Dawn quits Twitter after abuse: let’s drop the hate (and sexist double-standard), Survivor fans

Survivor Caramoan cast member Dawn Meehan deleted her Twitter account this afternoon, exiting after days of criticism and abuse by alleged fans of the series. That followed Dawn’s controversial decision to vote against her friend and ally Brenda during Wednesday’s episode. In now-deleted tweets, following her frequent attempts to reply to her critics and bullies, Dawn wrote,

“Taking my twitter account down. Life’s too short for this much negativity. Much love to everyone who’s shared #Survivor with me.”

“…I have small kiddos who don’t need to read mean things directed at their fan. Xo.”

I won’t quote the ugly things people wrote, but they ranged from disagreement to outright bullying and a desire for Dawn and her family to die as a result of her vote. Think about that! (If you must see for yourself, search Twitter for her handle, @meehand, and a random awful word.)

As I wrote in a reply to former Survivor Eliza Orlins, there is a huge difference between criticism–even strong, emotionally charged, angry criticism–and abusive language, cruelty, viciousness, and bullying.

Dawn made a decision as part of a social and strategic game, a decision she thought would help her win the game and thus help her in real life. You can make arguments all day long about whether or not it was a smart or stupid decision, or whether she’s playing intelligently or naively. You can bring up her past decisions and compare them to her current decisions. You can say she acted hypocritically or stupidly, emotionally or strategically.

That’s all fair. (Though, honestly, it’s also worth considering how much of the criticism of her actions is a result of the blatantly sexist double-standard many Survivor fans apply to Dawn’s actions.)

However, it’s not fair nor acceptable to treat other human beings like punching bags. I know there should be no surprise that the Internet is full of assholes, or more specifically, that it’s super-easy to be a fucking dickface shitball thrower when you’re anonymous and talking to someone you only know on TV.

As much as I’ve always tried to limit my criticism to people’s decisions and on-screen actions, I’m sure I’ve crossed the line into cruelty more than once in the past as I expressed that criticism, and I deeply regret that.

Survivor has lasted for 26 seasons and 13 years because it generates so much conversation and controversy as the result of its brilliantly structured game. But we must remember that it’s a game being played by real people who can be affected by what we write and say.

There have always been toxic waste dumps online, but when the show started, there was no direct interaction with cast members. Those ugly places and people could be easily ignored, because they had to be sought out. Now, thanks to the direct access that social media provides–and to some contestants willingness to connect with others and and share way too much about themselves–criticism and abuse can come much more easily and directly to its targets.

That’s not fair to them or their families, whether they are mothers from Utah or angry villains from Texas. Let’s use the amazing access we have to engage, disagree, challenge, support, criticize, and/or cheer, not to be dickbags, even if the Internet makes that easy.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.