Sometimes it’s lonely at the top. Especially when people assume that being an online influencer consists mainly of adoring fans, exclusive launches and dream brand partnerships.

Recent Ditch the Label research shows that 67% of us care about being popular online and it’s no surprise when the life of an influencer is seemingly perfect from the outside.

Posting passionately about your views and ideas online will inevitably draw in support from an audience of like-minded individuals but unfortunately, it will also attract negativity and criticism. Not everyone will agree with your ideas, and that’s OK, but sometimes people take their opposition a little too far.

Over the years, we’ve heard about how online influencers have been subjected to an endless stream of death threats, abusive tweets and even having their personal contact information shared on public forums without their consent.

The abuse can often be so extreme, it has stopped people from doing what they love. The impact of bullying on health and wellbeing is indisputable and nobody is immune – regardless of how big their following or how deep their support network.

As global anti-bullying experts, we oppose all forms of abuse, regardless of how it is posted or who is subjected to it.  Here are some expert top tips on how to handle abuse online:

1. Know that you’re not the problem

First and foremost, know that the reason you’re being targeted isn’t because of you or the content you post. More often than not, those who troll online are doing so to conceal deeper issues. Ditch the Label research shows that those who bully others are far more likely to be going through something difficult and use bullying as a coping mechanism. If somebody feels bad about their own appearance, for example, it is often easier to project those feelings onto somebody else.

2. Remember the typical profile of an abusive account

Default profile photo: check. Less than 100 followers: check. A constant stream of abusive posts: check. Knowing the key warning signs of an abusive profile is key; use it to remind yourself of the fact that this person quite obviously has issues and often you’re not the only person they are targeting. Try not to take things anonymous people on the internet say too seriously. After all, they are anonymous for a reason.

3. Have a nominated person who can escalate reports

Sometimes getting abuse online can be triggering, specifically, if it is targeted or attacks a vulnerability. This is why it’s important to have a designated friend, agent or legal representative to report abusive content on your behalf. If you receive something that is particularly triggering, try to limit your access to it. Copy the link or screenshot over to your trusted person and then block the user it originated from. Don’t give it more mental capacity than it deserves and consider stepping away from the computer for a bit and do something to take your mind off it.

4. Don’t react

Our research shows that reacting to abusive content online can feed the motivation of the abuser; particularly if they are doing it in order to feel powerful or to gain your attention. Sure, it can feel disempowering sometimes but take time to seriously consider whether or not replying is the best thing to do. Encouraging your audience to attack is not a good idea! Often, online abusers are in dark states of mind and we know that doesn’t make it any easier for you, but don’t enter into a vicious cycle of encouraging further abuse.

5. Record and report

If you are receiving content that makes you feel physically threatened or having your personal information leaked, these are all things that need to be documented and reported to the Police. Equally, content that could be considered as hate speech; such as racism, homophobia or transphobia should also be reported to the Police. They have a duty of care and are obliged to take it seriously. For more information on how to report abuse online, click here.

6. If you’re stuck, we’re here for you

Please don’t ever feel like you’re alone. We are here for you. Whether you need help having defamatory content removed or are feeling low after receiving abuse, there is no issue too big or too small. You can contact a digital mentor on our support community or even give us a call 01273 201129.


For more info about online abuse, check out the Ditch the Label Cyberbullying Support Hub:

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Yesterday thousands of people took to Twitter to join the #MeToo conversation in an attempt to unveil the extent of sexual assault across the world. Hitting back at how rape culture has been normalised, people’s eyes were finally opened to the magnitude of the problem. But, whilst it is absolutely essential that people speak out, it’s something that is far from easy to discuss, especially on social media where your experience is made public to the world.

Whether you chose to share your story or have kept it to yourself, Najwa Zebian has written you a letter to reassure you that you are not alone in your suffering. To make you believe that your voice is worthy and you shouldn’t believe anyone that tells you that it isn’t. To show you that no matter what you’ve been told, there will always be people to listen to your side of the story.


#MeToo

To you,

If you are #MeToo

I know that they don’t believe you.
I know that they are pretending not to hear you.
I know that they shame you.
I know that they blame you.
I know that they make you feel like
You don’t belong.
Here.
I know that they make you
Doubt
Your story.
I know that they make you
Doubt
Yourself.
But let me tell you this.
I believe you.
I hear you.
I honour your story.
I salute the hero in you.
I commend the courage in you.
I stand with the heart in you.
You are brave.
Don’t you ever doubt that.
You are strong.
Don’t you ever give up.
It’s okay to be tired.
But do not give up.
It’s okay to be tired.
But do not give up.
It’s okay to feel the pain.
But do not let the pain overtake you.
You
Overtake
It.
You owe it the survivor in you.
You owe it to the fighter in you.
To get back up.
To stand tall.
And say, I am a hero.
I am a survivor.
I am a champion.
And if you wonder why I say this to you.
Well, it’s because
Me
Too.
Because they blamed me for it, too.
Because they told me not to talk about it, too.
Because they told me that it wasn’t that bad, too.
Because they told me to get over it, too.
Just like they told you, too.

© Najwa Zebian 


If you’re thinking, “Me Too” read this article for information on how to seek help from an expert…

Need support? Come and chat to us and join the discussion on our community.

This is an open letter to everyone that I’ve hurt in the past to say that I’m sorry and to help you better understand why I bullied you

I have chosen to stay anonymous because I’m scared of the potential repercussions of posting this under my real name.

I guess we always had a lot in common, perhaps more than we could have guessed at the time. I’ve never really felt like I fitted in with anybody, yet I was always popular at school. I was popular because I made people laugh. Other people found me funny and liked me and it felt good. I first started to bully people because others thought it was funny and would then want to spend time with me. I didn’t really care about how other people felt back then because I didn’t know what it felt like to be on the receiving end of such abuse. I said so many bad words to you and I hurt you, along with so many other people.

No matter what I’m going to say, I don’t feel like it will ever justify what I did to you back in school. When I was 4, my parents got divorced and I moved to a different country with my dad. From the age of 4, I was only allowed to see my brother and mum a few times a year, which I found really hard. I don’t feel like I ever grew up properly without my mum. My dad was a bit of a soft touch and would just tell me not do do things again. He would never shout or get angry. I grew up wanting and needning my mum but knowing I couldn’t have her around me. It was hard because I felt rejected and didn’t know how to channel my feelings.

I hurt you in so many different ways and today I finally see how rude and hurtful my words were. See, now that I’m older – I feel how you must have felt. I don’t have any friends in this city. I often sit home alone playing video games because I don’t know how to socialise properly. My friends from school don’t want to know me anymore and you still probably hate me because I was so nasty.

I guess the purpose of this letter is to apologise, but also to tell you that you didn’t deserve the abuse I gave to you. I was so terrified of being alone and not having friends, so I would do whatever I could to try and prevent that. I wish I’d have gotten the help and support I so obviously needed – maybe none of this would have happened.

I’m sorry.

 

I was 14. You were both a year older. Every time you saw me for a year you told me I was ugly. Those were the only words you ever said to me – “You’re so ugly”. You could not have known my dad told me I was fat almost as frequently. I doubt you’d have cared.

The first few times I shrugged it off, wondered what I might have done to upset you, even though I didn’t know you and we had never spoken. But the more you said it, the more it started to affect me, yet I never made the connection that what you were saying was what was changing how I felt. I had never given much thought to my face up until then. But suddenly I found myself getting ready to go out with my friends then looking in the mirror and crying because I believed I was really ugly. I didn’t want anyone to look at me. I felt ashamed of my face. I started comparing my features to those of my friends; it was almost an obsession. It was very painful.

Because of you I lost what little confidence I had to begin with. I would hear “you’re so ugly” running through my head all day. When I told someone about it, which was humiliating by the way, they just said that I was pretty and you must be jealous. But I could not find a reason you would be jealous. All I could think was I must be the ugliest girl in the school if you felt the need to point it out so often. I stopped going out with my friends because I didn’t want anyone to look at my face, I just hid away in my bedroom. Soon my friends didn’t want to be my friend anymore because I wasn’t fun now; I just stayed in and cried.

I refused to open my bedroom curtains because I preferred to be in darker rooms. This caused many fights with my mum as I would scream and burst into tears every time she came in to open them. In the end she gave up. I still prefer dark rooms.

I grew to hate myself. In my 20’s I found myself calling in sick to work and missing parties because what I saw in the mirror went beyond ugly. I thought I was offensive. I didn’t understand why I felt so ugly until I was 16 and read ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ but by then it didn’t matter where the belief came from, the seed you had planted had become so deeply rooted inside me.

I felt ugly on my wedding day just so you know. There have been days at a time when I don’t let my husband look at me because I’m so convinced of my ugliness I am sure he will leave me if he just looks at me one more time. It goes beyond vanity, you made me feel like I can never be good enough. People tell me I’m pretty and it makes me uncomfortable. It would take a thousand you’re pretty’s to undo just one you’re ugly. I was so angry at myself for being ugly that I cut my face with a knife. Thank god for make up.

It’s now been 18 years since you told me that I’m ‘so ugly’ and it still affects my life. I struggle enormously with my self-esteem. I find it very hard to look in the mirror. Some days I just don’t. It’s been extremely difficult for me to talk about until recently.  I’ve told very few people up until now what you did to me, because I don’t want to point out to them that I am ugly. People have said things like “Oh it was just kids; everyone gets bullied, you need to get over it” but I’m not sure if I ever will because at a time when I was young and appearance was everything, you made me believe that I am very ugly. And not just ugly but bad. Your words never go away even though it has been many years since you said them.

I have come to learn that words are the most powerful thing we possess. They can be inspiring or they can be destructive. Perhaps it was funny to you and I doubt you even remember now, but those words have destroyed many years of my life. Maybe I seem vain for that, but that is the power of words. It is never ok to say unkind words to anybody.

I’ve been so angry with you both when I think of all the things I’ve missed because of you. But I want to thank you. Thank you for being my greatest teachers about the power of words. Because of your words I choose mine carefully. Thank you for teaching me, though it has taken me years to learn, that just because someone says something about me does not make it true. And thank you for teaching me that real beauty, I mean REAL beauty, is on the inside. I may never believe I’m beautiful outside, but I know I am beautiful inside and I would choose that every time.

– Clare