Afrobloggers, I’m taking a different stride from today’s writing prompt. It’s probably one thing content creators should be open to. Try something off tangent. Twist the rules. Jump off a cliff into the writing waters. Give the reader a few pieces of you that you’re okay letting out.
When I read Becoming Vanessa, her experiences as a child, the story of what happened to her in 2012 and how it affected her, my head dropped. The piercing ridicule, the filthy abuse, the name calling, the trending hashtag, the jokes and trolls. I couldn’t feel the touch on my skin. I was numb.
On a normal day, I would laugh at some of the jokes because from my perspective, they were funny. That’s because I never walked in the shoes of the victim. Vanessa took me on that ride.
I stared at my screen in silence and felt a cold shiver race through my arms. I felt every breath I took. I heard my heartbeat. I bit my fingernails.
I walked to my window and looked out. There was smoke coming out of a chimney of a building about 100 meters from my apartment. There were pigeons flapping their wings in the sky. I rested my hands on the windowsill, bent over, closed my eyes and soaked in her experience for a few seconds.
I felt the confidence-shattering pain of jokes aimed at her. I saw her struggle. I saw the fist fight she had with herself, the punches she was taking, the psychological kicks to her stomach, the emotional stabbing in her neck that left her bleeding. I imagined her crying every day, afraid of getting out of her room into this world of filth. I saw her scars of physical hurt. I saw her spiraling down a hole with no bottom. I imagined the non-stop buzzing of her phone; how sick it made her. I held my cheeks.
“What went through her mind when she gave up on life?” I thought.
The positive thing is she has picked herself up from that deep hole. She’s rising again. I celebrate her. I believe there are still hundreds of people suffering from the brutality of social media.
It’s stories like Vanessa’s that many of us need to read, to hear about and watch. Stories like hers allow us to see (if we had never) the downside of social media ridicule and its effects on lives. Each of us has a role in stopping cyberbullying or turning someone’s unfortunate experience into a joke. We can break that chain by not engaging with content that destroys the core of one’s life. If we want to engage, then let’s choose to be a different voice. A voice of empathy, one that offers to be a pillar for the person to hold themselves to and rise again.
Even if we can’t reach out to the person suffering from online mockery, we can opt to desist from promoting content that breaks people.
Let’s simply be good to each other.