I am choosing to leave the internet because the amount of harassment and bullying that I endure as a Black woman is taking a toll on my emotional/mental wellbeing.
In 2009, when I was researching for a college paper, I inadvertently encountered some Youtube videos by a user (who has since renounced bashing Black women) who had literally hundreds of videos demeaning Black women. I was so shocked by what I heard that I continued to listen to his videos (against the advice of my mother) and this was my first taste of online/racial harassment. Since then, many more people of all backgrounds have created YouTube accounts to specifically harass African-American women.
The negativity became an addiction, like porn or something. At times, I would try to avoid sites that bashed Black women, but sometimes I wouldn’t have to even look for them, they would find me and there is an abundance of negativity directed against African-American women on the internet.
The harassment does not end on YouTube, the harassment exists on blogs, forums and on social media sites like twitter and Facebook. You might say that everyone gets harassed online, but no, I am positive that Black women are disproportionately targeted for online harassment. There was a study that showed that African-Americans were more likely to experience online harassment. There have been no studies that I am aware of that focus on African-American women, online harassment and the impact that it has on our mental health/wellbeing, but I am certain that if you digest this negativity there is no way that it will not impact you negatively on a mental/emotional level. If any professors or psychologist are reading this, it might be something worth studying.
Personally, I struggled with depression and anxiety and even my college grades were negatively affected by this culture of online harassment and degradation against Black women.
The internet can be a barbarous place. People will say and write things online unfiltered, so the depths of human depravity and cruelness can be explored without consequence. I’ve been called a black ho, bed wench, n-gger, sh-t-skin, I’ve been threatened with lynching. I’ve been on multiple blogs where I’ve encountered men demeaning Black women and referring to black women as ugly monkeys and no most of these were NOT white supremacist websites in case you are wondering. I have tried multiple means to combat this discrimination, including starting a blog to specifically track internet attacks against Black women, but the job was too big. There was way too much harassment for me to track and it would not have been mentally healthy for me to do so. Most infamously, Psychology Today, a supposed reputable online magazine, published an article in 2011 that claimed that Black women were scientifically and objectively the least attractive people.
I know that I am not the only Black woman who is aware of the harassment and special brand racism that we deal with online.
I no longer want to deal with it. I choose not to deal with it online. Not only has this harassment affected my self esteem and mental health, but the most devastating impact it has had has been on my offline life. Encountering nothing but negativity online for about 7 years has made me short-tempered, paranoid and irritable with the people that I love most, I’m not able to socialize and bond with people the way that I used to, I have even lower self esteem. I feel like I am wasting my life on here and missing out on good times with people who actually care about me and don’t judge me based off of my skin color, i.e my family and my friends.
The sad thing is, getting offline won’t make racism go away, no it certainly won’t. All I have to do is recall the incident where I inquired about a job with a manager at a local pharmacy,only to be told that he wasn’t hiring, only to witness him hire countless white friends of mine shortly thereafter, to know that racism extends beyond the internet.
But, I can’t spend my life trying to make people see me as human being and an individual when they have blinders on. Someone told me “if someone judges you just based off of your being an African-American woman, then they are the ignorant ones and that is their problem, not yours. Don’t let them ruin your life.” Tis true, all you can do in life is worry about those who matter and make sure that you’re doing what you need to do to live right and make sure that you are treating others with respect and be an example of kindness.
Forgiveness is something that I’ll need to practice and pray for to live well.
This is not to say that nothing good has come out of my time on the internet, I’ve made some real friends, I’ve learned a lot, especially a lot about the different cultures across Africa and the history of African-Americans. The negativity forced me to research more to find out the root of all these stereotypes. Books like Ain’t I a Woman by Debra Gray White and Sister Citizen by Melissa Harris Perry have helped.
But, I have to move on. This negativity online has become too much and the only way I can improve my life is to get away from the internet altogether because it’s impossible to avoid the negativity no matter where I go as a Black woman online.
My game plan is to avoid the internet, unless it is for work-realted or school-related research etc. and to surround myself with friends and family who care about me, become more social and avoid people who mistreat me, get my life back on track and that pretty much sums up all you can do in this life. As Dr. Seuss says, “those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
I am hoping that once my health care get straightened out, I’ll be able to see a therapist at least twice.
My plan is to only sign onto the internet for leisure 1-2 times per month and for no more than 1-3 hours at a time. During those times, I will do a post on this blog, but I will not be venturing onto YouTube, unless it’s for educational purposes and I am avoiding blogs that are not safe spaces for Black women. Other than that, I am getting off of here.
I am considering installing software to block off the internet on my non-work computer during blots of time to avoid temptation.
I encourage Black women to be careful about the negativity that you take in on the internet. I am not saying that getting off the internet will end your experience with racism, please…but it is one aspect of racism that you can control in your life and avoid.
If you can, I would limit my time on the internet altogether.
It is funny because you wouldn’t think that words on a computer screen matter and it seems so silly and stupid, but words can hurt…they really can hurt and violence often starts with words…after this weekend, i’ll be starting my game plan.
The internet can be a good thing, in small doses, but beware.
“Those who live out more of their lives online—whether for work, pleasure, or both—are more likely to experience harassment.”