Coronation Street star Samia Longchambon has opened up about her own experiences of the online world as her on-screen character faces horror in upcoming scenes. Later this week, viewers will see Maria Windass one of her first big decisions as a local councillor go against her.
The ITV soap character will realise that her decision to change the local recycling collections has had unintended consequences for workers. She decided to bring in extra bins and new collections to make sure that recycling and environmental issues are a top priority for the local community.
However, the recycling collectors threaten to go on strike because of the extra workload, caused by her decision-making. Feeling awful and in a bid to put things right, Maria meets with a team leader from the refuse workers’ depot and offers to propose a pay rise, on account of the extra workload caused by the new recycling bins.
Maria hopes it’s enough to get the binmen back on the job. However, Maria is door stepped about the strike and while she delivers an eloquent speech about recycling, Kelly Neelan later shows Maria a video online with her words chopped up and rearranged to a rap beat leaving her aghast at how her message has been manipulated.
But things only get worse when she becomes the target of a deep fake video. This is where one person’s face has been convincingly replaced by a computer-generated face, which often resembles a second person. And Maria is left mortified when her son Liam gets into trouble for fighting at school, only to discover it’s over a pornography video of her.
And as if things weren’t bad enough for the character, Maria is then subject to trolling and receives death threats leading to her wanting to withdraw from the council and second-guessing what she and her family put online as well as fearing for all of their safety.
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News and other press about the storyline, Samia was asked about her own experience of trolling. While she says she hasn’t, ‘touch wood’, ever received death threats, the Eccles-born actress said she has been affected by trolls. “I’ve certainly had trolls to the point where it’s been really upsetting,” she said.
“It’s not nice to read and as much as people say, ‘don’t read it’, it’s almost like picking a scab. You know you shouldn’t but at the same time there’s a part of you that just wants to know what other people are reading about what other people are saying about you.”
She says this is how she felt in the past. “I want to know what other people might be reading about me. And it’s really hurtful. It’s horrible and I can see why a lot of people… it ends up affecting their mental health. I think over the years it has had an effect on me, definitely.”
Samia added: “It knocks your confidence. Even if you have 99 nice comments, you only remember that one awful comment and think ‘that’s what I must look lke’ or ‘that’s what I must be like’ or ‘that’s how bad I must be at my job’… whatever they are commenting on, that’s what you remember as much as you don’t want to.
“And what I’ve come to realise is those people would never say it to your face in public. They hide behind a keyboard and think that’s ok and it’s not. I think it should be regulated online, especially for young people now going on social media. I look at my daughter, she’s 12 and uses so media, and I get really nervous about her using it because you’re such an easy target on social media.”
“When I was first told about it I was really pleased that it’s being covered and really glad that I’ve been able to do it because I feel I have had a lot of experience over the years,” Samia said. “Over the last decade with Twitter and Instagram, I have had experience of trolls.
“If you dig hard enough you’ll always find someone who doesn’t like you or who wants to tear you down and I’ve let it get to me over the years to the point where sometimes you’re like, ‘I don’t want to go out today,’ or you go to post something on social media and second guess yourself thinking ‘they’ll think I’m showing off’ or it’s going to upset someone so you have to edit yourself a lot. So for Maria to be going through it, I think it’ll hopefully be relatable to a lot of people.”
And on how she deals with trolling herself, the 39-year-old simply said: “Block!” She then added with a laugh: “Just block. I think it’s all you can do. You’re always going to get people who say nasty things, unfortunately. The majority of people are lovely and really gorgeous and positive but those people who are just negative… It’s such a cliche but it says more about them than it does about you. And I’ve learnt that over the last couple of years.”