Saturday, February 24

Who is empowering the online bullies?

For as long as I’ve had an online presence I’ve had online bullies. But recently that bullying took a whole new turn when someone created a TikTok account just so they could send me a message to tell me to “commit suicide and do the world a solid” before deactivating the account. 

I’m used to having people in the comment section share their opinions of me: I’ve had many over the last few years do exactly that. But never has someone gone to this level before. It is however something I am now starting to see a lot of. Brand new accounts, simply to start trouble. 

For me, this message evoked a lot of emotions. Disbelief. Anger.

Pity. 

Disbelief that someone would go to such lengths to attack a stranger online. Anger that someone would use something like suicide as a way to attack a person. And pity for the life of the person who sent it. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out this was the act of a coward with an unfulfilling life. 

But what I have noticed is that the increase in online bullying and the things that are said aren’t just said to me and have been on the increase since the change of government following the election last October. 

I know of another woman who is bullied constantly online for the things she says too. And just recently a woman was doxxed and her name and photo leaked online following a private and confidential email being made publicly available. 

With all 3 of us women being outspoken about gender ideology and the current coalition pushback against this, it’s hard not to automatically place blame on transactivists for the intensity of the online bullying that is going on at the moment but I am well aware that the bullies, in my case at least, could be for a number of topics I find myself talking about.

What I’ve noticed about Labour since the pandemic started in 2020 is that we had a rogue government that did what they wanted, when they wanted and how they wanted. From mandating jabs to making funding available for organisations like the ones John Tamihere leads to jab Māori. This has emboldened some of the wider public to behave in the same and sometimes in a worse manner.

In a few short years, we saw Jacinda admit to 2 sectors of society. Her partner, Clarke Gayford encouraged parents to keep grandparents and their grandchildren separated if they didn’t get jabbed and John Tamihere went to court for the private details of Māori who weren’t jabbed. 

These behaviours have given some a licence to ask for the private information of strangers online, to call you names for saying something they don’t agree with and for others, it’s given them a licence to send private messages like the one that was sent to me. 

And now that Labour is no longer the government, I believe we are seeing an increase in the bullying and the severity of it because people are freaking out with what the new coalition could mean for the financial grifting that has occurred over the last few years. 

This bullying doesn’t just come from the now minority who support Labour, Te Pāti Māori or the Greens but also from the media and the parties mentioned who are twisting stories to paint the coalition in a bad light every chance they get. At one stage I saw Ayesha Verrall posting incessantly about the smokefree laws being repealed, even going so far as being part of a protest outside parliament. I stopped seeing her posts when I reminded her the smokefree goal was never to make NZ smokefree in the first place and linked her to the smokefree website. She blocked me. 

As a free speech advocate I understand and accept people have the right to say what they want to me including the crappiest of things but people also need to realise that free speech doesn’t mean someone is free from the consequence of that speech and when someone’s safety is in danger like in the case of the doxxing, those consequences can sometimes be subject to legal interrogation. 

Following the suicide comment, I felt it necessary to speak out about the online bullying that is going on. As a supporter of I am Hope, a charity that provides much-needed counselling for children and rangatahi, it irks me to know people are so unaware of how big of a problem suicide is in this country that they would stoop to this level. 

It also irks me because we’ve seen cases of people who send messages to tell someone to commit suicide and people have gone on to do exactly that.

Suicide is not a game. It has very real effects. Not just for the person who walks their own path but also for the family and friends who are left behind. I know of a case where multiple people from one family have committed suicide in separate incidents over the years and I can only imagine the trauma left for those who remain.

I am fortunate that I have strong support both online and off so this incident won’t affect me but to those people who find themselves in similar situations with bullies and are shaken by the experience, I offer you this advice…

Speak out and speak up. 

I know from experience the effect online bullying can have on one’s mental health. But I’ve learned too, that speaking about it to others has been the best way for me to overcome the attacks. 

Friends, family, colleagues or teammates. Let someone know because your life is far more valuable to those closest to you than it is to some stranger on the internet. 

Where to find help and support: 

Netsafe- www.netsafe.org.nz

Need to Talk? – Call or text 1737

What’s Up – 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

Youthline – 0800 376 633, text 234, email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat

Samaritans – 0800 726 666

Depression Helpline – 0800 111 757

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

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