Cyber bullying is no joke. And as absurd as it sounds, cyberbullies have been passing right by our eyes every single day through memes. Lizzie Velásquez, a 27-year-old American woman, has found herself to be a victim of the same more times than she can recount.
Velásquez was born with a rare congenital disease called the Marfan syndrome and also suffers from a disorder which prevents her body from storing fat (neonatal progeroid syndrome). She went viral after a 2006 YouTube video deemed her the “World’s Ugliest Woman”.
Velásquez, who was just 17 at the time, rose up against the cyberbullying and she hasn’t looked back since. She became a motivational speaker and an author. Her books, which are mainly targeted at teenagers, have been very well received across the world. Bringing stories like Be Beautiful, Be You (2012) and Choosing Happiness (2014), Velásquez offered advice on dealing with bullies and “discover what truly makes us beautiful.” In 2014, her TED talk ‘How Do YOU Define Yourself’ went viral, inspiring people to stand up against such harassment.
After all this, one would expect that the internet knows better than to talk smack against people’s looks. Apparently not. You may be familiar with the ‘Tag a Friend who’ memes. Some of these memes use private images of people and deem them “undesirable” based solely on their appearance. I too have been tagged at such memes and I too am guilty of having laughed at them.
“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,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
“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.”
However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The recent uproar against such memes resulted in a shutdown of a group which was responsible for such body-shaming photos after several complaints were made. Lizzie wrote in a recent Facebook post, “It also appears one of the groups responsible for promoting these kinds of images has been shut down by Facebook after users made multiple complaints about it.” I’m over the moon with gratitude!!!!! Positive change is possible when we all work together!!!”