what is online hatespeech

If you’ve got something to say…

Every single person who uses the internet is vulnerable to cyberbullying, trolling and online abuse. Whether you are an Instagram extraordinaire, a fan of Twitter or a Snapchat pro – it could happen to anyone at any time and celebrities are far from immune. In fact, it seems as though the more followers you have, the more likely you are to be trolled.

Where social media, on the one hand, gives us the opportunity to voice our opinions on anything from politics to pan-frying a sea bass, it also gives people with a nasty agenda a chance to voice hateful thoughts and ideologies. It goes without saying that in providing a wonderful platform for people to publicly spread cat videos and hilarious memes, (👍🏽) also comes the opportunity to spread hate speech (👎🏽). This can be incredibly dangerous, hurtful and distressing for those on the receiving end and anyone else who’s viewing it.

So, What is Hate Speech?

Hate speech is when somebody says, writes or shares something which attacks a person or group of people on the basis of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, or gender. Much like hate crime, it specifically targets people who are of a certain group.

For example, if you’re being directly messaged by someone who is saying nasty things about your appearance or hobbies but not specifically about your race/religion/sexuality or ability – that’s not considered hate speech, it comes under the umbrella of bullying or online abuse.

Unfortunately, in today’s political climate, hate speech is not uncommon. all too often we’re seeing people spouting some rather questionable views very publicly online or purposely targetting individuals who don’t conform to specific expectations or views.

Nobody deserves to be targeted in this way – the internet is a space for everyone and nobody or group of people should feel marginalised, intimidated or isolated. If you’re being targetted with hate speech, always remember that it is never a problem with you, the problem always lies with the perpetrator.

What does the Law say?

Well, it’s a bit of a grey area, different countries and regions have different stances on the illegality of hate speech. In the UK for example, it’s an offence to incite hatred based on a person’s race, religion, sexuality or disability. It is not, however, an offence to stir up hate about a person’s gender or identity (something which really needs to be addressed because unfortunately, hate speech towards women and misogynistic language used online is prolific and increasingly violent.)

Where does it happen?

Hate speech takes place both on and offline – it’s easy to get away with saying something hateful to a person’s face because unless that person reports it – who’s gonna know, right? (that doesn’t make it OK, btw). Hate speech online, however, is far more public so naturally, you’d think it could be policed better than it currently is.

New technologies emerge all the time that attempt to quell the tide of horrible words that come flooding in online. Many networks have a reporting system and some are even monitored, but it’s simply not enough to keep up the ever-changing nature of language and online behaviour.

Example: You might be familiar with Pepe The Frog. A seemingly benign meme which was co-opted by hate groups and other individuals in 2016. Pepe the Frog soon came to be seen as a symbol of racism and anti-semitism across various online spaces.

There has also been a murmur of suspicion to suggest some hate groups use specific emojis to symbolise their ideologies online making it notoriously diffuclt to police. In any case, communications which target specific individuals or groups in people in hateful ways, come under the umbrella of hate crime – Hate crime is illegal.

What about Celebrities?

There have, of course, been several high profile cases of online hate speech – Michelle Obama springs to mind. The former American First Lady received endless online abuse throughout her husband’s presidency; some of it personal, some of it targeting her race, her religion and her nationality. It was ruthless but one thing’s for sure, the people trolling her would probably never have said it to her face.

Celebrities and those with large social followings are often in the firing line for hate speech and some have spoken out about it. Others say that it comes with the territory of being very active on social media.

Whatever your view, no one deserves to be on the receiving end of hate speech, online abuse or trolling of any kind – if you see it, report it. If you’re experiencing online abuse, read this for more information on what to do.

Don’t be a Bystander…

Is it ok to troll a ‘troll’?

The answer is no. If you see someone sharing hate speech online, don’t engage – by opening up a discussion with them you give them a platform to incite more hatred. By trolling them back you’re reciprocating their behaviour. The best way to deal with someone who is being nasty online is to disengage and report. Again, if that person is sharing hate speech, report it. Here’s some more info on reporting online abuse or hate speech. If you see something, report it.

Click on the images below to find out specific information on reporting online abuse and hate speech on social networks:

Want to talk it through first?

If you’re being targeted, talk to a Ditch the Label digital mentor for more specific advice and help on what to do next.

Join the community today, we’re here for you.

Cyberbullying was experienced in the previous 12-months by 26% of the students we spoke to in 2019 and comes in many forms.

Although, like all forms of bullying it is subjective to the recipient, we define cyberbullying as the following

“Cyberbullying is the use of digital technologies with an intent to offend, humiliate, threaten, harass or abuse somebody.”

Anybody can become a recipient of cyberbullying, regardless of how old they are or the kind of job that they do or what their hobbies might be. In fact, it is well documented that a lot of our favourite celebrities and role models also experience cyberbullying, often to an unrelenting extreme.

The most important thing is knowing how to deal with it. Here are the top 9 ways to deal with cyberbullying if you’re being targeted:

1. Never respond

Do not reply to anything that has been said or retaliate by doing the same thing back. Saying something nasty back or posting something humiliating in revenge may make matters worse or even get you into trouble.

2. Screenshot

If you can, take a screenshot of anything that you think could be cyberbullying and keep a record of it on your computer or phone.

3. Block and report

Most online platforms have this function, make sure you block and report the offending users to the appropriate social media platform. Or talk to us about removing it!

4. Talk about it

You may not feel it at the time, but cyberbullying can affect you in many different ways. You are not alone. Talking to somebody about bullying not only helps you seek support but it documents evidence and will take a huge weight from your shoulders.

5. How serious is it?

Assess how serious the cyberbullying is. If it is light name-calling from somebody that you don’t know, it may just be easier to just report and block that user.

If it is more serious, then talk to us or a trusted adult. Whether that be your parents/guardians, an older family member or a teacher at school.

6. Report it

If you are experiencing cyberbullying from somebody you go to school or college with, report it to a teacher. If somebody is threatening you, giving out your personal information or making you fear for your safety, contact the Police or an adult as soon as you can.

7. Be private

We recommend that you keep your social media privacy settings high and do not connect with anybody who you do not know offline. You wouldn’t talk to random people on the street, so why do it online?

People may not always be who they say they are and you could be putting you and those that you care about the most at risk. Learn about catfishing here.

8. Talk to them

Sometimes it may be appropriate to request that a teacher or responsible adult hosts a mediation between you and the person who is bullying you online if they go to the same school or college as you. A mediation can be scary but is often incredibly powerful. It is essentially a face-to-face conversation between you and the person bullying you in a controlled, equal environment. This is a proactive and effective way to deal with online bullying.

9. Sympathise.

Always remember that happy and secure people do not bully others. People who bully are going through a difficult time themselves and will often need a lot of help and support. That doesn’t make it right what they are doing but it does give some insight and understanding and help to reassure you that it is never your fault.

Check out our cyberbullying support hub here, report cyberbullying to us or join our community to start a conversation about cyberbullying.

join our community
What is xenophobia

So, What is Xenophobia?

Xenophobia (pronounced ‘Zeno-phobia’) is a dislike or prejudice towards people from other countries. The ‘phobia’ part is a bit problematic really, because Xenophobia isn’t actually a ‘fear’, it’s a societal or political problem. A bit like homophobia – when we say ‘-phobia’ we imply that it is an irrational fear that can’t be helped when in actuality, it can be helped.

And nope, it’s not a bizarre fear of xylophones. That would be Xylophonophobia (true story – it’s a real thing).

An example of xenophobia would be a group of people at school, excluding Sandra from activities because she is Polish. They are not scared of her, they are prejudiced towards her because of her nationality.

Racism often gets mixed in with Xenophobia and the two often come hand in hand, however, xenophobia usually refers to a persons nationality and culture rather than exclusively their race. Unfortunately, there has been a significant rise in Xenophobia in the US and UK in recent times. The term, ‘go back to your own country’ gets thrown around a lot 🙄. If you’re on the receiving end of Xenophobic abuse, remember that the problem lies with that person, not with you.

Reasons why some people are Xenophobic:

  • They are unfamiliar with a particular nationality
  • They had a bad experience with one person of a particular nationality or heritage and therefore associate bad feelings towards everyone of that persuasion
  • Because of something that happened historically between various countries – for example: WWII
  • Ignorance or narrow-mindedness (so they don’t like, what they don’t know)
  • Prejudice
  • Belief in stereotypes (particularly negative ones)
  • Blindly following what the media says about immigrants (which is usually always negative)
  • Racism
  • Intolerance to religions other than their own
  • Inexperience with diversity – fear of the unknown
  • Not agreeing with the politics of a person’s country of origin
  • Opposition to the cultures of other countries/nationalities

Are you experiencing Xenophobic bullying?

A sharp increase in the (often negative) discussion of immigration both in the US and the UK online, in the media and in schools, means that more people are experiencing Xenophobic bullying and bad attitudes towards their nationality and culture. For example, in England ever since the European Union Referendum, hate crime has increased by up to 100% around the country.

Examples of Xenophobia and Xenophobic bullying include:

  • Making fun of someone’s nationality
  • Making prejudiced assumptions about a person based on where they come from – for example, saying that all French people like to eat snails.
  • Imitating or making fun of a person’s accent
  • Saying that someone is not welcome because they are from a different country
  • Actively excluding someone from events or conversations because of their nationality
  • Saying hurtful things about a person’s culture
  • Assuming that one culture is better than another
  • Physically harming or attacking someone because of their nationality
  • Sending hurtful comments online about someone based on where they are from/where they were born
  • Hating an entire country because of something that a handful of people from that country have done in the past
  • spreading hateful messages about a culture or nationality on social media.
  • Accusing immigrants of ‘stealing jobs or national services’ from the native inhabitants of a country.
  • Using derogatory names or ‘nicknames’ to refer to a person from a different country.
  • Not employing someone because they are foreign, even if they are fully qualified for the job and speak the required language fluently.
what is xenophobia

Reporting Xenophobia

If you’re experiencing negativity at school or work which is based solely around your nationality or culture – you should report it. Xenophobia is considered to be a hate crime and you should not have to put up with it. We are lucky enough to live in a multicultural society which means we can share and enjoy lots of different traditions, foods, languages and cultures which is something that we think should be celebrated, not used against someone.

Start with reporting it to an adult such as a parent or teacher first. If it is serious – report it to the police. You can get full advice on how and where to report hate crime in our Ultimate Guide to Hate Crime, below.

If you need further advice, check out:

If you’re unsure and would like to talk, join the DTL community where you can get advice from our awesome digital mentors or chat with other users about xenophobia today.

The internet is pretty sweet right? We can all agree on that. But for people who are dealing with online hate, it can be a really rubbish place to spend time. The comments section on most articles, photos and celebrity IG’s is pretty much a minefield of tough to read insults or outright lies, and when that is directed at you, it can feel overwhelming and pretty damn lonely. The most important thing to remember if you are going through online abuse is that you are not alone. We’ve got your back and that’s why we have joined up with Simple and Little Mix to bring you a toolkit of how to deal with online hate.

1) Breathe 

Getting angry after receiving some nasty comments is pretty unsurprising, especially when a lot of them are written just to upset you. Using breathing techniques will help get your emotions under control and give you a minute to think about what you want to do next. Try following the GIF below – breathe in as the circle expands and breathe out as it gets smaller, and repeat. It might not have you feeling completely chill, but it should help to take the edge off and clear your mind a little. 

2) Think 

Being a keyboard warrior can be a good thing when it comes to saving the planet, or fighting injustice, but not so much when it comes to dealing with online hate. It’s natural to want to jump on your phone and start tapping away a reply that is both hilarious and devastating, but you might find yourself quickly stuck in a feud that even a drama channel would probably stay out of. So, instead of insulting them back, think about what you really want to happen as a result of this – the chances are, a long drawn out argument in your DM’s is probably not the one. 

3) Report it 

Everyone should have a pretty basic understanding of when and where to report stuff online and on different platforms. You can find a super quick guide to where you can do it on the big 3 (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) in our Ultimate Guide to Cyberbullying here. If it’s in a game you can find more information here. You can also report it to us here if you have already tried reporting to social media sites with no luck and we will get it taken down for you. Basically, we’ve done all the work for you so you can just get it sorted! You can thank us later. 

4) Take a Break

If it’s on social media, take a break from it. We know it’s often easier said than done, when friends are organising their boss weekend plans in IG DM’s, but it will be pretty crucial to you feeling better. It can feel really overwhelming when you are dealing with online hate, but taking a break from where it is happening will help you realise that your world is much bigger than your inbox. 

Try leaving your phone at home when you hang out with your pals or put it somewhere safe and out of sight when you are chilling with the family, an turn off your social media notifications. Trust us, a little bit of distance from it will make the world of difference. If you have a big following who expect to see some new snaps uploaded every day, try using a scheduling service so you can still take your much-needed break without your audience getting rowdy for their avo toast pic.

4) Take Care of You 

Dealing with online hate can be really stressful. Try some stress management techniques to make sure you are looking after yourself through it all. This epic list of 101 Ways to Chill Out and Reduce Stress will give you some super speedy suggestions for getting on top of it, and you can also read our Ultimate Guide to Stress to understand a bit more about it. 

A bit of self-care goes a long way when you are dealing with online hate. Make sure you take a bit of time for yourself to do something you love or that you find relaxing that doesn’t involve being glued to your phone. Why not try taking a long walk, practicing a new makeup look or hairstyle, invite a friend out for a kick about or watch your fave movie complete with a gigantic bowl of popcorn. Doing what you love will help you focus on yourself rather than the situation and remind you that you are so much more than the hate you’re getting. 

6) Talk to Someone 

Getting online abuse can make you really angry but it can also make you feel pretty lonely. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone in this, and we’re certainly here if you wanna get it off your chest. Click here to join our community and get advice from real people like you and our trained mentors. 

Otherwise, talking to a trusted friend, parent, teacher, or colleague will help you have an outlet for what is going on and ensures you will have someone to support you through it.

We’ve teamed up with Simple and Little Mix to tackle online hate. For more information on #ChooseKindness, click here

When shade can be thrown in any comments section, and subtweeting someone seems to be the only way to get stuff off your chest, it can seem like being negative online is a pretty common thing. The thing is, a lot of people don’t realise that the kind of negativity that they take part in online can actually be called cyberbullying, and can get serious.

1 in 3 people have been cyberbullied at some point in their lifetimes, and we are not into that. We do know though that sometimes it can feel easy to do it, like it’s the only way to express yourself, or like it won’t matter. That’s why we have come up with a little checklist of things to think about before you post something negative online, so that hopefully next time you think about doing it, you will make a cup of tea instead. 

1) Why are you posting it? 

Have a think about why you are posting it. Is it to take part in healthy debate and conversation or is it just to hurt someone’s feelings? A good idea is to write a list of as many reasons as you can think of why you feel the need to do it, and a list of reasons why you shouldn’t. Seeing it all written down might give you a bit of perspective on the situation. Plus, the chances are, you won’t be able to come up with that many reasons why you should. 

2) How are you saying it? 

We can all say stuff from time to time that comes across badly when we didn’t mean it to. Especially because we can’t really convey tone on the internet, and a lot of sarcasm, irony or even humour may get lost and taken the wrong way. Before tapping that send button it’s always a good shout to give your comment or message a read through and make sure you aren’t accidentally saying something you don’t mean. 

3) Can the person you are posting it to/about do anything about it? 

Is it a conversation that they can be a part of, offer their side of the story or defend themselves against any allegations that might get made? Imagine if you heard that all this stuff was being said against you behind your back, and you had no way of trying to solve the situation and make things right. It would totally suck, and would probably feel pretty unfair. 

4) Would you say it to their face? 

A big reason why we all find it easy to say negative stuff online is because we can do it from behind a screen, and it is way easier to type insults or rumours than it is to actually say them out loud. Always think if you would feel comfortable saying something to someone’s face before typing it out on your phone and hitting send. 

Plus, even though it might seem like it can be easy to be anonymous on social media, everything that you put out there is staying there until you take it down for the most part, and there is absolutely no guarantee it will stay anonymous forever. There is always going to be the possibility that you get in trouble for it somewhere down the line, or affect your career, relationships, school records and in the most serious of cases, could land you in trouble with the law. Not chill, huh? 

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/brooke-cagle-274479-unsplash.jpg”]

5) How do you feel right now?

If you are thinking about saying something mean or negative online to or about someone, it might be a good idea to check in with yourself first. It might be that there is something going on with you that you didn’t even realise was making you want to behave this way. If there is, try talking to a trusted family member or friend about it first.

Usually, when we feel like posting something negative it is because we are already feeling a bit rubbish ourselves. If you don’t feel like you have someone to talk to about what’s going on with you right now, you can always talk to us. Reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here, and we will listen to you no matter what.

6) How do you think it will make you feel afterwards?

So, it’s actually a proven thing that the more we think negatively about other people, the more we beat ourselves up too. The chances are, you won’t actually be feeling that great about yourself after you’ve commented or slid into someone’s DMs with something mean. Reprogramming your thoughts into nice ones is a great way to stop your brain in its tracks, and will actually help you to think more positively about yourself. 

Grab a pen and paper and write whatever the negative thing is that you want to send. Then underneath it, write a reason why you shouldn’t, how it might make the other person feel, or something nice instead. Seeing this written out in front of you in your own handwriting might help you to see why it isn’t the best idea. By writing something nice instead, you might be able to see how being kinder is easier and how it even makes you feel better. 

7) Is it because they are famous/an influencer etc? 

Just because someone is famous or has loads of followers, doesn’t mean they won’t care what is said about them. They are humans too with feelings and emotions, and families and lives that might be affected by what you say. It can be super easy to forget that when they seem to only exist on Instagram or in tabloids, but they aren’t immune to feeling bad. Check out this piece with influencer @foodfitnessflora about how negativity has changed her life.

8) How will it affect their lives? 

There’s a good chance that whatever you say will have an actual impact on someone’s life. We know it might not seem like it when there is a screen and probably hundreds or maybe even thousands of miles between you, but whatever gets put out into the universe has the power to make waves and to damage someone’s life, career or relationship beyond repair. 

9) How would it affect you if you were on the receiving end? 

Ok so we know this is the kind of thing your teacher or your Mum used to say when they wanted to prove a point, but actually feeling empathy for other people is super important before you decide to say or send something negative online. If those notifications came popping up on your screen, the chances are you would feel a bit crap about the whole thing. 

If you want to talk to someone about online bullying or harassment, you can reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

We caught up with social media influencer and all round warrior princess @foodfitnessflora about social media anxiety, online abuse and negativity and her top 4 things to think about before you write something negative online.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a food and fitness blogger and social media consultant working in the area of health and wellness. My background is in science communications, so I always try to add a little bit of science into everything I do.

I started my Instagram account about 7 years ago whilst recovering from an eating disorder, as a way to track my meals and show them to my doctor. I then started putting up other bits from my fitness training and my life, such as talking more about mental health. My blog started in 2016 and is my baby – I love writing!

What is your experience of cyberbullying?

My first experience of cyberbullying was talking to blogger friends who had received it. It brought back a lot of memories – thankfully I was never cyberbullied at school, but I received my fair share of nasty comments to my face, and watching other people being attacked or made the subject of online and playground gossip was really upsetting for me to see. 

You have mentioned you have received more abuse recently, would you mind telling us about it?

I think once you get to a certain number of followers on Instagram, negative comments are bound to happen. Whether they’re in your DMs or online they find their way to you somehow and, unfortunately, I think I’ve reached that point! 

Recently, I also discovered some messages online following running the Tokyo marathon that were pretty nasty. Most were along the lines of telling me that I’m not good enough and then spreading other rumours about my relationship and friends. 

Initially I read negative comments to see where I might be able to improve my account and make it more useful to my followers, but at the point that the comments became nasty or simply just lies, I decided to block the sites. I still get the occasional message through but I don’t mind that – at least it’s usually not anonymous, which is the main cause of particularly horrible comments. 

What about friends in the blogging/social media influencer sphere – have they experienced the same?

Absolutely, I’m yet to find a blogger who hasn’t received hate online. Of course, there’s a line between hate and negative comments (it’s obviously impossible for everyone to like you), but I think everyone I know who has the same job has received their fair share of both. 

What do you think needs to be done about it? Or what CAN be done about it?

This is a really good question. 

I would like to see more education around the issue. Currently people can have easy access to sites and accounts where people are spreading hate, slander and defamation, without any repercussions. It would be nice if there was increased education around general behaviour on the internet, similar to how we are all taught that cyberbullying and teasing for ethnicity/gender/sexual orientation etc at school is not allowed, and where to go if we feel we are experiencing it. 

I also with that reporting stuff to the police was wasier, and that social media sites worked faster to deal with online nastiness, bullying and abuse. Currently the response to ‘I’m being abused online’ is ‘don’t go online’, and that’s unacceptable. It shouldn’t be the job of those being affected by this to simply avoid the spaces where this happens. Also, a large number of the people who are receiving these messages earn their living through being present online. As a social media consultant and blogger I am incapable of not using social media, and my popularity is, in part, due to my vulnerability and openness online. 

I absolutely don’t have all the answers and this is what we have charities such as Ditch the Label for, but primarily I wish there was more of a discussion around the issue. As far as I can tell, even the large number of celebrities and influencers who have talked about it have not prompted any real lasting change. Sadly, online hate is still happening, it’s still contributing to the poor mental health of a lot of people and in its worst cases has contributed to people’s deaths. 

Obviously, your job relies on social media so you can’t get a break from it – what affect does being around abuse frequently have on you?

It’s not just comments about me that affect me. As much as anything, I hate to see bullying of anyone online, and sadly I have seen my fair share. At the height of the horrible comments directed at me, I was experiencing extreme anxiety where I was unable to eat or sleep properly. Having suffered from quite bad depression in the past I found that week extremely tough, and became worried that I might be slipping back into much darker days. 

Perhaps I am over sensitive and shouldn’t ever have chosen to start up an Instagram, but I’m here now and I truly believe my account really helps people, so don’t exactly feel like I can leave. And how could I have foreseen, 7 years ago, with the start-up of my private Instagram, that 7 years later people would be commenting on my parents’ jobs and spreading rumours about my sex life? 

I try to have low-Instagram days where I don’t spend more than 30 minutes on any form of social media that day. This happens every one to two weeks and is a godsend for my mental health! I actually think everyone should do that, regardless of whether they’re an influencer or consumer and suffering from abuse or not, and I’ve been practising it for about a year, since my career on Instagram started becoming more serious. 

What advice would you give to a young person who is getting abuse online right now?

First of all, talk to people. Our brains are naturally wired to pick up negative comments and blow them hugely out of proportion. Talking to people brings you back to reality – NOT everyone hates you, no matter how it may feel, and surrounding yourself with people who support and love you can really help balance things out. 

Spending more time off social media as a coping mechanism can be helpful, but of course isn’t possible for everyone. If possible, speak up about the abuse you’re receiving. Suffering in silence can make you feel like you’re unable to do anything about it. For me at least, talking about it makes me feel less helpless. 

What does the future look like for you?

Contrary to what people might think, my ideal social media world would not be one where people are not allowed to comment negatively on what other people do. That’s not only unrealistic, but it stops any debate or healthy discussion. But I would like the future would be a more balanced one, one where negativity is constructive and not simply to hurt feelings. 

Ideally, influencers would take more responsibility for what they put online and would be held more accountable for sharing potentially harmful information. We have to be responsible in what we put out there to the public. And if the public have an issue with what we say/promote, there should be somewhere where it can be discussed so it is not simply a barrage of abuse online. 

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/boxing13-e1558601001771.jpg”]

@FoodFitnessFlora’s Top 4 Things to Consider Before You Write Something Negative Online

1) Would you say what you’re saying if it wasn’t anonymous?

 If not, it’s probably best not to say it 

2) Can the person you’re writing to/about do anything about what you’re going to say?

So, for example, are you hating on them because they did an advert you didn’t like? If so, that may be a great thing to discuss and debate (e.g. I didn’t like that ad you did because it targets young girls’ insecurities and I think that’s irresponsible). But if it is because you think they looked fat or had cellulite or stretch marks or spots, it’s unnecessary. Absolutely no one is 100% perfect all the time, and there is nothing we can do about that. 

3) It’s also about the way you say something. 

‘I believe/in my opinion’ is very different to stating your opinion/gossip as fact, which could be seen as defamation e.g. X totally cheated on their partner of 5 years with X’. That could cause serious issues down the line. Just because some of someone’s life is online, that doesn’t mean the rest of their existence is available for comment. 

4) Why are you commenting what you are commenting? 

If you think someone has done something wrong, by all means message them. I can’t speak for everyone, but I would always rather receive constructive criticism to my face/in my DMs to discuss rather than read about it in a forum where it is impossible to discuss and come to a solution. It is also usually much better worded/thought out! 

But so much of what I have received is not like this at all, and is instead just mean and hurtful. Abuse is an outlet for frustrations that feels good in the moment. But it really doesn’t solve anything, for you or for the person you writing to. 

If you have been affected by negative comments or abuse online, you can reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

So, you would have had to be living in a sea cave for the past week to have not noticed the ‘James Charles is Cancelled’ drama that has unfolded across the internet. Twitter went into full meltdown when several Kardashians hit the unfollow button in the wake of Tati Westbrook’s exposé, and YouTube has blown up with multiple videos dissecting the drama. Cancel culture is a huge part of internet life these days, with someone seemingly getting thrown under the bus every few months by former friends, colleagues and total strangers. It might not seem like it, but there are things we can all learn about life online from the James Charles saga, which is why we threw together this quick list. 

1) People are allowed to make mistakes 

Not all mistakes are equal. And the reaction to some of the stuff James has done seems to be more aggressive and personal than the internet reaction to major issues going on in the world today. Logan Paul wasn’t even cancelled this hard, and what he did was arguably a lot worse. Holding influencers to account for what they do and say is important, because we all listen to them at some point right? But having millions of people pointing out your mistakes must be pretty tough.

It is not the mistakes that we all make that should make us who we end up being, but how we handle them. So, if you fall out with a buddy, even if you are super stubborn and convinced you are in the right (#guilty), try reaching out to sort out the situation. It will give you a good idea of where you stand, and can be the first stepping stone to fixing your mistake. 

2) We get to make mistakes in private 

We all make mistakes. We have all fallen out with friends, said stuff we didn’t mean, done things we regret. The thing is, we all get to do this in private. With this playing out in the public arena, mostly on YouTube, every little mistake made in the history of his social media career is up for grabs by the entire world. We are pretty lucky that we can make similar mistakes in our own lives and only have to answer to a handful of people we might have hurt, not 16 million. This is true of pretty much every famous person, so have a think about the mistakes you have made and resolved in your own life before writing a negative comment to them online – we are all as likely to make mistakes as each other, famous or not. 

3) You cannot change someone’s sexuality

So, one of the things Tati mentioned was that James would always go after straight guys, even try and ‘change’ their sexuality. Whether someone is gay, straight, bisexual or anything else, their sexuality is their business and it isn’t for you to change. It is completely possible for your sexuality to be fluid throughout your life, but you can’t change someone else’s. After all, it’s theirs.  

4) It is ok to experiment with your sexuality

Although, she also called him out for ‘playing with other people’s sexuality, before they knew who they were yet’. This might make it seem like it is not ok to experiment with and explore your own sexuality. Of course, manipulating other people is not good, but the other guys involved in this might have simply been experimenting with their own sexuality without fully knowing who they were, and that’s ok. Your sexuality is yours to explore however you choose to, and you don’t have to be 100% certain what it is before you start to explore it. 

5) It is not ok to make someone feel uncomfortable 

But, it’s also pretty important to remember that some people have said that he made them feel pretty awkward and uncomfortable. Whilst it is absolutely fine, and normal, to experiment with and explore your sexuality, it is not ok to make someone else feel uncomfortable when you are doing so. If you feel like you might be making someone feel like this, maybe try and take a step back and have a think about the situation. It might be worth giving them some space and spending time with a few other people. 

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/freestocks-org-662164-unsplash.jpg”]

6) Cancel culture can ruin lives 

Social media is awesome – there is no denying it. It’s fun, free, totally addictive and has actually been really helpful for people all over the world to deal with their issues, be accountable, even fight injustice. The thing is though, when someone does something wrong, it can be really easy to cancel them. We’re not saying that some people didn’t need to be cancelled (Harvey Weinstein comes to mind), but when it happens over small spats, feuds and mistakes that can easily be sorted out off screen, it’s important to remember it can really ruin someone else’s life, even end it. Plus – it can literally happen to any of us, famous or not. 

7) Put yourself in someone else’s shoes 

Remember when you were a kid and you fell out with someone and before you knew it, everyone in the playground was on their side? It’s pretty much happened to every single one of us at some point – and it felt rubbish right? Especially because most of those people barely knew you, your friend, or anything about the situation. Well imagine that, multiplied a million times. 

We’ve all been in the position at least once in our lives when it has felt like the world is against us, and it’s really important to try to remember that before jumping into the comments section with negativity. We all know how the person on the receiving end feels.  

8) Some things are better discussed in private 

There’s a time and a place for airing out your drama or disagreements with friends, and the internet is not often the place to do it. By dragging people publicly who have upset you, it can put you and them and everyone else who knows both of you in a really difficult position – one where battle lines are going to get drawn. With James and Tati, what started as a small disagreement about product promotion now has the potential to ruin a career, a life. 

This drama with James and Tati is a pretty extreme example, as the audience is so massive. But making a private issue public when there are much easier ways to solve it can cause much more trouble in the long run. If you have fallen out with a friend over something, why not try private messaging them first? Or possibly popping around their house for a cup of tea and a chat. Even if the outcome is that you need time apart or that you can no longer be friends, doing it like this will be much more likely to give you the closure you both deserve, instead of making it bitter and resentful. 

9) 1 Tweet can ruin a life 

If there is one thing we can all learn from vitamingate (copyright us), it’s that we all need to be pretty careful how we behave on the internet. Whether that is thinking before we start subtweeting about someone who has upset us, comments we leave on videos and posts, or almost anything else – it’s important to remember that what you put out there is not going to go anywhere unless YOU take it down. Even if you take steps to make yourself anonymous in order to write some of it – there is absolutely no guarantee it is going to stay anonymous. 

If you feel the need to write something mean to someone online, have a think about why you feel that way. Why not try writing down all the logical reasons you can think of why you want to do it, and alongside it write all the possible consequences of your actions. Taking a step away from the keyboard can be tough when we feel fired up, but writing out how our actions could affect us and others makes it way more real than how hammering on our keyboards feels. 

10) Just because someone is famous, it does not make online abuse ok 

Famous people may be famous, but they are also people with human emotions. Fame and money does not buy them out of feeling bad when they see nasty comments or rude messages or even death threats. 

A really common thing to say in response to this is to say that ‘they know what they are getting themselves into when they pursue fame, so it’s fine’. Well, a lot of social media stars don’t actually start out their channels to become famous, and just do it for fun! When it becomes something that can make money, they carry on with it because let’s face it – who wouldn’t want to do something you enjoy for money?! But just because they have achieved fame doesn’t mean everything in their lives is fair game for nasty comments, and it definitely doesn’t mean that they don’t care about the negativity. 

If you have been affected by any of these issues and need someone to talk to, reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here

What is the definition of bullying?

Bullying is something that 1 in 2 people under 25 will experience in their lifetime.

There is no singular definition of bullying because it comes in all shapes, sizes and subtleties. Despite the varied nature of bullying, here are a few things you should know that will help you identify it, and hopefully understand it a little better.

Understanding bullying

No one is born a bully – true story. Bullying is a learnt behaviour and not an innate characteristic of anyone. According to Ditch the Label research, there are lots of reasons why people bully and these are explored further in Why People Bully, The Scientific Reasons.

The dictionary definition of bullying is “the use of strength or power to frighten or hurt weaker people.” This is not a very nice definition if you ask us and completely inaccurate. First things first, being bullied does not mean that you are weak.

What’s more, this definition doesn’t account for many facets of bullying such as online abuse, subtle bullying within friendships such as manipulation, intimidation and social exclusion, as well as indirect bullying such as the spreading of harmful rumours, be it online or elsewhere.

Persistence is key

Another important thing to note is that for something to qualify as bullying – it is persistent. A one-off comment made about your appearance is hurtful and horrible to have to go through but a common factor of bullying is that it is a regular and persistent occurrence that takes place over time.

Are you in denial?

“I’m probably overreacting?”
“I’m just being over-sensitive”
“It will probably stop soon”

Sound familiar? Well, these are all things we tell ourselves when we are in denial. We somehow coast through life thinking, “yeah bullying sucks but it can’t happen to me…” then it does and it hurts, so we ignore it or pretend that it’s nothing.

Denial is a trick to make us think that everything is fine, even when it’s not. The first step to overcoming bullying is to acknowledge the fact that you are being bullied. This can sometimes be the hardest part: no one wants to admit that their ‘friends’ are bullying them.

How bullying makes you feel

The best way to determine whether you are being bullied is to analyse how it makes you feel and if it makes you feel low, unhappy, worried, frightened or stressed on a regular basis. Take the Ditch the Label quiz if you’re still unsure about whether or not you’re being bullied:

I’m being bullied – what should I do?

The most important thing you can do when being bullied to protect yourself is to talk about it.

Start by joining the Ditch the Label Support Community to speak to a digital mentor and take the first steps to overcome bullying. You will be met by understanding and non judgemental advice and support.

Alternatively, pick a friend who you trust, a family member or teacher and tell them what’s been going on. Don’t forget to tell them how it makes you feel and how long it’s been going on.

If you don’t feel like talking right now, that’s OK – check out some of these resources that have helped thousands of people overcome bullying…

Are you bullying someone?

Statistically speaking, those who experience bullying are likely to go on and bully other people. The very best way to overcome bullying once and for all is to understand those who bully and the reasons behind why they do it.

By showing compassion towards those who bully, no matter how hard that might seem at the time, we can truly overcome bullying. Read this to find out more…

Not only do we work closely with those who are being bullied, but we are also determined to help those who are doing the bullying. If that’s you, have a browse through the resources below for information on how to stop:

We can help

The most important thing to remember if you’re being bullied or if you are bullying someone else is that you are not alone and we are here for you

We caught up with singer-songwriter Sody on her new single, her experiences of bullying and what the future holds for her. Check out her new single The Bully on Spotify, YouTube, iTunes and Apple Music.

Hey Sody, Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hey! I’m Sody, my real name is Sophie, and I’m a recording artist and songwriter. I am 18, from West London and a Netflix addict with an obsession for cheese. I’m quite strong minded and try to write music that is raw and relatable that is directly about my personal experiences.

Were you bullied at school?

I first experienced bullying in year 7 and 8 by various people in different year groups because I had acne. I remember so clearly a boy in the year above me called me ‘volcano head’ which made me so insecure. I tried to cover it up with makeup but that would only make my skin worse. I would sweat in class for fear people were staring at my face and neck. It was a horrible time and I felt disgusting.

I was lucky enough to go on a tablet which cleared up all my spots and it felt so good to come back into school at the beginning of year 9 with clear skin and newly dyed hair – I was now a platinum blonde. But the bullying didn’t stop there as that’s when I released music as ‘Sody’, and people found a new reason to tease me.

Album artwork for the song The Bully by Sody

You have just released your new single, how does it feel? What inspired the song?

It does feel good but I was also incredibly anxious and nervous to release ‘The Bully’. We all want to feel popular because somehow we think that brings worth and so telling the world that actually you don’t have a cool friendship group is quite scary.

Society seems to think that only certain people are likely to be bullied but the truth is anyone, anywhere, can be bullied, whether that’s at school, at work or at home. I felt so strongly about telling other people what happened to me at school in the hope they realise they’re not alone!

What are your experiences of bullying?

My experiences have been in person and online. Sometimes, people were upfront with the bullying, other times it would be through leaving me out and ignoring my existence, groups of people taunting me and of course via social media. People in my school would also encourage students at other schools to dislike me too, so I had no chance of going anywhere else and starting over.

About 6 months after I had left that school, I was invited to go back to the annual rugby match that students and alumni could go to. I knew in my heart that I shouldn’t have gone but if I’m honest I still wanted to believe there was a chance I could be friends with some of them, and a couple of girls had told me how excited they were to see me.

However, when I arrived, some of the girls were saying ‘why the f*&k is she here’, one girl said that she wanted to stamp on my face, and people were chanting ‘Sody, Sody, Sody.’ because they knew it bothered me when they didn’t call me Sophie.

To cut a long story short, I ended up leaving the after party after I was publicly humiliated by a bunch of girls who used to bully me at school. They were screaming at me that everyone hated me, that I wasn’t welcome to these events and I should just ‘f*&k off’ out of everyone’s lives. One girl even filmed it and posted it on Snapchat. No one stood up for me, so I left. But then about 50 people followed me out the door, laughing as I jumped into a taxi. I felt so alone, embarrassed, ashamed and I was truly devastated.

Portrait of Sody in a yellow jumper

How have you overcome that? How has your experience shaped you?

I overcame bullying by going to therapy and by finding an outlet. At first, I believed it was all my fault and that I was the problem. But you shouldn’t have to change who you are for anybody and I needed someone to tell me that. It definitely has shaped me into the woman I am today. All I know is that I want people to be aware of how harmful their words can be.

I put on this hard front but I was so broken because I didn’t have a friend I could talk to, ever. I still don’t have a best friend from my school days. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to not have found ‘your people’ in school as it’s just a bubble and when you leave school there are so many other people out there. I just had to keep reminding myself that there is so much more to life that what I was going through at the time. Music saved me!

We saw on your social media that you have been going around schools to talk about bullying – what drove you to do that?

I felt alone when I was being bullied. Yes, I had family around me which was a huge help but I wished there was someone my age who could understand what it felt like. I know there are many artists who have opened up about their experiences later in their careers but I really wanted to do this whilst it was so recent and raw. I feel like right now I am in the best position to speak to other young people about this stuff because I’m so close in age to them.

Sody sitting on the floor with white trainers and pink trousers

If you could any young person who is going through bullying right now any advice, what would it be?

Don’t keep it bottled up. Tell someone. It’s so hard, I know, but it will get better. Find an outlet and make sure something that makes you happy and stimulates you. Sing, go for a run, paint, bake a cake or write a poem — just do something that takes your mind away from those people and the stuff you are having to deal with. And, put your phone away! I realised that was a huge part of my unhappiness and once I separated myself from it, I felt better.

It’s such an exciting time for you right now – how are you feeling about the future?

Well I’m actually just about to go travelling around Europe for 3 weeks so I’m excited to experience new things and meet new people. Also, to take some time off from social media and just live in the moment. When I’m back I have a super busy schedule including a writing trip to LA, more music releases and my headline show on Monday 20th May at The Waiting Room in London. There’s a lot to be excited about right now!

You can check out Sody’s video for The Bully below!

Let’s destroy the stigma that comes with the word “bullied.” It can happen to anyone, by anyone, anywhere – for any reason. Bullying can be faceless and consequently, you may or may not know you are being bullied.

For this reason, being bullied by someone you consider a friend can be a real blind spot for most of us; it’s harder to detect, subtle in nature and can take a while to get our attention. After all, they’re a friend – right?

Here’s what you can do if you’re being bullied by a friend.

Don’t laugh it off.

Nobody wants to be that friend that can’t take a joke so part of the problem is we laugh along with them when a joke is made at our expense as a way of diffusing the awkwardness and tension. But the major downside is your laughter will give the impression that you’re cool with the mean jokes. You are 100% allowed to not find something funny and tell your friend. The reason it feels hard is we can’t control other people’s reactions so the fear lies behind not knowing how they will react.

We need to talk.

Try being honest with your friend and let them know how they have made you feel. Make sure you have the conversation somewhere private where you won’t be interrupted.

The best advice is to be direct, keep it short and stick with how it makes you feel instead of blaming them. If they are genuinely apologetic they will make an effort to tone it down. If not, it is likely they will get defensive and deny doing anything to hurt your feelings. Whatever the outcome, what matters is you have said something and taken action.

Stand up for yourself.

Easier said than done when it comes to our friends being the ones that are giving you a hard time. But the bottom line is that this will not be the last time you have to stand up for yourself and so you might as well start getting good at it now. One of the best things I ever did was learning how to speak up when it matters, its nobody else’s responsibility to say what’s not okay for you, but your own.

Know when to walk away.

This is rarely an easy call to make especially with old friends or if we have put all our eggs in one basket. Think twice about friendships where you feel criticized, ignored, gossiped about, judged, manipulated, made fun of or left out.

It’s not me it’s you.

It can be a scary prospect standing up for yourself or walking away from somebody who you considered a friend but your esteem and integrity are much more important than trying to keep somebody happy who doesn’t give a damn about you. If you’re unsure if they really are your friend have a read of this article.

Don’t ignore your feelings.

Don’t ignore your feelings when someone makes you feel bad about yourself. Do you have any friends that after spending time together you feel worse than you did before? Do you feel nervous around them because you don’t know what they are going to say or do? Bullying affects our overall happiness and confidence. So we must check in with ourselves and not ignore our emotions. The worse the bullying gets – the worse we begin to feel. A friend makes you feel happy, liked, appreciated and confident.

If you would prefer our easier to read version, please click here

If you are being bullied, you do not need to go through it alone. If you ever need help, Ditch the Label are here for you. You can join our community here.