An open letter to anyone who tags someone in the ‘tag someone’ memes

So you saw a meme of a fat woman in a wedding dress, and you tagged your mate, Luke, just for LOLs. Nice one.

Screenshot from a Facebook Page

So what would you say if I asked you WHY it’s funny? Posts like these have thousands of likes, tags and shares. Why? Here’s what I think the honest reason would be — you think she’s fat and ugly. How embarrassing for Luke to be associated with such a fat ugly woman. How humiliating!

You may think, what’s the problem? It’s just a bit of a laugh, right?

Wrong. You are part of the online bullying epidemic, congratu-fucking-lations.

Who made you the God of knowing what’s funny? You think it’s fine, therefore it is. Anyone showing emotion is obviously weak and stupid. But by saying they should ‘get a sense of humour’, what you’re actually saying is ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ and taking away the right for them to show emotion. People are allowed to be upset about things — we’re human, it happens.

Let’s not pretend this isn’t part of a much bigger picture. It’s not just the memes, this is happening in school playgrounds, in workplaces, even on the street. But if anyone speaks out, they’re told it’s ‘banter’, ‘just a joke’. Like casual sexism is ‘just locker-room talk’.

Fuck that. It’s bullying. Let’s stop dressing this up now. By tagging, sharing and liking these memes you’re the same as a bully teasing somebody in the school playground. That somebody may grow up to have a lifelong confidence and self-esteem issues because of you, but that’s ok because you know you were just teasing. You just keep telling yourself that. I’ll keep telling you that you’re encouraging online abuse.

Teasing is bullying in disguise, for cowards who want to pretend they’re not being wankers. I know some tiny part of you knows that, which is probably why you wouldn’t be able to explain exactly why the memes are funny. Would you say that you think disabled people are funny? That you think gay sex is disgusting? That fat women are ugly and repulsive? No, you wouldn’t say that explicitly, but if you joke about it, oh well that’s fine.

I tried reporting a Facebook page called The Asylum. It’s just one of many pages filled with horrible meme poking fun at fat, disabled, trans, gay, old people, and many more. They’re rolling in likes, shares and tags galore. It wouldn’t surprise me if they are in fact ‘Like Farming’ (you know the ‘hit like if you hate cancer’ types? They’re racking up their Likes to be able to sell for big bucks. More info on that here:

Facebook said it didn’t violate any of their community guidelines, but that I could repost individual pictures to give further examples, so I did. I reported loads of them. Then I got the same message again, for each and every one: ‘It doesn’t violate our community standards.’

So maybe there’s nothing Facebook can do about it. Humans are fucking horrible at times but social media is just the platform. So I’m writing this to you. YOU individually because you are a human being and have the power to make a difference just by not participating in this.

I was bullied all through school and even at times in my adult life, but this is not my sob story. I was one of the lucky ones. Social media wasn’t around for most of my school days so at least I could get away from my bullies to a certain extent. The ones at school that is, the ones outside of school were often worse. They were the adults who should’ve known better. I didn’t even realise that some of what I encountered was bullying, I’d gotten so used to it though my life. It was so normal. Like it’s normal to post ‘funny’ memes taking the piss out of people who are different to yourself.

As a quiet kid who was scared of a lot of things, I rarely spoke up. When someone joked I had five chins, and I started to cry, they said it was just ‘friendly teasing’ and I should ‘lighten up’. Then I felt stupid. I felt like I’d made a scene, and that I was just weird for not having a sense of humour about it. So I learned to laugh. I laughed with people as they bullied me, I perpetuated my own abuse.

Again, fuck that.

It’s taken too many years for me to learn that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable. I will not watch anyone else get torn apart by what other people class as ‘just teasing’.

The majority of those meme photos are real people, who likely have NOT given their consent for them to be used. Certainly in the case of Lizzie Velasquez, who spoke out after her photo was used in a meme.

Flickr: Gilberto Cardenas

“Lizzie, who was born with a rare disorder that prevents her from gaining weight, said viral memes can leave innocent people with a feeling she ‘wouldn’t wish on her worst enemy’, and added: ‘At the end of the day we are all human.’ “

We live in a judgmental, discriminatory society which thinks to be fat, trans, disabled, a person of colour, or any kind of ‘different’, is less of a human being. People who do not fit the standard of beauty dictated by the media are deemed sub-par humans. By laughing at any of these people and disguising it as a joke, you are hurting others. If you don’t realise this, you’re being an arrogant selfish, uncompassionate, judgemental arsehole.

Bullying is bullying. You make all the excuses you like, but YOU are making things worse. Take responsibility. Stay the fuck away from memes.

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