Customer Zoe Callis is no stranger to ordering online from Coles.
However, this one time her favourite vegan mince substitute was out of stock. Coles emailed her that it had substituted the product she had ordered with a packet of Beef Premium Mince.
Her first reaction was to laugh out loud, however, when she pointed out the seriousness of the mistake to the super market they referred to it as simply an “inconvenient” situation.
Ms Callis then took to a private Facebook group for Australian vegans to write a short post about her adventure, but she then decided to post about her adventure on her Facebook account.
Little did she know that would spark an avalanche of online bullying.
At first, she started receiving messages from friends joking that she had become famous.
“I saw this post on Facebook and it was my profile picture superimposed next to a tray of mince — I thought, what in the world is this?!” Ms Callis told the ABC.
“It was a news story. It had my full name and a picture of the post that I’d made. It called me ‘irate’ — it was ridiculous! I was tagged in more posts and different news outlets took it and re-wrote it,” she said.
The most annoying part of it was that the author of the piece had invaded her privacy and anonymity not only by sharing information that is part of a confidential group but by using her Facebook profile image and full name.
“They actually went on my Facebook profile and dug up a picture of me from about five years ago — it was the main photo before you even clicked the article. I saw it was actually translated in a Melbourne Chinese news outlet,” Ms Callis complained, explaining that the initial piece lead to more than 10 articles and many more Facebook posts that shamed her for her vegan lifestyle.
Under the posts she could read thousands of public comments and reactions most of which bullied her using vile descriptions.
“It was closed vegan group for vegans — we share food and talk about vegan things. I didn’t realise that it could go public, I wasn’t out there sharing this with everyone. I do feel like my privacy has been invaded a little bit because my name, age and image and everything has been put out there.”
Some of the most civil comments were:
– “Only a vegan would kick up this much of a fuss.”
– “If she ate meat she would have had to energy to do her own shopping.”
– “Toughen up princess.”
Ms Callis who only shared her initial discomfort regarding the incident in a private group because she didn’t want to be another angry vegan, says that “I didn’t really want to invite that kind of response from people”.
“Even though the original article didn’t necessarily say anything bad about me, other than I was irate when I was clearly making a joke, they definitely wrote it because they know that’s the kind of thing people would click and they were the kind of comments people were going to make.
“I actually ended up getting a few comments of a sexual nature. I think particularly because it’s a vegan thing not to eat meat and then there’s all this innuendo.”
The magnitude of the backlash she received left her feeling shocked and deeply offended.
“It just sort of happened and I was kind of like, how is this even allowed? [The context] was taken away and all the ideas and feelings I supposedly had have been added by someone else who doesn’t even know me and didn’t speak to me.”
“It’s a bit of a laugh, I never said anything wrong or embarrassing,” she said.