Thursday, 8 June 2017

The perils of an online presence, continued.

Today I write with great care. Of late I've found myself researching the concept and definition of libel, hence my caution. I have sought legal advice before publishing this. I'll stick to facts and try not to let my emotions get the better of me. Those close to us will know much of what follows but I feel the need to share it with you all.

Stephanie Hakin seems to prefer to be known, for some reason, as Rucksack Rose. I don't like referring to folk by pseudonyms. I'll stick with what I assume to be her real name.

Chrissie and I met Stephanie back in 2014. She had publicly asked for help, on her blog, with wild camping. Chrissie is the very epitome of kindness where requests like this are concerned, so she volunteered her help. I'll not retell the whole tale again here. Many know it already. You can find it on Stephanie's Rucksack Rose blog, under "Camps", following the link to "Wideopen Hill", told in Stephanie's words. Though please be aware, by the time you go to read it, it may well have been edited or deleted (see para.5 below).

Stephanie maintains Chrissie abandoned her on a wild camp, when they were in a field, on the lower slopes of Wideopen Hill on St.Cuthbert's Way. In fact, Chrissie did refuse Stephanie's request to call for mountain rescue. Chrissie was convinced, with significant mountain rescue casualty-care experience (being trained to paramedic standard) Stephanie was suffering from a panic attack. She was worrying about her father being on his own, worrying she had no mobile signal, worrying she may develop a migraine in the night and even, at one stage, admitting to the fact that she was panicking. Stephanie later changed this to a self-diagnosis of "sunstroke" (cured by a cup of tea and a bed, in a pub) in her retelling of the story.

Stephanie, from that day to this, seems to have held Chrissie and me responsible for many ills which have subsequently befallen her. This has led to many unpleasant comments being published, not only on her Rucksack Rose blog and Twitter account but also on another blog and Twitter account using her proper name. For reasons best known to herself, Stephanie frequently deletes things on Twitter and regularly "edits" blog posts having reconsidered her retelling of events.

To my great surprise Stephanie applied for the TGO Challenge in October last year and was accepted. For reasons I am not fully privy to she subsequently withdrew. Between applying and withdrawing I admit, along with others, to publicly stating my surprise at her actions in applying for the event. Thus it was that Chrissie and I were vilified by Stephanie for preventing her from entering the Challenge, (her interpretation, not mine).

We are both sensitive souls, but Chrissie especially so. Since that unfortunate night in 2014, Chrissie has searched her soul for reasons why it went wrong. Could she have handled Stephanie's fears better? Was she at fault? She has tortured herself with questions like these every time Stephanie sticks her head above the parapet. At best, this has led to sleepless nights and self-torment. At worst it's seen the two of us arguing. It threw a cloud over Chrissie's recent TGOC crossing, but her indomitable spirit saw her through. Chrissie really doesn't deserve this as a reward for responding to a plea for help, but there it is.

Through her blog, Stephanie portrays herself as a hillwalker (a status I remain unsure of) and would-be backpacker. She offers advice to readers of her blog on various subjects around hillwalking and backpacking. Being a newcomer, a learner, is fine, but as such, in my opinion, offering advice and claiming eligibility for the TGO Challenge is strange.

In recent weeks Stephanie admitted she recently called mountain rescue when she had a minor navigational problem on the Speyside Way. She found herself on the receiving end of many comments questioning and criticising her actions. She justified herself by claiming to be honest in admitting to this.

We and others are accused of being "trolls"...of abuse and unfounded negativity. It seems to me the words "troll" and "abuse" are much overused on the internet nowadays. And it's fair to say that Chrissie, I and others could equally claim to have been trolled and abused by Stephanie. Stephanie appears to secretly watch the Twitter accounts of Chrissie and I and the ever-expanding cohort of people she has now "blocked", reacting quickly on her own account to anything posted about her. We also watch her accounts, following legal advice to do so, lest she strays over the boundary into libel. Over the past months she often asked for advice online. All too often, she dislikes the advice and refuses offers of help. She threatens and accuses those who would help, then often blocks them.

Why am I raking this up? You may well ask. I and Chrissie would like nothing more than to never have any contact with Stephanie again. A number of friends have suggested we should refrain from reacting to her online. We've tried but it's difficult. Chrissie responds, rarely, out of frustration at being so badly misrepresented. I respond out of anger at my beloved's level of upset and hurt at the hands of this individual.

An evening early this week was lively on Twitter. A couple of folk expressed sympathy for Stephanie who, in the opinion of us and many others, seems a troubled soul. They are right to be sympathetic...but, revisiting Chrissie's reactions to all this over a long time, I find it hard to empathise. But I must, for the sake of mine and Chrissie's health and sanity, hence my writing this piece.

I write for two reasons. First, I needed to get some things off my chest. Clear the dust. Second, I have a plea. I now see the sense in not responding anymore. To quote a good friend, "...if there's a void of unresponsiveness to the bile, it leaves the bile pointless". So, I'm gonna let go and I'm making a sincere request for you to do the same. Many out there in Twitter land have been exceptionally kind in your support of us around this subject and we thank you for that. Often folk alert us to Stephanie's latest outburst. That, I'm sure, has been done in a spirit of support for us too and, again, we thank you. But, enough is enough and we desperately wish to be done with this now. So, hard though it may be, we're gonna follow his (and other friends') advice and ask you to consider doing the same.

I have no desire to defame Stephanie's character and wish her no further ill. I seek only to draw a line under this sorry affair.

Give it some thought please. It's not for me or Chrissie to tell, or even ask, you how to respond to any future comments, but do consider my friend's words. He's a wise man. I think he's right.

Bless all those of you we think of as friends and thanks for taking the time to read this.


12 comments:

  1. It is plainly obvious Geoff, that this lady has serious issues. Hopefully folk will see the wisdom of not responding to her wide and varied accusations. In responding it appears to fuel this lady's ideas of what she considers to be attacks on herself, her actions and possible misconceptions.
    Hopefully this will draw a line under this whole sorry issue. Please accept a virtual hug from an old gal who cares.

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    1. Thanks Dawn. We both really appreciate your support.

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  2. I wasn't aware of the full story until now Geoff, as I have never visited said persons accounts. Chrissie seems to have the same kind of personality as my OH. The kind of person who would help anyone out and who would also be affected by personal attacks on her. I'm not going to pour fuel on the fire by voicing my own opinion. Your decision to hopefully draw a line under the whole scenario is the correct one in my opinion. Time to move on and get on with life. I class both of you as good friends, so I hope like you, this will be an end to it. Best wishes to Chrissie and yourself.

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    1. Thank you my friend. Your comments and support are much appreciated.

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  3. Enough said to coin my favourite phrase of recent years. "They walk among us " ..... share a brew and cake soon again ...peter and Oscar dog

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    1. Cheers my friend. Hoping we might get a camp together. Will be in touch 👍

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  4. Geoff, as someone who purposely tried to stay out of the furore late last year, and who continued to keep lines of communication and support open with Stephanie in the hope that things would somehow work themselves out, I found myself a public victim of her attention-seeking and troll-fishing earlier this week. Although only Chrissie and Stephanie can really be the ones who fully know what went on that day on Wideopen Hill, I'll just say that I personally put much more faith in the account by and judgement of a trained mountain rescue person than someone who is a regular "customer" of that service. You both have my full support.

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    1. Well said Matthew. You're one of many in giving her the benefit of the doubt, and quite understandably given the whole truth about Chrissie's encounter was never fully told, until now. Interesting though, how she revealed so much following her actions on the Speyside Way. Many thanks Matthew.

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  5. I have long followed and enjoyed your postings on the Twittersphere. I have only become aware of this other person and her website following your difficulties. Having looked at it I see no merit (and am amazed at the cheek of asking for financial support). I really hope that you have no further problems - you don't deserve it.

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    1. Thanks Phil and thank you for taking the trouble to comment. Much appreciated.

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  6. It is sad Geoff, that for all the positive aspects that Social Media brings us, yours and Chrissies blogs being a fine example, it has also spawned this type of abuse. You are absolutely right to take the ignore option, that's what these people really fear, becoming isolated and irrelevant. Like Andy said above, my OH is very much like Chrissie, always thinking of others ahead of herself. The fact that she's been made to feel that she has to change that behaviour is the saddest part of all. I've had a couple of very trivial FB run ins recently that are causing me to be a little more circumspect in what I post and respond to. A price I guess we all have to pay for the many virtual friendships we strike up.
    Stay positive and keep the posts coming. All the best to you both
    Andy

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    1. Many thanks for those thoughts Andy. You're very kind. It won't stop us being sociable; we continue to make new friends through the medium of social media, but it may make us more wary in future.

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Comments are always welcome but please be patient. I always check comments before posting having been the subject of some unfortunate abuse in the past.