photo credit: Half the Story
Written By: Karin Eldor
Celebrities, bloggers and founders have been vocal about the negative impact social media has had on their well-being, to the point where many have implemented a detox or complete hiatus from their digital channels. Kanye is currently inactive on social; Ed Sheeran quit Twitter this summer after he was dragged on social due to his Game of Thrones cameo; and Saturday Night Live’s Leslie Jones took a short Twitter break after trolls cyber-bullied her. (She returned two weeks later, because she always gets back up. Yaaasss Queen.)
Chrissy Teigen expressed her dismay when she recently stumbled on a website created with the sole purpose of cyberbullying her. Not only is she often publicly shamed for her parenting choices, but some haters even mock her for being open about her experiences with depression and IVF. Sadly, people can be this mean.
On this World Day of Bullying Prevention (which always falls on the first Monday of October) and with World Mental Health Day around the corner on October 10th, it’s critical to highlight cyberbullying and how we can make strides to take it on—together.
Let’s Get Real
Shoutout to #HalfTheStory for providing a platform for people to create real connections with others, while shedding light on mental health and cyberbullying in the process. Founded by fashion blogger and social media strategist, Larissa May, #HalfTheStory is a global community that encourages people to share parts of their lives that exist outside the standard social media narrative. Life unfiltered. No Instagram highlight reels: just realness.
It currently features over 2,500 stories about bullying experiences, mental health, struggles, and crucial life experiences. People who have openly shared their story on #HalfTheStory include Ban.do founder and CCO Jen Gotch and singer Grace VanderWaal.
According to a recent Teen Vogue article, “cyberbullying can be even nastier than IRL bullying, since people sometimes feel less responsible for their words and less inclined to think before they type.” The article also lists the results of a 2016 study, which states that 34% of people experience cyberbullying at some point in their lives, and that it can have real consequences on one’s mental health.
34% of people experience cyberbullying at some point in their lives.
May explains: “As adults, many of us think that ‘cyberbullying’ is only something that applies to a younger generation, but I often overhear conversations about people judging and commenting about others’ social media profiles. The female community is stronger than ever, yet social media still seems to be a barrier to our positive human interactions.”
So how is #HalfTheStory taking the steps towards solving this issue?
First, here’s the behind-the-scenes story: When social media strategist/producer/fashion blogger Larissa May, a.k.a. Larz, decided to launch #HalfTheStory, she was a student at Vanderbilt University and juggling her other life as a fashion blogger, covering New York Fashion Week for media outlets. While on her way to interview Diane von Furstenberg, a completely burned-out May face-planted: juggling 17-hour workdays took its toll on her.
But the picture that May’s own hyper-curated social media feed painted was that of a girl who not only had everything together, but was living “THE. DREAM.” After all, May wasn’t posting photos of sleep deprivation, debilitating anxiety and stress-infused selfies. So she decided to invest her full self into #HalfTheStory.
#HalfTheStory celebrates hidden human talents, passions, beliefs, and struggles that connect us on a deeper, more human level.
May continues: “By sharing a part of our identity that is not regularly revealed through social media, we can encourage positive interactions on social media. Social media is a very vulnerable place and has opened another door for bullying, exclusivity and Instagram squads.”
But these squads are far from #goals.
“When I first started #HalfTheStory, I was balancing two worlds, as a full-time student at Vanderbilt and the NYFW scene. In both parts of my life, individuals expressed their concerns and dissatisfaction with the ‘disconnect’ that social media created. As female leaders, it’s our job to set the precedent for future generations by encouraging positive behaviors on social media, showing support for others, and preventing negative interactions.”
In addition to what #HalfTheStory is doing on social media, it’s also making an impact IRL, with workshops at Universities and Organizations about positive social media use. It has hosted workshops titled "The Power of Social Storytelling" and “Transcending the Stigma” at Fordham, Vanderbilt, The New School (including Parsons), and Miami Ad School, and the team is heading to University of Southern California this month. These interactive sessions serve to give participants a chance to learn about positive social media behavior and share their experiences with each platform.
Here’s What We Can All Do
Here are some tips to help prevent cyberbullying, or at least combat the effects of it, according to Larissa May:
1. Stand up for what you believe in.
Don’t be afraid to share your truth, despite the smoke and mirrors we tend to create on social media. This is stronger than authenticity; it’s having the courage to share your voice in your posts, without worrying about the likes, dislikes or unfollows. Also, keep in mind that like attracts like; so whoever un-follows you as a result of one of your posts is likely not aligned with your brand message anyhow. “Bye, Felicia.”
2. There’s no such thing as #squadgoals. Stop trying to create the illusion of a social media clique.
Yes, the feeling of inclusion creates a sense of community, but it can also have the reverse effect and make others feel lonely. Don’t feed (or buy) into this type of social engineering and instead create an inclusive, empathetic narrative on your social platforms.
3. If you see a post that causes concern, give your friend a call rather than making a comment.
If you notice a friend’s post in which they seem sad or troubled, reach out rather than commenting on their social feed. #HalfTheStory’s mission is all about bringing the human touch back into our interactions, rather than being out of touch.
Ed note: We are definitely here for this, especially given the tragic events in Las Vegas. If you see something that concerns you, say something. You never know whose life it will save.