Jesy Nelson (Little Mix) recently released a BBC documentary called ‘Odd One Out’ about how online bullying and trolling has effected her since winning the X-Factor in 2011. If you haven’t watched it already, then you really need to. It’s heart-breaking but it’s so important and I think that we could all learn a lot from watching it.
Social media is such a huge part of my everyday life. I’ve said it before but I wake up and I scroll through Instagram, then I check Twitter and then I go onto YouTube and watch videos from my favourite creators while I eat my breakfast and get ready. I’m online so much that I’ve already seen so much online bullying and trolling and I hate to say that it’s become something I’m actually used to. It does still surprise me, but even watching Jesy’s documentary, I wasn’t exposed to anything that I didn’t already know. People do leave comments and write posts and tweets saying some very damaging things. Some of them know how much pain they’re causing when they do it, but I do also think that there is a large percentage of people who don’t.
When somebody puts themselves in the public eye, they are entering into a sphere that is heaving with negativity. I don’t believe that that means they should learn how to deal with it or get over it, as some people might say. People just shouldn’t be allowed to say whatever they want online in the first place because I actually feel that the online space is becoming just as dangerous as the world outside of it. People think it’s okay to say whatever they want, because social media gives them the capacity to do so behind a screen. They don’t have to be identified and I think that’s where social media becomes very threatening.
Young people are slowly being made aware of just how important it is to be kind online, which is good. I’m not sure where the lines got blurred here if I’m honest. I have never ever thought about writing anything telling someone to kill themselves. I wouldn’t say it out loud, I wouldn’t type it, I haven’t even ever looked at someone and thought that about them. I cannot fathom what place you have to be in in your life, to try and reduce someone to such little self-worth. When you’re typing something like that, you have to know exactly what you’re doing and that is why I think that people should be held accountable for what they say online. There is a petition specifically for this and I encourage everybody who agrees with me to sign it. You can do so here.
Social media has constructed this extra layer of reality that most of the younger generation have now been born in to. I know what it was like before social media, but there are some people who don’t. This kind of life – where you have to look perfect online all the time, where you can get bullied online, where your social media presence and engagement validates you more than the natural interaction you have in your life – is just the norm for a lot of people.
There is so much pressure to only present the best parts of yourself online. So when you think you’re doing that and you get a comment from somebody that completely tears you down, what are you supposed to think? You’ve taken a photo in the best lighting possible, you’ve done your hair, your make-up, you’ve worn the best outfit you can and posed in the most flattering way you can. For some people, even that’s not good enough. So you add a filter to make your skin look better, you change the lighting a little bit. Even then, for some people, it’s still not good enough. So they start editing themselves with apps like FaceTune, tweaking all of their insecurities until they look perfect. Then they post a picture online and guess what? It’s still not good enough.
I think that it’s going to be difficult to undo the damage that has been caused by social media, maybe even impossible. But slowly, we have to start using the platform to show more of reality. To replace the warped realism that demands so many of our attention. And, we need to make sure that we’re exposing those who are using their social media accounts to bully and troll others. It’s not okay. It’s causing irreversible damage and it has to stop.