Zelda Williams has backed off from social media in the wake of severe bullying that she went through in the immediacy of her father’s tragic death. No doubt, the late Robin Williams, her doting dad, would have been taking aim at these social media bullies with the resources in his power. The Twitterverse certainly came alive in her defense, with followers reporting these individuals and their terrible posts, which were immediately removed, but the damage was already done. Thankfully, though, Twitter has come forward and announced policy changes designed to prevent further victims.
What is unfortunate in all of this is that it took people – two people, according to reports – to ultimately ruin what had been a safe outlet for her grief. Zelda Williams had been able to safely share her pain at losing her beloved father with her followers on Twitter until these trolls decided to send her clearly doctored pictures that left her with no other choice but to leave social media – at least temporarily. The further problem is that it took the death of a huge celebrity who was loved throughout the world for these changes to come about.
Social media has been used as a tool by bullies for some time, and several kids have died because they took their lives as a result of significant bullying. It does not matter whether the bullying occurred on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram; the bullying occurred. Zelda Williams is no less a victim of harassment via social media, and what makes the situation worse is that she is a daughter grieving the loss of her dad. However, she is a celebrity, and the daughter of someone who has been undoubtedly one of the biggest celebrities in recent decades. Cyber bullying is not a new trend; why did it take a situation like this that involved a celebrity for Twitter to want to try to prevent further trolling and bullying?
Simply put, celebrities do give added power to social issues. No one likely knew this better than Robin Williams; he had been involved with Comic Relief, an organization he was involved with along with celebrity friends Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, and he knew how much attention celebrity could bring to almost any issue. What is unfortunate, though, is that it took the fact of his daughter getting harassed for the issue of trolling and cyber bullying to get more serious attention.
This is perhaps part of the problem with trolls and bullies. While there has been a great deal of attention directed to bullying and how many people are victimized, there has never been anything beyond public service announcements and lip service paid to bullying. There are agencies across the globe that say there will be zero tolerance for bullying, but what does that look like? Why has it taken the tragic death of a well-loved man and the harassment of his grieving daughter to actually cause policy changes to occur? Social media continues to expand by leaps and bounds. Let’s hope that it will not take the death of anyone else, prominent or otherwise, to cause other positive changes to occur.
Opinion by Christina St-Jean