Chiara Fight’s Back
Internet trolls typically seek attention by posting inflammatory comments, wishing to upset the targeted victim. Though we may see it as an annoying, easy to deal with, minor problem. It can in fact escalate to bullying, death threats and psychologically damaging harassment.
Speaking of online bullying, with a further move to life online (admit a pandemic that has forced our schools and work to the computer, at home) some reports show cyberbullying is on the increase. According to YouGov, 24% of children and young people will already experience some form of cyberbullying anyways, which could be escalating in today’s ‘new normal’. With children’s mental health week ending this week, the possible impact of social media trolls on young people’s mental health shouldn’t be forgotten. In the case of online bullying and trolling, here are some tips, I hope, can help in combating it.
I’m sure when finding abusive and hurtful comments, most people feel the urge to defend themselves (or perhaps a friend), especially when the troll’s argument is weak and easy to diffuse. However, sometimes, it could be best to ignore them and move on. Since a troll’s intention likely is to evoke a reaction, giving none could be the solution in some instances. A lot of people also simply make their profile private, or just block the troll’s profile. In case you choose not to ignore them, there’s different tones your response could adopt, which may still leave the troll unsatisfied. Respond with facts, humour, or (my personal favourite) kindness! You could try deflating the argument through logic, or surprising the troll with a witty response, to diffuse the situation – but you could also catch them off guard by responding calmly and lovingly. Gabourey Sidibe demonstrates this really well in her response to a troll’s comment on Instagram, honestly admitting that “[the troll has] my attention and my concern and now my hand extended…in prayer” – if you’re interested, you should look up her entire response, I found it quite heart-warming. It’s difficult to be as sympathetic and comforting as Sidibe was, however, maybe you could try imitating her tone if you do find yourself being attacked online and if we all try a bit harder, each time, maybe we can make social media a more pleasant place for everybody.
Chiara, 17, Northampton
Social media tends to be an incredibly controversial subject which presents the question of whether it helps growth and mental health or ultimately damages it… I would love to say I have 5 clear bullet points to state my answer with mountains of evidence compiled into easy-to-understand notes but in fact my answer is that there is no easy answer. When addressing social media, regarding the grand scheme of livelihood in general, there really is no set, clear and easy response. That’s the reality of the situation. Like all things, there are toxic sides to something brilliant and beautiful sides to something sordid… there is no one item or person who is wholly perfect. However social media tends to be a place where those damaging qualities are laid out, for the world to see. So it seems natural that social media can receive a bad review, from many, because when looking at it objectively (as much as humans can) there are, with no doubt, significant levels of hate that we see from day to day, which no one is exempt from; not even celebrities.
I personally think that body image and body positivity movement are a simple, brilliant example of the two sides of social media; on one hand there are the trolls who pick accounts at random and display their unwanted opinions for all to see and cause hurt. On the other, the body positivity movement, which I believe, are incredibly strong in its efforts to shut down trolls and spread the message that every body is beautiful. I know that it’s so much easier said than done but honestly, when dealing with such people who comment and message hateful things, surrounding yourself with information, knowledge and support is something which, in my opinion, is unbelievably powerful.
Alongside trolls and people who go out of their way to hurt others, there is another quite terrifying and heart-breaking aspect of people; those who have internalized negative comments, inaccurate damaging information and genuinely believe and share it. I have seen more times than I can count, videos and posts on social media handing out harmful and inaccurate health information like there’s no tomorrow. Ultimately, having a negative impact on how I addressed my view of myself and mental health. To be frank, inaccurate information can, at the very least, place some form of toxic idea of how to be treating food and viewing yourself in the minds of countless people and at most, become a catalyst for incredibly harmful disorders. I remember scrolling through TikTok once and seeing a video of someone who had lived with an eating disorder, explain how certain “health trends” were verging on triggering for them. It just makes me think of how sad and frightening it is that such “health trends” are still being spread and even worse, being presented as benefits.
So, what I can say surrounding how to combat hate on social media which damages mental health, especially regarding body image, is to fill your feed with accounts which encourage self love and seeing yourself for the beautiful person you are. Over time the messages they advocate for will become internalized and much like the use of affirmations, hopefully you will begin to see the radiance you hold. Here are some amazing accounts I follow which I think are brilliant at promoting a healthy view of self: @brittanilancaster, @mikzazon and @nicolezaajac! These women are amazing and have created incredibly joyous, beautiful and real environments on their social media, really highlighting the aspects of social media which spread joy and unrelenting support.
Isabella, 16, London
Yet again the newest TikTok trend has to be cancelled and avoided thanks to creeps online. The Silhouette Challenge is a trend in which those who partake show off their natural figure, using a red filter to create a silhouette so that no skin can be seen. It’s an empowering trend in which people of all shapes and sizes can participate and are appreciated, but this safe space has been stripped from us, as quickly as we found it. There are now tutorials circulating that instruct a viewer on how to remove this red filter, exposing those who decided to wear little to no clothing when filming their videos, without their knowledge or consent. It is disgusting and has to be put to a stop.
Though it pains me to say this, and the responsibility should fall on those who believe they have a right to invade our privacy, the best way we can be protected is to protect ourselves. Unfortunately, our doubts are proven again and again to be true. We cannot trust that others will show decency and respect toward us. There will always be repulsive people who continue to thirst for what they cannot have, so we have to take on the extra labour of ensuring there is no way our fun can be exploited. For this challenge specifically, to keep similar results, the best we can do is turn to tighter, but more conservative clothing.
Of course, we have our typical procedures. Unfollow. Block. Report. But will it ever be enough? Multiple accounts can be made, and it can take time to repeat this each and every time someone makes an uncomfortable comment. In order to really make a difference, we must protest against rape culture. Regrettably, one of the biggest reasons that these vulgar tutorials are allowed to stay up is the belief, integrated into society, that blame lies on the victim. Your actions are not our responsibility, no matter what we choose to wear. Once we make this a universal opinion, and demonise taking advantage of women’s fun, we can successfully deliver the freedom for enjoyment that women deserve.
Ellie, 16, Leicester
The internet is becoming an increasingly scary place, with many trends having consequences. A few years back the TidPod challenge, despite its dangers, became prevalent on many platforms with influential people increasing its popularity. From time to time these dangerous challenges crop up however there are more unexpected dangers that have arrived from the popularity of TikTok. It’s many use’s in 2020-2021 encompassed trending dance moves.
It started with dances like the renegade, capturing dance moves in an upper body frame. However as more and more choreography has surfaced, on the internet, many dance trends have become more sexualised. From the WAP encouraging twerking and influencers wearing minimal amount of clothing, some in Bikinis, many people have go on to receive body shaming and unwanted adult attention. Despite not having any immediate physical health problems like the TidPod challenge these occurrences of body shaming have negatively impacted many people’s mental health. Additionally, the rapid development of these apps and platforms have allowed little room for monitoring, putting teens, like you and me, in danger. The content we post could be viewed by unwanted people without little consequence. So how do we deal with this:
1. The common saying: don’t post what you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. If you are producing content that sexualises you, to make others attracted to you, you could be attracting the wrong attention. Despite this, it is your choice to post whatever you may choose as long as you know the consequences.
2. To combat body shaming, be confident in yourself and speak up against bullies, your battle could be inspirational to others, join trends which highlight your insecurities and make your voice heard. Don’t read hateful comments and build up a support system that can help you tackle any hate.
3. Keep your accounts private and don’t allow people to follow you who you don’t know. Keeping your account private will mean that people who you don’t know, will not be able to view your posts without your consent. We all want a large number of followers to feel cool and popular, but allowing other people to follow you, who you don’t know, could make you susceptible to creeps and grooming. With this precaution in place you will be able to hop on trends like the silhouette challenge without the added risk of perverted actions of the people behind the other screen.
4. When trolled on your race, sexuality, gender identity, religious views or other you must stand up for what you believe in. Hit back at the trolls, in the comments and block them from bullying you. Join in empowerment movements and don’t let anyone bring you down. You are valid. Your being is valid. Your views are valid. Fight on the right side of the argument and you will know that you are right. Don’t let anyone demean you from behind a screen because you are important.
Stay safe online, it’s a scary place when not used right. Don’t ever let trolls get in your head, because you are perfect the way you are, and don’t let people use your body against you. Cyber bullying is always going to exist so find ways to be comfortable about sharing your experiences with your parents or a counsellor.
Emilia, 15, Leicester
All photos sourced from Unsplashed