Unfriendly Black Hotties: On Mean Girls and Internet Harassment

The internet often brings out the worst in people. We’ve seen it before: trolls in the comment sections of articles and YouTube videos abusing their anonymity and safe position behind their computer screen. Dealing with those people is easy, but what happens when the online harassers were once your friends?

My freshman year of college I befriended a group of fellow black freshmen whom I thought would be my friends. We did everything as a collective: parties, movies, meals, giant sleepovers ending with in-depth conversation until early in the morning. I knew my friends were great, and my college career felt off to a great start.

It wasn’t long until division entered the circle and inter-group cliques began to form. Suddenly I was on the outside looking in at what was once a communal friendship. The former comradery became a Cold War that spilled onto social media, and suddenly I was a target. My character was questioned and slandered by young women I believed to be my friends: women I’d shared secrets and emotions with, women I trusted with sensitive information. Getting online every day and seeing these same women viciously attacking my friends and myself in front of an audience felt like the ultimate betrayal. People I didn’t even know would circulate the information, and while I tried seeking administrative help all I got was an insincere apology from the offending party.

The psychological effects of these interactions – as well as the people who told me to just ignore the aggressors – caused me to withdraw from the world and made me question my importance to society. The “help” from school officials was simply a slap on the wrist of the aggressors and I was left to pick up the scraps of my dignity and deal with the loneliness that followed. My former friends eventually moved on from making me their target and chose someone else: a continuous cycle that would be detrimental to another girls' psyche.  In a society as social media-driven as ours, to treat such harmful encounters as a joke is diminishing the struggle faced by many.

 With my experiences dealing with cyber bullying in the black community, I believe it is the most overlooked kind of harassment in the community. The overwhelming response I received when trying to get help was to “Just turn off the computer and ignore it” instead of addressing the actual issue of those who bully. Just as one wouldn't passively allow bullying and other forms of abuse offline, online abuse should not be treated any different.

Instead of blaming the people who are victims of online harassment we need to confront the abusers and hold them accountable for their actions, and the first step to doing this is to collectively agree that cyber bullying is indeed a form of harassment.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Kinsey Clarke is a senior at Michigan State University.  She enjoys aerial silks and solo trapeze in her spare time.  You can follow her personal Twitter account here.

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