One of the sadder elements of modern living is the exponential growth of cyber bullying and the birth of the online troll. Bullying, while in the past was often performed in the realms of classrooms and playgrounds, now stretches far beyond, invading our homes and personal lives. While in the past, bullies had to at least look their target it the eye, they now have the freedom, access and anonymity to send abuse from the comfort of their own home.
Worries over the volume of cyber bullying are compounded by a recent YouGov survey that reveals that as many as one in four students under 18 are targeted by online trolls at some point. More concerning is the data that shows a fifth of those who experienced cyber-bullying considered suicide at some point during their adolescence. In addition, many of those who were being targeted by internet trolls chose not to reach out to family or friends due to embarrassment and shame.
“As many as one in four students under 18 are targeted by online trolls at some point”
Impact Features spoke to Natalie Farzaneh, aged 19, a body positive blogger, who has experienced firsthand the torrents of abuse at the hands of online bullies.
Natalie, can you begin by telling us about your experiences with internet trolls?
It started from school, the trolls were my classmates. I was bullied in school my whole life and eventually, as I got older and joined social media, the bullying quickly turned into trolling online. The trolling ranged from death threats to people posting stupid photo-shopped images of me, to people threatening to ‘dox’ me and release all my personal info online.
How did this affect your day to day life?
Very badly. I’m always suspicious of people, very cautious of everything, and [I] became very quiet. I eventually developed anxiety and depression which now has led on to PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder].
How are you dealing with this? Do you have good support networks?
Therapy, a very understanding boyfriend and generally keeping myself busy. I have a body positive blog – fatgirlstyle.tumblr.com – which tackles my insecurities, whilst promoting body positivity to other girls as well.
What advice do you give to people being targeted by internet trolls?
Speak up and speak out. Help is out there. If it gets as bad as suicidal thoughts like I had the Samaritans are always there to help. If you do not speak out then nobody can help.
Given the pain it causes, why do you think people send abuse online?
Because they are crazy. They need to make themselves feel better and obviously deep down inside there is something evidently very wrong with them. They do it to pass the time, because they think there are no consequences, but the government and police are really clamping down on cyber crimes like trolling.
Do you think the police do enough to try and stop online trolls?
No, but they are trying their best. If you are being trolled […] they will try and help but really they are under staffed and I feel a new sector should be put in altogether for the internet.
Do you think the police should treat online abuse the same as abuse on the street?
Of course. In my opinion, it is worse if it is online.
Is this because it is in your own home?
Yes, but also the internet is very powerful. It’s a lot harder to square up to someone in person and leak their details to the public in real life – on the internet it’s at the click of a button and you’ve shared something with the world and ruined someone’s life.
If you were sat before an internet troll right now what would you say to them?
I’d show them my scars and tell them, people who did the same stuff as them to me made me do this, they made me feel that bad and worthless that self harm and suicide was a last resort.
Do you feel that making the trolls understand the consequences of their actions would help reduce these hate crimes?
Maybe, but you can’t teach someone with no heart to love. Bullies and trolls like to use the get out of jail free card, the “sorry it was just a joke” or “it was just bants”.
Do you think because it is online they feel removed from the situation?
Young people these days are completely desensitised. You used to show kids videos of things dying and they would be upset and horrified. Today the tables have turned and it’s comedy to them. The 21st century is turning some kids into monsters.
“On the internet it’s at the click of a button and you’ve shared something with the world and ruined someone’s life”
It is sad if this is the case. So you think if people had more empathy then there wouldn’t be so much cyber bullying?
Of course. If the world learned to love each other more there would be no problems, no hate and no wars.
Can you tell us about your charity work?
I worked with BeatBullying, they went into liquidation but they basically saved my life. A few months later, in 2014, Ben Cohen approached me with his charity and I spoke at his gala dinner and presented alongside Alan Carr. His foundation uses celebrities to raise awareness which, in my opinion, is a great way to do it.
It is great that they helped you when you needed it. Lastly, are there any sites or charities that you can recommend for someone experiencing bullying?
Ben Cohen’s Stand Up foundation, bullying.co.uk, Ditch the Label and Anti Bullying Alliance.
Embedded image: Natalie’s own.
Interesting story. I just finished a book on this topic entitled “The Fine Art of Internet Troll Slaying”. Quite a good and timely read.