YouTube Personality and Actress Lisa Schwartz blogs about her experiences with cyberbullying
Growing up I was lucky enough to not have the Internet. Well, I had dial up, but it wasn’t the same as it is now.
I literally couldn’t be cyberbullied, unless it was from a stranger in a chat room. But that never happened because I was always “Tiffany from Malibu”. And who could make fun of a “Tiffany from Malibu”? She’s ‘perfect’. I did however, have the pleasure of being made fun of in real life; I was called chubby, and hairy armed. I got laughed at for not being able to read time without a struggle. I was made fun of for my hairstyle – which, I’ll give them, was pretty bad. I don’t know why my mum let me out of the house with hair so intensely slicked back, it looked like I had a professional floor waxer work on me. But, these things were all said to my face. Or behind my back. Or on a note that got passed behind my back and then in front of my face. I can only imagine the level of hell I would have been in, had cyberbullying been a thing back then. Surely my hairstyle would have been a viral meme that was “sob and eat a pint of ice cream” worthy.
I am, however, aware of the amount of cyberbullying that goes on every day… hour… minute. I see nasty comments on Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube. Some are directed at me, some at my viewers, and it’s heartbreaking. A year ago I had a very public breakup. We were both YouTubers and both very open about our lives. So, we had to eventually explain to our viewers that we had decided to go our separate ways. Now, any break up is hard, but with the added bonus of the public and their opinions, this break up was BRUTAL.
“I see nasty comments on Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube. Some are directed at me, some at my viewers, and it’s heartbreaking”
Between the two of us, it wasn’t so bad. Sure it hurt, but we were supportive of each other and our decision. We parted with love and kindness. And, our friendship remains intact. But on the Internet, it was a different story. Yes, there were tons of wonderful people who supported us and showered us with positive vibes. But, there were also a handful of people who were beyond unkind to me and loaded my social media with brutal comments and terrifying thoughts. I guess, now that I reflect, this was cyberbullying. “Well, there goes her YouTube career”. “She’s nothing without him”. And, on and on. My knee-jerk reaction was to believe them. All my years of working hard to build my channel and my career, all that confidence, out the window with one nasty comment. Panic, sadness, anger, all those emotions flooded me as I scrolled through these comments. And the more I read, the more insecure I became. I believed them. I believed their words. I became sadder than I already was. It was a very dark time.
“There were also a handful of people who were beyond unkind to me and loaded my social media with brutal comments and terrifying thoughts”
But, put your tissues away, it gets better. I reached out to my friends. The people who know me best. Who have watched me grow and create. Who make me laugh and remind me to have fun. I reached out to my family, who support me no matter what, and always have a joke to make things better. I reached out to a therapist, who helped me sort out my feelings and set goals for my future. I reached out to my now ex-boyfriend, who reminded me that I was me and I am enough. I reached out to my puppy, who didn’t have much to say, but she licked my face an unhealthy amount. I got back to exercising and ate nourishing food. And, most importantly, I put down the phone. Because, in the end, there was nothing of value for me there. Those words were just words. And let’s be honest, they were probably coming from someone much younger, much angstier, and much sadder than me. The comment section has become a place for people to take out their anger, and I learned to accept that but not take part in it. I’m no ones punching bag, and I don’t have time to take on anyone else’s issues.
“The comment section has become a place for people to take out their anger, and I learned to accept that but not take part in it”
Now, I realise this is all easier said than done. And as presented, in these few paragraphs, it appears I got through that tough time quickly. That would be incorrect. It took a long while to feel whole again. And I’m not going to pose as some saint who avoids the comment section and never gets upset. I still see things that cut deep. But, I breathe, and I remember they are JUST WORDS. And I imagine the person typing them to be some snotty-nosed weirdo sitting in their underwear with crisps all over their face and hands, and sadness in their hearts. And then, I get hungry. And then, I feel bad for them. And then, I let it go. And then, I put down the phone. And then, I go outside with my friends.
So, I guess my advice to anyone who is being cyberbullied would be to remember these are JUST WORDS. And you and your magnificent brain are far stronger than words. And if you need help, reach out to the people who love you the most. And if you feel alone, know that I’m out here I’m cheering you on. Put down the phone and the computer, go outside, and remind yourself of all the beautiful things around you. And, if all else fails, think of the weirdo, in their underwear, with crisps all over their face and hands and sadness in their heart, and take a moment to send them well wishes. And then, go outside and enjoy your life. Because you deserve it.