THE BULLYING OF MEGHAN: A SOCIAL MEDIA EXAMPLE FOR OUR KIDS
On the eve of the Royal departure, what we as parents can learn and how we can change the dialogue.
(Photo from SussexRoyal Instagram)
Today marks the departure of the Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as Senior Royals with their new life officially beginning tomorrow. Anyone who knows me well, understands my interest in all things Royal - my husband even gifted me with the official William and Kate wedding barbies on my wedding day (it was the best gift ever, by the way). While the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are slipping away amidst the chaos of the global pandemic, there are a few things regarding Meghan, Duchess of Sussex's treatment on social media that I wanted to speak to.
Firstly, my children are too young for social media – but in all honestly, I shudder at the thought of them entering into this nebulous, unforgiving, yet simultaneously bursting-with-potential world, where despite parental controls, conservative data plans, phone curfews, the world and anything or anyone in it will be accessible. I know many other parents share this sense of foreboding, a reality for better or for worse just beyond our grasp. I also recognize that with our current social isolation, social media has been a godsend for youth to connect with their peers and the world around them.
As any antsy parent, I’ve scoured articles on subjects ranging from the narcissism of social media to gaming violence and how they all drastically affect the mental health, alarming suicide rates, self-confidence and the well-being of our youth. The message, although clear, can never be loud enough: the psychological impact of social media doesn’t discriminate, every child, youth, teen and adult is vulnerable.
I’ve been reflecting on this, in particular how social media has played out on the trajectory of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their online Royal lives. It unfolded at breakneck speed, while the world watched and soaked up everything Meghan Markle – from those first-love glimpses of her at Invictus Games, to her final farewell as a Royal in that instantly iconic, saturated green cape dress.
Regardless of your personal opinions on the Duchess of Sussex, her intentions (which we can only assume), “Megxit”, life in Canada, life in LA, family relationships, security details etc. etc. etc. – nobody can deny that Meghan was and continues to be bullied, in the worst way, by ordinary people, adults just like you and me. We are the consumers who are feeding the press, the tabloids and the paparazzi - all in the business of selling daring, provocative and inflammatory headlines. It’s a nasty cycle and while we can’t control headlines, we can reflect on how we engage in this dialogue within the walls of our own homes and the safety of our own computers.
Social media surrounding the Duchess of Sussex has become a battlefield, the haters embroiled with the admirers. While most public figures experience this, the extent and expression of hatred surrounding the Duchess of Sussex, her vilification and Prince Harry’s victimization over the past few years is something that sadly stands apart from anything else I have witnessed on such a public stage.
We need to acknowledge the people, again who are probably no different than us, yet who freely share cruel opinions and criticism on Instagram and social media outlets, as well as every published online photo of the Duchess of Sussex: they are mothers and daughters, wives and sisters, fathers and sons. They don't deserve to be brushed off as internet trolls, they need to be recognized as people, people ripping other people apart publicly because they feel entitled, hurt, angry, jealous, insecure...whatever it may be. My hope is that we can acknowledge the insight and the lessons that can be learned from the horrendous examples provided for everyone to blatanly see.
While the heartbreaking stories of youth and cyber-bullying seem to endlessly flow into our newsfeed, I encourage parents to discuss the situation surrounding Meghan with your social media using children as well. Upon casually scrolling through the SussexRoyal Instagram page, which will no longer be an outlet for this couple, this is what people are contributing to the world:
“You keep promising to leave, but here you still are like a lingering bad smell. Just leave already”
“Look at the viper. Stop corrupting children with your lies”
“There goes show woman Meghan again in her typical role, pretending to care about the UK, what a clown. It’s all about her, and leaving her child for so long alone. Selfish cowbag”
“Is she schooling her audience on how being a narcissist, divorcee and female of little colour has been so helpful at manipulating?...”
“…You’re pushing 40 and you still didn’t realize you will never be a star no matter how much you beg for attention”
“Is she wearing a pleated potato sack?”
“Megs, do you EVER step aside for Harry, or is it ALWAYS about you? Rhetorical question, we all know the answer.”
“Most despised woman in the U.K.”
“Meghan you are losing. Am just waiting to see how karma will treat you.”
As far as I could tell, the authors of these comments were women. There are thousands upon thousands – perhaps millions – of them criticizing every aspect about her. Imagine this was directed to your daughter?
I assume Meghan is focusing on riding the wave and overcoming other challenges in her life as opposed to the cruelty expressed towards her online; however, if this was about the young teenager living next door to your house, or my house, we know her story, and her coping, would be far different.
Social media is paradoxical, confusing and volatile. Even as adults, with our fully developed brains, we have difficulty truly grasping it. Gender, sexual orientation, race, social status, hair type, body type, bra size, fashion sense, singing voice, dancing skills, sports wins, interests, passions, friends, family, connections - none of this, and all of this, matters. This is the hypercritical sandbox we are all playing in. This is what our children are or will be exposed to and it will have its own hand in shaping them, whether we like it or not.
We, as parents, grandparents, role models, need to make a conscious choice about how we continue the conversation, how we take ownership of our output to the world, how we talk about our fellow humans, and ultimately, how we program the next generation – they are listening. Of course, I’m thinking of my young children as I write this, as well as the recent UN report that states approximately 90 percent of men and women have gender biases towards women – we all hold preconceived ideas of others, we all engage in heated dialogue, we all have opinions. It is being human after all, but we also have the opportunity to choose how we manage them. We need to arm our children with knowledge and they need to be aware of people like Meghan and of the online volatility that has surrounded her like a tornado since she chose Harry. Youth need to be aware of the impact they have on their own peers, and ultimately, the vulnerability that everyone shares. I know as parents we strive to instil these lessons when our children are fresh out of diapers, fingers crossed they stick for life.
I’m not yet sure of the social media approach I’ll adopt with my own children, or how I’ll ease them into the drivers seat when the time is right (any advice?). But one thing I know for sure - open communication will be paramount. And quite possibly, I’ll dig up this post, written by their loving parent, to share with them.
To the parents who are embracing social media for their children's connection and socialization during these challenging times, I look forward to hearing the positives!
I wish you all a peaceful Tuesday.