Last year we deleted more than 100 million images from social media because of online beauty bullying. In Anti-Bullying Week, a new initiative fronted by Rita Ora and Cara Delevingne calls time on this trolling epidemic, affecting 1 in 4 young women
Around a quarter young women have been on the receiving end of abusive online behaviour for the way they look. This staggering, but sadly not surprising, statistic comes from a new landmark global research project commissioned by Rimmel across ten countries, which listened to the experiences of more than 11,000 women aged 16-25 on the subject of ‘beauty’ cyberbullying.
To kick off UK National Anti-Bullying Week the beauty company launches its #Iwillnotbedeleted campaign to encourage all of us to stand up to beauty bullying and form support networks to help those affected. To front the campaign, Rimmel has brought together celebrity ambassadors Cara Delevingne and Rita Ora and a team of influential ambassadors who've all experienced beauty cyberbullying; they include UK model Eden Brown, who was told by bullies that she should bleach her skin, as well the pro-body positivity influencer Chessie King and blogger Tess Daly who dreamed of being a fashion designer before losing the use of her right hand and now channels her creativity into makeup. Watch their powerful video below.
Rimmel has also committed to supporting The Cybersmile Foundation with whom they are partnering for the campaign, to help children, teenagers, adults, grandparents and teachers understand, manage and respond to online beauty cyberbullying.
We’re censoring ourselves and it’s affecting our self-confidence
A staggering 57 million women worldwide have been targeted by ‘beauty’ bullies online. For 11 per cent it’s a regular monthly occurrence and Facebook and Instagram are the worst environments where appearance-related bullying is concerned. We deleted 115 million images globally last year owing to beauty cyberbullying and 32 per cent of us have closed down a social media account after being on the receiving end of beauty cyberbullying.
Online abuse has led to 54 per cent of us considering negative comments we may receive when we’re getting ready to go out, while 14 per cent feel wary of how our appearance will be received online all the time.
Of those bullied online, 65 per cent reported that it had a detrimental effect on their self-confidence while 51 per cent of us have edited a photo of ourselves on account of being bullied. For more than half of us, it’s limited our self-expression with fashion and makeup as we stop experimenting with our look for fear of cruel feedback. If this weren’t serious enough, the impact of beauty cyberbullying can have truly shocking effects where mental health is concerned...
When online bullying goes offline
The hateful and incessant nature of trolling triggers devastating effects when we log-off too. A huge 56 per cent of women have considered or actually engaged in self-harming behaviour as a result of being bullied, with 34 per cent experiencing disordered eating and 32 per cent cutting, scratching or burning themselves.
Many of us also feel the need to alter our physical appearance dramatically after a cyber beauty bullying episode, with one in ten having had cosmetic surgery and 21 per cent stating that they’d consider it.
Breaking the cyberbullying silence
More than half of women told no one about being bullied online. But of those that did, most saw it as a positive step not just for themselves but in helping others. It’s the calling out and standing up to cyberbullying, and supporting others who’ve experienced it, that both the women surveyed and Rimmel feel is the key catalyst in changing bullying behaviour alongside more rigorous and effective reporting processes and management of online abuse by social media companies and authorities.
“The message that I have for young people who are being affected is that you are enough!" says Rimmel brand ambassador Cara Delevingne. "It doesn’t matter what anyone else says and you are not alone. We have to stand by each other and think twice before we comment." We need to be as accountable for our online behaviour as we are IRL, she emphasises. "The problem with cyber beauty bullying is that people can write something and never have to deal with the consequences. The comments I have read are heartbreaking and it's terrifying to see what words can do to someone.”
In the works as part of the #Iwillnotbedeleted campaign is an artificial intelligence Cybersmile Assistant tool that can help anyone being affecting by beauty cyberbullying seek out help and resources, giving them immediate access to helplines and organisations that provide reassurance, support and guidance. This is expected to launch in English speaking countries in early 2019, so watch this space, but The Cybersmile Foundation’s aim across the board is one that looks to make the Internet a safer space for all of us:
“We believe that everybody should have the right to access and enjoy the benefits that our new connected digital world offers, without the fear of bullying, threats and abuse.”
Social media can be an enriching environment of creativity and solidarity when used well, so calling on tech, support systems and human compassion to keep it that way is a campaign we can all get behind.