Fergie, as she is affectionately known, penned an essaysupporting Hello! magazine’s recently launched #HelloToKindness campaign and reflected on the pros and cons of social media.
“I’m on Twitter and Instagram, and I’m grateful for the fact that they allow me to communicate directly with people who are interested, promote my charitable causes and let people read my own words rather than someone else’s slant on them,” Fergie, who is the ex-wife of Prince Andrew, says.
However, Fergie knows there is a dark side to the medium.
“I rarely if ever go ‘below the line’ on social media or news websites and read people’s comments,” she says. “I know that a lot say nice things, but there’s a large minority who seem to think that all the normal rules of society don’t apply to the internet.”
Fergie continues, “Take a look at any website, and you’ll see extraordinarily abusive comments aimed not only at people in the public eye but also other internet users. Bullying, sniping, bitching, even the most appalling sexism, racism and homophobia are commonplace – it seems that online, anything goes.”
Fergie then alluded to the abuse Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton have been subjected to online, which prompted Hello! to launch their positivity campaign.
“Women, in particular, are constantly pitted against and compared with each other in a way that reminds me of how people tried to portray Diana and me all the time as rivals, which is something neither of us ever really felt,” she says.
The mother to Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie explains that the bullying can take a toll on the victims’ mental health.
“I believe that it’s time to take a stand,” she writes. “This isn’t about freedom of speech. The truth is, it’s not acceptable to post abuse or threats on social media or news sites, and it’s not acceptable to harangue other users simply because they disagree with you. It’s not acceptable to pit women against one another all the time. It’s not acceptable to troll other people viciously online.”
Social media backlash has increased in recent months, ranging from pitting the royal sisters-in-law against each other to “violent threats,” a source recently told Hello! magazine.
“The Palace has always monitored comments, but it’s a hugely time consuming thing,” the insider said. “They can block certain words, but some of it is quite serious. Over the course of last year, with hundreds of thousands of comments, there were two or three that were violent threats. You can delete and report and block people and the police have options around particular people. It’s something you have to manage because there’s no other way to control it.”
Emily Nash, royals reporter at Hello!, adds that the magazine has noticed the abuse on their own social media pages related to stories about Meghan and Kate, both 37. They’ve even had to turn off comments after comments became threatening.
“It seems to me to be particularly sexist,” Nash told CNN. “You have people comparing them in a way that doesn’t really happen with men – ‘she’s walking funny, or her heels are too high, or her legs are too skinny.’ “