expose me and many others as Instagram frauds.

I've written a complete rebuttal addressing the accusations of the article, which has since been removed. You can read that article in-depth here

It's a very strange place to carve a living; the internet. I've had some people tell me you haven't arrived unless you're upsetting someone. If you’re pleasing everyone you're pleasing no one. Can you imagine what it's like to fear picking up your phone each time you feel it vibrate. 

Those little notifications that often feel like a mini pat on the back, suddenly feels like someone threading live rats through your letterbox. 

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Carl aren't you a little old to be cyber-bullied? 

Firstly, age is but a number when you're getting your name dragged through the mud online. Secondly, this is a brave new world we're living in. Instagram wasn't around when I was at school. Those were the halcyon days of old school bullying. 

This is a new wave. 

What are the effects of Cyber-bullying? 

I'm fairly thick-skinned. I don't like to get into it on social media and many times in the last couple of weeks I had to sheath my tongue. It can be a race to the bottom and for what? For some elusive moral victory? I'd rather not and to immortalise the words of Ron Burgundy I'd much rather 'stay classy'. 

I implore you to do the same. 

The basic effects of cyber-bullying and its manifestations are increased depressive symptoms, lower self-worth, panic and in my case anxiety. 

Is this just snowflake mentality? 

I get that a lot. The man-up, go hard or go home attitude. Sure, that's all fine with me. But I can tell you this last week I've had some bloggers and influencers whose names were also enmeshed in that article, in my living room, in tears. 

This is a real thing, with real repercussions. Some of the research I've done on this matter tells me although the bullying stops quite quickly, the harm can permeate for a long time. 

The only thing I can say is why cyber-bullying gets wrongly dismissed as snowflake mentality is because it's something our reptilian brains have come accustomed to. 

We don't have any physical battle scars. We're needing to deal with this modern day scourge on an intellectual and emotional level. Some of us are predisposed to handle cyber bullying better. Maybe older, mature and maladaptive. Others climb to the top of a water tower and jump to their deaths. 

Did that make you uncomfortable? Sorry, this isn't a comfortable subject

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What can we do to prevent cyber bullying? 

I'm sure you've all heard of the software ReThink? Devised for a Google Science fair by a 14 year old. ReThink is a product that gives adolescents trying to post offensive messages on social media a second chance to reconsider their decisions.

Basically it's like a vetting notification that says, 'hey, this comment sounds like you didn't take your asshole pills today, you sure you want to make someone else feel as bad as you?' 

It won a spot as a Global Finalist at Google Science Fair 2014 and winner of PowerPitch 1871, Chicago’s technology and entrepreneurial hub. 

Another way? 

Tweet others how you'd wish to be tweeted yourself. You might think the person is so popular or too big of a deal to read your glib remarks on social media. But they do. They get through like farts between the sheets. 

My suggestion is try and offer someone a bit of encouragement instead. Try and be nice to one single human being a day and see how that makes you feel. 

 

 

Why Do People Hate Influencers?

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In today's article I wanted to speak about the current negativity towards the current modus operandi of Influencers. For transparency I was asked to write this for a friend Marcus on his Blog Chic Geek but sadly missed the deadline so will publish my thoughts here. 

Is the Influencer Bubble about to pop? 

I remember a few years back when the word 'influencer' was getting tossed around. Actual non self-proclaimed 'influencers' were starting to distance themselves from the term.

Some far too modest, others a little embarrassed to be referred to as someone that can hold sway over peoples buying predilections. Perhaps they didn't see any benefit in being given a moniker that gave them an unelected responsibility.

Influencers not wanting to be referred to as influencers then repackaged themselves as content creators. More ambiguous and less offensive.

The package is suddenly more appealing. Influencers, Bloggers, Igers, Vloggers, Podcasters no longer had to pigeon-hole themselves.

They could market themselves as all-rounders. Jack of all trades. Truth is, they're all glammed-up expressions. When you distil us all down we're only digital marketers. Some take ownership of that, others are blissfully unaware.

So that's a little thumbnail sketch of how the sands shifted in recent years. At least in my eyes.

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Why do people hate Influencers? 

Firstly I don't believe people hate influencers. If everyone hated them you'd never here of them. You might not like Justin Bieber but 104 million people do (on Instagram at least).

I think there is certainly a jealously factor at play, both inside and outside the influencer circle. I like to use the DB5 analogy.

Imagine you've just bought your dream car, an Aston Martin DB5. You've worked tirelessly for it. Then your neighbour buys an Aston Martin DB5. Only this one has been driven by Sean Connery. All of a sudden you start to resent your own Aston Martin DB5. Those seats have not had been blessed by the arse cheeks of James Bond, it's value has depreciated and your neighbour is the root cause.

It's human nature, it's exactly why we hate influencers. They make their lives look so fantastic don't they? Those beautiful sunset photographs in the Florida Keys. That breakfast in bed in the hotel with the idyllic view overlooking Gaudi Square. Fair enough, we say. They've earned it.

But have they? Have they worked harder than I have in life? Do they deserve that sunset more than I do? What’s more, they're not even paying for it. In fact they're being paid to attend press trips, often in exotic locations, being treated like royalty, living a life of utter decadence. How?

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Are my friends jealous? 

No wonder influencers are hated. I've had many friends that have known me from my I.T days. Whilst on a recent stag-do, a friend curious to know about my career asked 'you've landed on your feet with that Instagram gig haven't you?'

It's funny in a way, I could take so much from that simple statement. Landed on my feet, like I won the lottery or something. That Instagram job, like Instagram hired me to fly to Bali.

At the consequent wedding I was also confronted by the same gentleman we shook hands and in an unguarded moment confessed 'Every time I see you on Instagram I think, that lucky ****'.

In a way it's a backward compliment. That the quality of images on my Instagram page are good enough to make people wish they were there, or at least in my shoes.

However, I know it comes from a place of jealousy. People think my ship has come in and I'm off gallivanting around the world having everything paid for. So that's why influencers are viewed negatively. We look like lottery winners. That's why so many people want to be one.

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Why Instagram is a big deal? 

You can communicate instantly more information in a picture than you can in a blog post.

A picture of a product or a location, can tell you many things, whether visually its something that aligns with your identity. 'Can I see myself wearing this jumper?' for example, or 'I'm booking holidays right now, where can I go that's warm and not too far.'

I follow a lot of travel bloggers for this reason. Getting great tips on places to see and things to do, from people that have been there can be like having your own travel guide sometimes.

With regards to negativity on Instagram, you can point to a few things. People being jealous of others. Perhaps they feel like they haven't earned the quality of life they are either living or portraying. Ultimately, you have the choice not to follow people.

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Real life and virtual representation

You can like a person in real life and be indifferent to their 'virtual self'. How many times do we look at social media, see a post from someone we thought we knew and say 'why is he/she posting that?'

Maybe we think we know a person well but they're always going to have beliefs, interests, or a different interpretation on things. For example I follow people that never talk to me about football in real life, but all they talk about online is football.

Same with politics. I never post about politics, it's not my area. I don't think my audience would be interested in those subjects either. So guess what, in real life people might not bring those subjects up because they know it's not on my radar if they follow me online.

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What is the future for Influencers? 

The future for influencers is going to be an interesting one. Already we're seeing the CMA clamp down on what many still think is the wild west of the internet.

There will be more transparency. There will be more regulations. As there should. But who will enforce those and what punitive measures will be introduced is another question. Take Facebook right now, has anything really changed since Cambridge Analytica?

Was anyone brought to justice for the mis-sharing of data that was used to profile US voters? Did Facebook shares go down? Nope they went up.

With influencers it's a very saturated market. It will all come down to hard data eventually. ROI's will be more closely monitored and evaluated.

The big players that have been there since the beginning, will still be able to name their fee. Others will have to continue to fight for campaigns, adapt and augment their platforms so it can always offer something new and look to reach out to new audiences.

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What lies ahead for this 'influencer'? 

For example I'll be focusing a lot on wellness this year. I'll be posting more articles and YouTube content on positivity, mental health etc. I've been on the receiving end on what I class as cyber-bullying quite a bit in recent months.

I've had to dig deep sometimes, go to the emotional well as they say. As you say there is a lot of negativity around Influencers, we're not immune to it, we see it. It might not be happening on Instagram, it's probably happening on Twitter more as people can vent and live more voyeuristically that way.

I hope you've enjoyed this ramble, I've got a lot more to say on this matter and you can also catch my thoughts on the Instagram Fraud article that was doing the rounds last week. 

 

 

 

It's Time to Talk About Carl

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I was made aware of the defamatory article anonymously and callously published on the medium.com website, which has named my e-commerce business Hawkins & Shepherd and myself personally amongst other businesses and influencers.

I'd like to take this opportunity to clear a few things that have circulated some social commentary since the article was published. It's been a very traumatic week for me personally having to be on the receiving end on what I consider to be a pernicious article, published on an open platform without approval or checks for authenticity.

It's been very tough keeping emotion out of this. Some of the scathing consistent attacks I would even categorise as cyber-bullying. I'll do a follow up article to this about that in due course.

Now I'm a 38 year old man. I've developed a thick skin and can rely on a certain muscle memory to get me through this kind of onslaught. I don't suffer from depression but I feel anxiety pangs like anyone else. 

When my phone pings, my heart races. I don't even want to look at my phone right now.

But some of the bloggers I've spoken to that are implicated in this article have only just turned 20. I've had private conversations with them who are on the verge of having a break down. 

Now I don't want to advocate for one second the flagrant use of ‘Insta fraud’ as it’s been labelled. I think the industry is on the mend. I think it's right to highlight where the regulations need to serve the industry better. I can speak about this because I have reformed. I used to follow and unfollow around two years ago but that's not my scene anymore. 

However, I think this article is more a personal attack, laden with spite, resentment, with a pernicious undercurrent and I want people to realise that we're still dealing with human beings.

People that share and retweet thinking they're throwing a spotlight on the issue of Instafraud, are actually sharing an article that was removed, with unfounded accusations from an anonymous source. It's cut deep into the people that are implicated, and is still having a profound effect. 

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I've not risen to any of the comment threads on social media that are continuing a very aggressive media attack on my name and brand.

Instead I've been spending my time talking to the brands and management companies of whom I've had the pleasure of working for and alongside as an ambassador for many years, reassuring them of the inaccuracies in the article, of which I'll get into soon.

I have a very open and honest relationship with these brands (there names I will refrain from disclosing for now) I've been honoured to work for and I've been overwhelmed with the support I've received in return. You can see some of the messages of support I've received below. 

From one brand:

"A member of our team did see the article, but I’m aware that we’ve already spoken to you about your historical follower pattern. We were satisfied with the conversation we had with you and are happy to continue working with you on projects that we feel you are suited." 

From an agency: 

"Hey Carl. We were made aware of the article last week and having read it we agree it comes from a place of spite. The “facts” presented are heavily laden with opinion, conjecture and are overall slanderous to everybody mentioned.

We also realised it was quickly removed. I think your statement on the article is strong and unemotional which is more than can be said for the original author of the article itself. It’s a shame that you’ve been put in a position whereby you need to address it.

On a personal level it doesn’t change how we view you nor alter how we’d like to work with you moving forward.

If you need anything from us to help support you then just let us know."

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Some of this might sound like lawyer talk, because I wanted to detach my emotions and just deal with the facts.

ADDRESSING COMMENTS IN THE ARTICLE

“Allegedly another one of the biggest cheats in the Men’s fashion space, Carl Thompson is one of the biggest frauds out there in terms of inorganically growing his account. His cheating goes as far back as records go, which is January 2016. From January 2016 until July 2017 he aggressively followed and unfollowed hundreds of people per day, cheating his Instagram and cheating his way to over 54,000 from practically nothing.”

Back in 2016 it wasn’t unusual to follow a lot of accounts. I personally followed thousands of people - every blogger, friend, fashion enthusiast etc, who I knew as part of the Instagram community and who helped to shape my own style.

From around April 2016 to April 2017, I used to follow some accounts and have engaged with them, later unfollowing.

I want to note here that despite what the article says, by that point, I have already amassed around 20-25,000 followers from my consistent men’s fashion Instagram posts, presenting and TV appearances.

Instagram at that time was mainly to promote my business Hawkins & Shepherd, where I invested over £100,000 of my own money, and for the love of the industry and the fashion.

During that time I did not know where the Influencer marketing would go and if I would be a part of it. It was a very new industry with no guidance.

In summary, with all due respect to the anonymous authors, I’m a massive part of this very much nascent industry and I have earned the respect from multiple fashion designers, business owners, journalists, PR’s and other Influencers.

“After the scandal of July 2017, he then appeared to have stopped, and his account has been in decline since, which is no coincidence. His Instagram name comes from the brand he owns (which also has manipulated Google reviews), but he uses this to promote himself as a blogger, and has a blog in his own name, carlthompson.co.uk.”

I have stopped following and unfollowing in April 2017 when I realised that this form of marketing had a serious influence on consumers and that it was something that I wanted to be a part of for the long-term.

In addition, I have been building trusted relationships with brands and wanted to offer a great ROI. My Instagram account did slowly decline for a while, however, I actually have perceived that trend as a good thing because real followers who may have just followed me because I followed them, decided to unfollow.

As the rate of decline was very slow and gradual, I have still been gaining followers and have been retaining ones that truly wanted to engage with my posts. What the article fails to mention is that my Instagram account is growing again and has never been more engaged. I would like to comment here that I have never bought fake followers.

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I would like to point out that the comment regarding my e-commerce business Hawkins & Shepherd being a “complete slander” is based on no evidence whatsoever, which again just highlights  the fact that this article is a personal attack.

Hawkins & Shepherd has 400 reviews, all 100% verified customers that have to be legally registered on the Yotpo review platform that I use. Below is a screenshot of this:

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The Google Reviews that the article has suggested were also manipulated in fact are genuine reviews, most are customers and some are from friends/family that I’ve gifted product to and they have kindly written a review.

“He is one of the most disingenuous and fake Influencers out there. The perfect example is working with several shaving brands, pretending to use their razors and products, then his beard magically stays on his face in the next photo, despite claiming that the razor is good and he’s apparently shaved it off.”

I regard the opening statement  as defamatory with the purported “supporting evidence” taken out of context.

My captions and images have been consistently well received, I have invested  a considerable amount of time and effort in creating these images and in ensuring that the content is exactly what the brands expect and is of an exceptional quality.

“This was comically seen when he posted about Harry’s and more recently Gillette and their razor blades, foaming up his face with razor in hand, and in the very next photo, his facial hair magically re-appeared a day later. Either the razor is not very good, he grows hair like a werewolf or he’s lying. We’ll let you be the judge.”

Whilst I applaud the anonymous author on his/her diligence in finding the one inconsistency from over 1,800 posts on my Instagram channel, posts on my Instagram grid rarely correlate to a physical date/time timeline.

When working with brands many posts have to be vetted and authenticated weeks, sometimes months in advance. The consistency of my beard between posts is arbitrary.

“He holds almost no authority, no influence and is disliked by many of the other men’s fashion bloggers and influencers, for cheating with his Instagram and being incredibly fake. His Instagram engagement is currently at 2.06%, and has been manipulated.”

I have no comment regarding this other than I have evidence to the contrary available to brands on request.

“FAKE INFLUENCER PARTY”

The Hard Rock Hotel invited me as an unpaid guest to create content on their behalf. After seeing the results of the engagement and the quality of the content provided, I was invited to promote their newly opened Hard Rock Hotel in London.

“He has now set up a new ego website, to showcase his arrogance and for people to believe that he’s kind of a big deal. “Who Is Carl Thompson .co.uk” is a website telling you who he actually is.”

The website https://www.whoiscarlthompson.co.uk/ serves as an online visual Media Pack/CV. It serves no other purpose other than to provide detailed information on my portfolio.

“According to it, he’s a TV presenter, model, influencer, photographer, YouTuber, business owner, blogger.”

Each of these are correct and accurate. I’m happy to forward on examples of each on request.

“It seems he craves the fame, being on First Dates along with Dinner Date.”

I make no apologies for appearing on these shows that are watched and adored by millions of viewers.

“According to his Instagram, he’s currently an ambassador for Haigclub, Jo Malone and Kobox. He has worked with Debenhams, House Of Fraser, Panasonic, ECCO Shoes, 360 Coffee, tk Maxx, Lab Series, Kronaby, Starbucks, Philips, Reiss, Burton, Mazda, and many more.”

That is correct and I’m extremely proud to have worked with each of these brands.


FURTHER READING

VOTED TOP 6 MEN’S LIFESTYLE BLOG IN THE UK 2018

https://www.vuelio.com/uk/blog-awards/shortlist/

TOP 10 UK MEN’S LIFESTYLE BLOG 2017, 2018, 2019.

https://www.vuelio.com/uk/social-media-index/mens-lifestyle-blogs-uk-top-10/

These are all based around official Google blog statistics, domain-authority, quality of writing and imagery. Voted by industry professionals.

MY OWN BLOG STATISTICS PUBLISHED

Earlier this year, I have published my Blog Statistics with screenshots of Google analytic data (I note the extremely low 1.03% bounce rate for the year of 2018).

https://www.carlthompson.co.uk/further-reading-blogs/2019/1/18/carl-thompson-all-the-stats-from-my-blog-revealed

YOUTUBE

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7saYubGIW4nDfajCS9Kkqw?view_as=subscriber

My channel has around 8,800 Subscribers with a very engaged following and has almost 1million views on the videos published.