April 9, 2021
If you have been a target of vitriolic abuse online and it has impacted your mental health, we sincerely urge you to ask for help or call the 1800-599-0019 hotline.
In 2019, Twitter crowned Chrissy Teigen its unofficial mayor.
— Twitter (@Twitter) February 5, 2019
Fast forward to 2021, and the mayor has officially left the town.
On the 24th of March, Chrissy sent out her last thread and bid adieu to Twitter.
Which strand of online bullying broke the camel’s back?
Like most users who have some pull on social media, Chrissy has faced a deluge of trolls, abuse and hate.
But she always clapped back, so much so that we’ve advised content creators to take a cue from her on how to handle haters.
But it was the criticism she received after launching her cleaning product line, Safely, in partnership with Kris Jenner that did it.
Seen in isolation, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But when you take a look at the history of abuse she has received, it makes sense that the cookbook author finally had had it.
In 2020, when she miscarried what would have been her third child, Jack, she publicly shared her grief. She posted on Instagram; she wrote an essay on Medium, and, as ever, she tweeted.
For women, who have been through similar pain, the posts resonated. But trolls painted it in a different light, accusing her of trying to gain popularity.
In 2017, when QAnon made unfounded claims that Teigen and John Legend were involved in a secret paedophile ring, she had to unfollow and block over 1 million accounts on Twitter.
Take a minute to think about that number. 10 Lakh accounts threatened her and her family because someone somewhere tweeted untruths.
What is social media doing to fight online bullying?
This is the tip of the iceberg. As someone who followed Chrissy Teigen on Twitter for seven years, I’ve seen the unchecked hate she has battled.
And that begs the question if a celebrity like Chrissy is harassed out of social media, do content creators stand a chance?
The answer is yes. For two reasons.
- The first being the measures social media platforms rolled out to fight online bullying and abuse.
For example, Twitter changed its algorithm so that tweets with hate and abuse are pushed down. It also enabled hiding replies to your tweet if they are abusive. Facebook and Instagram have hired moderators and updated their AI to remove content that fails to match their policies.
- The second being the steps you can take to combat online harassment.
One, don’t feed the trolls. Resist the urge to respond and ignore them. Why? Because it is a trap. Trolls and haters don’t want to ‘win’ an argument. They just want their tweets, replies, comments to get more oxygen.
Two, unfriend or block them immediately and while you’re at it, mute words and hide content. It may not stop everything, but it will reduce the constant hum of abuse.
Three, do not repost or post about you being targeted. That’s just giving more airtime to the trolls.
Four, report the account to social media. If you want to know the legal action you can take against someone, The Better India has a great post on it.
If your mental health is affected, then please switch off notifications for at least a day. Better yet, take some space from social media. For more tips on how to show compassion to your mental health, read here.
Should we monitor social media to stop online bullying?
Let’s make one thing clear. The blame is not on social media. They are mere tools. It is the people who use them that are responsible for the harassment and hate.
Even Chrissy Teigen emphasised that the socials “do all they can to combat relentless bullying. It’s not the platform.”
That brings us to the ultimate question: should social networks or anyone else have the power to control speech? And on this, we agree with the answer Jack Dorsey gave to the US Congress on the misinformation hearing.
“I don’t think these decisions should be made by private companies OR the government, which is why we’re suggesting a protocol approach to help the people make the decisions themselves.”
The path to stopping online abuse or the spread of misinformation doesn’t lie in controlling what can be published and what can’t. We cannot be arbitrators of truth because that curbs the freedom of speech.
But yes, we can take steps that help people understand what the right thing to post is and what is not. While Jack was alluding to BlueSky, we focus on something smaller – social media responsibility.
We hope in the coming time, we have a set of guidelines that teach people the etiquettes of using social networks. Till then, think once, think twice and then think again before you post any content!