It is becoming more common for people to wake up and the first thing they do is reach for their phones. We are consuming more social media than ever before and as such, it affects us adversely. It influences not only our esteem and perception of oneself, but also our interaction with the world.
This has given rise to cyberbullying with cases of criticism, mockery or just plain insults on the rise.
Researchers at the Universities of Oxford, Swansea and Birmingham found that cyberbullying raised the risk of self-harm or suicidal behaviour 2.3 times.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds. 78 per cent of suicide-related deaths in 2015 occurred in low and middle- income countries. Kenya falls in this category.
Our favourite stars are no exception when it comes to online bullying. Being under the limelight, they are under more scrutiny than ordinary folk.
Here are some celebrities who have borne the brunt of cruel trolls:
Avril aka Judith Nyambura Mwangi
The Chokoza singer was the subject of harsh backlash back on Boxing Day 2014 after she posted a make- up free snap on Instagram.
The popular singer captioned the picture “Those mornings where I wake up with nothing but the blemishes, sun and smile on my face... #TeamAcneFaceThatBreaksOutWhenItFeelsNecessary”
The photo was raw and untouched, showing the artiste’s heavily acne- scarred forehead.
Trolls jumped at the chance to throw all manner of ridicule at the singer, going as far as accusing her of ruining Christmas with the post.
However, loyal fans quickly jumped to her defence and applauded her for being brave and real.
In 2016, the popular entertainer was appointed brand ambassador of Oriflame beauty products in Kenya and the spokesperson for “I am beautiful and I know it,” and she did not hesitate to rub it in the bullies’ faces and shame their actions.
“They laughed at me about four months ago. Ridiculed me to a point I didn’t even understand what for. Made memes and called me ugly. But guess what, my acne scars are slowly fading away! My forehead doesn’t have even one pimple yet that was the heaviest affected bit on my face. No condition is permanent. Always remember that,” said the singer.
The former radio presenter and podcaster was once the subject of a humiliating and insensitive internet joke- which was definitely in bad taste. One bully used Photoshop to juxtapose a monkey next to her, a cruel mockery that intended to compare her to the animal, and prompting a wave of trolling.
“The original photo was of me and my boss who is such a cool person. It was cruel,” said the celebrated media personality.
“We have people committing suicide but we just don’t know why, some of the things that are put out there are really horrible. The Internet usage is increasing yet we don’t know how to monitor cyber bullying especially here. It is reckless,” said Adelle on cyber bullying in a 2014 interview.
The honey- voiced radio presenter is peaceful, bubbly and living her best life, and she was doing just that in 2019 when she posted a family photo from a vacation, wearing a swimsuit.
Decent by any measure, the swim suit was not out of the ordinary. But bullies saw the opportunity to fat- shame her.
“I posted this picture because we were happy, we were having fun on vacation, a regular family on vacation… afterwards, I saw that people expected me to wear, I don’t know, garbage bags,” said an emotional Lynda.
Speaking about a childhood where she unfortunately endured more bullying, the mother of one spoke heartbreakingly about contemplating suicide because of the abuse.
“Makes my voice shake because I hope one day no girl will ever do that. My sadness is for other girls who’re going through this. And now with the internet, it makes it worse,” she said tearfully.
He rose to fame on the X Factor and shared the spotlight with four other young lads as the famously successful boy- band, One Direction. But the rising star was a victim of harsh, racist trolling that went as far as to touch on his family.
"Nasty things (were said) like I’m a terrorist, and this and that," he told The Sun in 2012.
She may have a hefty 168 million following on Instagram, but the famous pop icon gets trolled more often than not.
"Imagine all the insecurities that you already feel about yourself and having someone write a paragraph pointing out every little thing, even if it’s just physical," the starlet told Rolling Stone in 2017.
The star disclosed that she deletes the social media app from her phone at least once a week for some self-love and mental health care.
Jimmy Gait aka James Ngaita
Celebrated gospel artiste Jimmy Gait entertained Kenyans with hits like Huratete and Appointment coupled with energetic performances for years.
But there was no mercy from the public after the release of his cover of Adele’s Hello.
“I received a call from Larry Madowo, the then host of the Trend, from NTV asking me to give him an exclusive interview since I was trending at number one on Twitter because of the song! To my surprise, I was receiving insults and so much hate that I could not even comprehend. My world had come crashing down and I felt people were unfair to me and this one song that they didn’t seem to agree with made them forget all the music I had previously produced,” said the artiste.
The release of his song Yesu Ndiye Sponsor soon after further escalated things and made him the subject of much ridicule and mockery. Many attacked him for what they termed as disrespect to God.
The bullying dented his image and cost him the loss of sponsorship deals and endorsements.
He disclosed in a 2019 interview that the period was a dark one for him, and that he was depressed.
This revelation led to the genesis of Hisiah Campaign which conceptualizes a coordinated initiative that brings together different bodies in government and the private sector to build on ongoing conversations on cyber-bullying and seek action.