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Cyber-bullying in the Time of COVID

Instagram's double standards
The end is (possibly) nigh

I'm heartbroken. I'm depressed. It's happening all over again and it's happening right before my eyes. The worst part is that I can't do a thing about it. I wasn't always depressive. My clinical depression was brought about by being cyber-bullied in 2017, when my original Instagram account kept getting reported and deleted. I would make new accounts and within a few days, they would get taken down, too. Even when I didn't post anything remotely sexy, whatever new account I made would be deleted, and I made a lot! It was oppressive and I felt helpless. I began having anxiety attacks and full-blown depression. It was such a traumatic experience that I began to dread opening up my phone; terrified of that alert that would tell me my newly-made account was deleted. It's an excruciating experience. It's like having a stalker violate my space and privacy and I was completely helpless. Each time it happened, it would send me into a deep depression. I kept making new accounts because I told myself I didn't want the bullies to win, but deep down I felt I was fighting a losing battle.

I got my main account back in 2017 after my husband fought hard for months, but I got suspended several times again later that year for supposedly inflating Likes or Follows. I was able to get my account up again after contesting the deletions, but it was clear I was being targeted. The fact that Instagram even lets it happen is disheartening and you won't believe how helpless and small it makes you feel. Its heartbreaking because I love Instagram but it's become an unwitting or maybe even willing party to bullying and I always want to cry.

Instagram's double standard
IG support shows me no support

I realized I was being cyber-bullied when I tried to report several posts and accounts that were in clear violation of Instagram's Community Guidelines and was told that there was nothing wrong with those. The same is happening today. My birthday giveaway post got deleted and then some stories after that. Absolutely none of those had nudity and certainly no sexual content, so I could tell it was happening all over again. A Follower helpfully sent me a message saying that he reported content that was clearly in violation of the nudity and sexual content clause but Instagram just told him there wasn't anything wrong with it. It's this double standard that feels the most oppressive. Because when a big corporate entity decides you're violating their policies when you clearly aren't and lets other accounts that clearly break the rules go without even a slap on the wrist, there's nothing you can do about it. That's bullying.

I'm getting messages from friends and followers on Instagram and here on my site giving their support because, once again, my Instagram account is in danger of being deleted. I'm trying to stave off anxiety and depression, but the truth is, cyber-bullying takes its toll on a person. It's even worse when the platform is complicit in the bullying by allowing their reporting tools to be abused by haters. I'm spiraling and I'm just doing everything I can to stay afloat. The haters scored a major victory in November last year when they managed to get my main account deleted permanently. I tried several times to get it back, but Instagram wouldn't even respond. The irony is that Instagram talks big about being against cyberbullying but doesn't realize or doesn't care that its reporting tools and review team enables bullies by deleting posts or banning accounts unfairly. Haters have weaponized Instagram's reporting tools. Most people think of cyber-bullying as simple attacks on social media. Sometimes it's just hurtful words, comments on posts, or direct messages. But what do you call it when the platform itself empowers the bullies? When social media platforms allow their checks and balances to favor one side and punish another without merit, that's an even more insidious kind of cyber-bullying. Automated reporting tools aren't perfect and neither are review team personnel, but when it happens repeatedly to one person and not to others, there's something seriously wrong. Either the system is broken or there are people in there who are doing the wrong thing.

Instagram's double standards
IG says these are ok

All I ever wanted was just a platform to express myself. It makes me happy and keeps me sane to be able to show a side of myself that I can't show anywhere else. That's why I kept making new Instagram accounts even though I kept getting hounded by some faceless hater(s) who kept trying to drive me off the platform. Do I show NSFW content? Sure. But so do millions of other accounts, and I absolutely do NOT violate Community Guidelines. I'm tired, I'm constantly cycling through anxiety and depression, and I have absolutely no power to stop it. One of the worst parts is that I don't even know who it is, or who they are. Obviously this isn't just Instagram acting on its own because accounts that clearly violate their terms go unpunished. This is a person or a group of people reporting my account and manage to get the system to work for them. It's vicious and cruel, and because they won't show themselves, there's no accountability and I can't even defend myself. It's been going on for three years now and these haters won't leave me in peace. What kind of person spends time and energy bullying another person at a time like this? While everyone is just trying to cope with the pandemic, there are actually people who would rather focus on hate. Why would they do that? What kind of sad lives do these people lead that they've made it their life mission to ruin another person's life? Three years. I've been bullied on Instagram for three years and I still have no clue who these haters are (although I know some are conservative moms from my daughters' Catholic school). Are they so bored now with the quarantine they've made taking down my content some kind of sport? It's awful. Whoever you are, I didn't do anything to you. Why are you trying to make my life hell? I have never violated Instagram's Community Guidelines, but somehow you've managed to fool their system. Congratulations, you've gotten my posts and stories deleted. Maybe soon you'll get even my backup account deleted. You'll feel like you've won.

But bullies never win. Being unkind isn't winning. Messing with another person's life isn't winning. At the end of the day, cruelty and vindictiveness are never good. As for me, I'll get depressed, my mental state will suffer (and I even physically suffer from this because my depression triggers my insomnia and fatigue), but whatever happens, I will always pick myself back up and keep on doing what I do. I'm only being myself, and there's nothing wrong with that.

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