Celebrated actress, singer, MC, philanthropist and LGBTQIA+ activist Zenande Mfenyana has come forward to address the dangers of cyber bullying in the social media space and her experience as a victim in her capacity as a public figure.
Sadly, Zenande has experienced cyber bullying in its various forms and recently the most brutal of these was during her pregnancy.
“I experienced cyber bullying during my pregnancy. Night after night during the show [The Queen], people would make so many hurtful comments about my appearance on TV. They would take screen shots, circle my dark neck, big nose and even make fun of the way I was walking. What is worse is that they would tag me in these nasty comments, which meant that they intended for me to see them,” she says.
“What upsets me, is that people are so quick to dish out negative comments but when I retaliate, I am judged as a bad person. I feel like there is an expectation for those who are in the public eye to keep quiet when being bullied on the net for fear of tarnishing their brand. It’s such a difficult space to navigate because you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t”, she says as she reflects on her experience.
An avid supporter and activist of the LGBTQIA+ community, Zenande feels strongly about the protection of this community from bullying on the internet.
“It’s not fair that the LGBTQIA+ community need to constantly fight to be heard and seen and for them to not share the same equal rights and privileges that the heterosexual community experiences.” she exclaims.
She believes that the freedom of expression should be treated with the same fairness and that not enough is being done to protect the rights of this group of people.
She believes that the social networks need to take more responsibility for the protection of the different communities engaging on their platforms, “Social media networks are definitely not doing enough to address cyber bullying. It’s not enough that someone’s account gets temporarily suspended, we need more drastic measures put in place to address these social media ills that we face daily. People need to get fined, and even have their accounts permanently suspended.” She says.
Cyber bullying is a form of abuse that has massive implications on the mental health of those who are victims of this scourge. Zenande expresses how her self-esteem has suffered from the constant negative comments she has received on social media and believes that it is important for those who have experienced the same, to be supported through counseling. “Counselling needs to be offered to those who have been directly affected by cyber bullying. Whether it be personal one on one sessions, or it be via zoom. But we need to get to address the way a lot of people are affected by cyber bullying so that we can prevent things like suicide.” she says.