If you're an avid user of social media, you may have noticed - mainly on Facebook - that over the last few weeks, memes of random people are being posted with a caption to tag your mate 'Dave' or 'Mike' or whoever for various reasons such as they had a one night stand. The meme is mocking the person's appearance and the gag supposedly is that someone deemed to not be 'aesthetically pleasing to the eye' by whatever standards, is looking for the mate you tag and all of Facebook sees it.
Now I know what you're thinking, especially if you have seen some of these: it is all just a harmless bit of fun and no one is getting hurt. But what about the individual in the photo?
I have seen them pop up a few times and not really given them a second thought, but then yesterday, I saw one appear on my news feed with a photo of Lizzie Velasquez on it. She herself had shared the photo from the page it had originally surfaced on and she accompanied it with this message:
'I've seen a ton of memes like this all over Facebook recently. I'm writing this post not as someone who is a victim but as someone who is using their voice. Yes, it's very late at night as I type this but I do so as a reminder that the innocent people that are being put in these memes are probably up just as late scrolling through Facebook and feeling something that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. No matter what we look like or what size we are, at the end of the day we are all human. I ask that you keep that in mind the next time you see a viral meme of a random stranger. At the time you might find it hilarious but the human in the photo is probably feeling the exact opposite. Spread love not hurtful words via a screen. Xoxo Lizzie'
Now for those of you who don't know, Lizzie, 27, from Texas USA, is unable to store fat in her body and suffers from a serious condition called Marfan Syndrome which affects her limbs and body shape.
My heart sank when I read her statement. While I hadn't shared one myself, I still felt guilty for not realising the impact they could actually have. We are forgetting the strangers that are being mocked are real people with real feelings. Whether they are old or young, fat or thin or disfigured, what does that matter? What right have we got to mock them? I think the reason I felt guilty was because I realised I hadn't blinked an eye as that sort of image is normal on the internet these days. How sad is that?
IT. NEEDS. TO. STOP.
The internet is an amazing phenomenon that allows us to peruse news at our fingertips, catch up with family on the other side of the world with clarity in just seconds, and take endless BuzzFeed quizzes to avoid doing the washing up. It is marvellous. I bloody love it! But at times it is a nasty, evil and horrible place to be.
This recent form of bullying (It IS bullying, whether you like it or not) reminds us of that.
As I began to think how I wanted to finish this post off, I googled Lizzie and was so pleased to see that her post has gone viral and she has received an overwhelming amount of support from the nicer side of the internet. And while sadly this won't be the last time we see something like this online, I hope that as time goes on, people will adapt and begin to realise that bullying from behind a keyboard is no different to bullying in real life and we need to treat each other with respect in all walks of life.
Lizzie is an author and a motivational speaker, she is also an inspirational human being. The people making these memes are idiots with nothing better to do. I know who I admire more.
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