Social Media is a funny old thing. To think just 15 years ago there was nothing where it used to be makes my head spin; the idea of a world before the days of Instagraming your dinner or stalking someone on Facebook just seem alien to me, despite the fact that for half my life I survived without it, happily.
But now? Everything is online. I fell off my chair the other day (lol), first plan of action? To tweet the company. I needed hoover bags, did I walk round the corner to the shop? No, I got them on Amazon. I want to try a new restaurant; do I go out on a whim? Hell no, I’m checking the reviews on Facebook. I can’t even watch TV without following the live-stream on Twitter anymore. For lack of a better word, I am obsessed – and I’m not the only one.
Social Media crept up on us, first it was Bebo, then MySpace, then Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat followed, initially it was something deemed for kids, something childish – until of course that first brave mum popped her foot over the precipice. And BAM. Fast-forward 10 years and every man and his dog are on Facebook. Kids are Tweeting their parents. Christmas Dinner becomes filtered and hash-tagged.
And then about 3 years ago, businesses started clueing up and realising that they too needed to be on Social Media, so what had once been a fun thing, meant for kids but used by adults, became a business place, a marketing gold mine, the key to a brand’s success.
So we’ve created this wonderful little world. One that we didn’t really ask for, and don’t understand, but one that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
People are very quick to grumble about Social Media, to complain that it’s taking over our lives (true), that there is too much pressure to show off perfection (true) and that it harbours the worst of the worst: internet trolls (true). Although there are many elements to it that are fun and amazing, the aforementioned concerns are without a doubt legit.
But what can we really do? This is the way we live now; to the younger generations the idea of living without social media would give them heart palpitations and/or breakdowns. Social media is too important to simply stop, so what we need, is to learn how to deal with it.
I founded Pretty Normal Me in 2014 because I was concerned that women weren’t being kind enough to each other. Being a girl is NOT an easy feat all things considered and I created PNM to try and show women how wonderful life can be when we stand together and support each other. That and the fact that life is too short to spend counting calories, crying in Topshop and screaming at the scales of course.
And every day I am grateful to the platform that I have created; my little bubble of kindness. Because I have fallen victim to many an internet troll in my time, I’ve been told I’m fat, dirty, chavy, ugly, stupid and spoilt, I’ve been called a witch, a bitch, a pig and was even asked to go and f*ck myself with a cactus on Christmas Day and you know what? After a while this stuff really starts to get to you.
So I started calling people out on it – sharing their comments alongside photos of me and then taking it one step further, sharing the comments that they’d made about other people, next to photos of them. To prove to them that something more happens when a Tweet is sent, other than a small sense of smug satisfaction bubbling in their tummies.
And even though the trolls themselves might not see my reaction, I desperately needed people to know that they are accountable for what they do on Social Media. There is this misconception on Twitter particularly that what you say ‘doesn’t really count’, people assume that since they are pretty much anonymous, only have 140 characters to bully in, and can do it so quickly that it’s not real.
But social media DOES count. Just like the playground bullies can’t help but bully, the internet trolls can’t help but troll. And it simply isn’t good enough. Because it isn’t just a phase anymore, it isn’t just fun and games; it is now a way of life.
I would hope that if you bumped into me at the bus stop you would a) say nothing or b) say something nice, because generally speaking the world is made up of nice, well mannered, normal people and abusing strangers for no reason seems incredibly bizarre and actually plain wrong.
So riddle me this. When we know it is wrong and we know that it hurts, why would we do it online, our new favourite hangout spot?
I am trying to make social media a better place, but I can’t do it on my own. I need your help. I need everyone’s help. And it isn’t just for me, the victim of these comments, or for other people in my position. It’s for everyone who has ever read one, seen one, sent one. I want to make growing up in a good, kind world a possibility for my daughters, but how is that ever going to happen if we feel the need to rebel against society every chance we get?
It’s amazing what people will do when they don’t think anyone is watching, but whether it be aliens, God, or even just the victim of their attack, there is always someone watching.
My life mantra is ‘be kind’ – I don’t believe anything else is as important. Kindness is the key to everything.
And being kind to the people that you meet and evil to those online doesn’t make you a good person, that makes you a coward. Kindness is something that you need to accept and embrace in all areas of your life, if we stand a chance at making a good change.
So ask yourself this: If the words that you wrote were printed on your skin would you still be beautiful?
If that’s a no, then it’s time to be the change.