Nicole Loher for Seventeen Magazine’s #DeleteDigitalDrama
Imagine being isolated so terribly by your peers that you’re forced to eat lunch on your own everyday. Imagine having your classmates write multiple hate blogs specifically targeting you. Imagine receiving a Facebook notification that you’ve been tagged in a photo of a group of girls burning your clothing. Imagine receiving death threats. And imagine having a police escort.
Welcome to the two most difficult years of my life.
Let me explain. I had never really been associated with “the cool kids” in high school. I dressed “weird” to my peers. I had two older girlfriends and that was it. I was incredibly career focused and worked everyday towards achieving my dream of attending FIT. I guess that can be a little intimidating when your peers are 15-17, and as a result I suffered socially. I wasn’t invited out so I spent most of my first two years of high school at home sewing, with my family, or writing for the Tumblr page you are now reading today.
I thought I had finally found my break and would have friends with similar interests when I was accepted into a specialized technical high school for fashion design for my junior year. I could not have been more wrong.
The girls I attended the technical school with instantly isolated me. They made fun of anything & everything they could about me. I ate lunch by myself (except for the days my mom or best friend came to eat with me) and the girls made fake blogs targeting and making fun of me. All the negative energy pushed me further into isolation and a slight depression. I thought something was wrong with me and my school and parents attributed it all to “teenage girls just being catty.” But the blogs continued and got worse. To me, their actions were so much more than that and I couldn’t seem to understand, “why me?" I kept those feelings close and instead of letting it bring me down, I focused on applying to my dream school and being approved to graduate from my high school a year early.
I received my acceptance letter to FIT, I had been approved to graduate, and once again I thought I had found my break! I thought I could finally let go of everything and start life in New York City as a new person - no one had to know about my past. I graduated high school a year early and moved to New York City in August 2010.
I made friends as soon as I got to college and it was a lot of fun! My blog had started getting more popular and I had my dream internship at Nanette Lepore. Everything was perfect. Up until the afternoon I opened my Facebook page to see I had been tagged in a photo of girls (the same ones from my technical high school) standing around a bonfire, burning the clothes I had made and left in my locker my last semester at the technical high school. I was horrified. I realized I hadn’t escaped.
About a week later I received about 30+ hateful and degrading messages anonymously via my Tumblr inbox within the span of ten minutes. It was crazy! I couldn’t believe the things I was reading. The message that really capped it off and made me get authorities involved read: “I will kill you, bitch." This one, however, was left accidentally unanonymous and was submitted by a friend from home who I had been spending a lot of time with and someone I (later found out) was a friend of the girls from my technical high school. I felt like I was in an episode of Gossip Girl. I printed all the messages and took them to the Dean of Students at my school. In turn, the Dean assigned me a police escort to and from every class I had on campus. It was mortifying for me and so many of my new friends were asking questions. How can you recap the past year and a half of your life to a group of friends you just met?
Luckily, the Dean of Students at FIT took messages very seriously and from that point forward I didn’t have to deal with being targeted by those specific individuals again. To say I am grateful for all of his efforts is an understatement.
As you can see, today I have risen above my past and hope to stand as an example to young girls everywhere to turn the negative energy they’re receiving into positieve energy, helping to push them to follow their dreams. The most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my (almost) 20 years of life are: nothing comes without hard work and there will always be someone there to try and knock you down. I’ve learned that the experience itself doesn’t make you, it’s how you handle the experience that really determines who you are. If you know of someone being bullied online, stand up for them and offer support! If you yourself are being bullied, remember that you aren’t alone and use these tips from Seventeen Magazine:
- Don’t respond to the comment, it only fuels the fire.
- Save all of the evidence in case the commenting escalates.
- If you’re being threatened, don’t take it lightly! Report it to law enforcement!
- And lastly, block the person.
Writing this, I remain a little nervous sharing such personal and traumatic events with the world. You are probably asking yourself, “then why are you writing it?!” Let me tell you why: Seventeen Magazine e-mailed me months ago to tell me about their Delete Digital Drama campaign. I instantly knew I had to jump on board to share my story. With that, I styled the super cool t-shirt above to help promote the cause. The [delete] shirt was designed by none other than Nanette Lepore for JCPenney and 100% of the proceeds are being donated to the amazing organization, STOP Out Bullying.
You know the saying, “if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say it at all?” That applies for the internet too! Now, let’s all work together to build each other up, not knock each other down.
*A HUGE thank you to Seventeen Magazine for asking me to be a part of the campaign and Jimmy Lepore Hagan for taking the photos above.