All-College hour speaker shares experience of social media harassment to encourage student activism

News reporter Kate Welshofer (pictured above) came to Geneseo on April 3 to speak about her social media presence and the various inappropriate messages she receives from different men. She highlighted the importance of standing up against these unwanted comments and holding men accountable for their actions (Annalee Bainnson/Staff Photographer).

Social media’s prevalence within society has allowed people to write and comment on pictures that they would never have the courage to do in person. Kate Welshofer, a news reporter for WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, N.Y., has experienced this first-hand, and has consequently become an “accidental activist.” 

Welshofer shared her insight and experience with the campus community on April 3 at the All-College hour speaker event in the MacVittie College Union Ballroom.

Welshofer has Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts where she posts updates for fans about her work and career. She kept the comments and private messaging open for interested viewers. Mixed in with the comments of appraisal, she started to consistently be terrorized by men about her looks and body. 

“It didn’t make me rethink my career choice, but it has definitely made me hide a little bit,” Welshofer said. “Sometimes I would be very active online, other times I would kind of pull back a bit. You feel like you want to hide a little, I don’t want people talking and being involved with my life or knowing what I am doing. I never thought, ‘I want a different job,’ but I just wish I didn’t have to deal with this.”

A man once directly messaged Welshofer, asking for her to meet him at an abandoned Indian restaurant to take a new profile picture with him. When Welshofer said no, he asked for a picture of her bare feet. After this occurrence, Welshofer temporarily disabled the direct messaging feature. If someone wanted to ask for something so obscene it should be done where everyone could see it. 

Unsolicited comments from men asking for personal pictures, saying rude comments and asking to meet up is, unfortunately, a normal occurrence for Welshofer. She refuses to stay silent and standing up to these men is important to her. Welshofer is straight forward when responding to unwanted comments. 

“I am just direct, letting it be known that it is not okay [and] it is disrespectful. I feel like a broken record sometimes, but I will always say, ‘you’re welcome to follow me here, but there are rules.’ I set a standard right from the beginning, I simply say, ‘here is how it is, if you’re cool with that, great, if not, you can unfollow me.’ Typically, people will disappear or just have nothing more to say,” Welshofer said. “The biggest thing is taking control of it yourself. By taking control, I have chased away people leaving unwanted comments.”

Men often comment, telling Welshofer that not all men are inappropriate and leave unwanted comments. Welshofer takes this into account but says that being a bystander is not the answer. The “good guys,” as Welshofer referred to them, need to hold the “bad guys” accountable. 

“The guy who says ‘I am a good guy’ will call me out for saying a guy did this on the internet. The thing that makes me so angry about this, is they have suddenly made it about them. Here I am telling them that this is something actively happening to me and you’re taking issue with how I have expressed it, or that I have expressed it at all,” Welshofer said. 

“If you want to be a good guy, take some of that energy, anger or whatever it is directly to the guy who started it. Instead of telling me I should block, move on and be done with it, go to the source and speak directly to that guy. Hold other men accountable as opposed to telling me I am doing it wrong.”

Welshofer became an accidental activist, but even today continues to talk about this subject to audiences as well as raise awareness on her personal social media platforms. She encourages students to never feel afraid to stand up for yourself.