National Eating Disorders Association

Strength in Numbers: A Personal Story on Overcoming Cyberbullying

Rachel Taylor

It was your typical Sunday morning. My alarm woke me up early so that I could get ready for church. Out of habit, I reached for my phone and discovered that I had over a thousand emails in my inbox. While a few where your typical spam emails and newsletters, most of them were social media notifications telling me that people had been commenting on my videos, pictures and blog post - calling me every name you could imagine a fat person might be called and worse. 

What was the cause of this wave of hate? A subreddit called Fat People Hate made through Reddit (which has since been banned)  had made me their new poster child based off a YouTube video I had made ten months prior. The video was a simple rant about the site and how it should be taken down. I never knew that it would end up being played over and over again as a form of mockery. The video now has almost 75,000 views.

At first, I tried to ignore it. I got out of bed, put my makeup on, and got dressed. Then I got angry, took a selfie, and shared it on Instagram with the caption, “F#$% the haters.” Then, I went to church with my family without muttering a word about the storm that was brewing. During church, instead of paying attention to the sermon, I deleted comments on my social websites as I transitioned  from fury to simply trying to do damage control. I hoped that it would all go away if I just stayed quiet.

I was wrong. Within minutes of posting the selfie, it was on the Fat People Hate site, which I discovered later in the day along with a string of other pictures from my Instagram. Pictures I thought I looked good in, maybe even beautiful in, were now being torn apart.  And it wasn’t just my Instagram account. I continued to delete hundreds of anonymous asks from my Tumblr and block tweets on Twitter. 

I had always felt a sense of safety on the internet. Having been bullied most of my life for my weight and appearance, I had often used the internet as a secure place where I could talk about my feeling with online friends, people that understood, something I could never do at school. But now nowhere was safe; I felt trapped and I isolated myself as a result.

I’d like to think that for the most part the comments didn’t affect me, but I realized that I had already been called all these names, by no one other than myself. I am in recovery from an eating disorder, but just because you’re in recovery doesn’t mean that the negative and mean voices in your head completely vanish. 

While I believe I handled this horrible situation well, there were times where I felt like an emotional wreck – especially when people began calling me a liar, telling me that there was no way that someone of my size could ever have an eating disorder. It felt as though my two stays in treatment meant nothing.

Thankfully, I had more than enough support from my friends and family. I realized quickly that if I was open and honest about what was going on, then the people that truly cared would be there for me. I realized that there is strength in numbers. 

Two and a half weeks later Reddit banned the site for breaking their new harassment policy and thankfully the cyber bullying has mostly stopped. Something I’ve realized through all this is that I am stronger than I give myself credit for both in my recovery and in life, especially with the support and love of others.

We each face a lot of trials in life but it’s isolation that makes it harder. Through faith in ourselves and love from others we can conquer anything.

» Learn more about the relationship between cyber bullying and eating disorders!