A model has shared the horrors of online trolls, saying she’s been subjected to serious threats to her life, simply for posting photos of herself on social media.
Jessica Davies, who was scouted at The Clothes Show at Birmingham NEC, has a huge following with more than 147,000 followers on Instagram and 162,000 on Twitter.
But she says that almost every time she shares a post, she receives some sort of online abuse – the worst of which was when she responded to a comment from TV presenter Piers Morgan.
“I tweeted him saying that I disagreed with his support of Donald Trump and he quote retweeted me telling me to shut up or something along those lines,” Jessica, who is based in Cardiff, told Wales Online.
“I didn’t really think much about it, but almost instantly I had this onslaught of abuse.
“I had people telling me they wanted to kill me, saying I should be beheaded. I had one person say they were going to come and find me and rape me.
“It was the first time I thought ‘oh, these people could find out where I live and hurt me’.”
Jessica, who runs a lifestyle blog called Jabber with Jess, said she first experienced online bullying at the age of 14, the age at which she was discovered at The Clothes Show and put forward for a competition called Teen Queen.
“I must have been about 14 when I joined social media. I remember signing up to Bebo and MSN and had posted a photo of myself and a girl from my school posted underneath in capital letters ‘slag’. I was devastated and confused. I was thinking ‘why is she saying this to me?'”
“I’ve never understood the reason behind it. I think people see a detachment between the profile and the person behind it.”
She went onto enter beauty pageants throughout our teens before signing for a modelling agency aged 17 and being introduced to glamour modelling a year later.
“My following grew really quickly and with that came more trolling,” she said.
“People assume that because I put myself out there and worked as a glamour model, they have the right to comment on my body but what they don’t realise is that I’m just like everybody else.
“I don’t have loads of confidence, I have insecurities just like everyone else.”
The Be You, Be Kind campaign
Jessica has launched a Be You, Be Kind campaign, in partnership with the Royal College Of Psychiatrists, to encourage people to be nicer to each other online. She wrote, directed and edited the above video herself and it features her friends and celebrities such as Michael Sheen, Owain Arthur, Divina De Campo, Ovie Soko and Connagh Howard of Love Island.
“I came up with the idea because I wanted to do something for Mental Health Awareness week and I’ve worked with the college before,” said Jessica, who has considered quitting social media but says she needs to stay on it for her work.
“I know the phrase Be Kind has been trending a lot recently with Caroline Flack passing away at the beginning of the year, but I noticed recently more and more nasty comments were popping up.”
She added: “I wanted to do something just to remind people to be kind and to also make a noise and raise awareness about the comments that people do really get.
“Even though I’ve been online for years it still isn’t something I can get used to. It has definitely had an effect on my mental health. I’m a lot more anxious now and I look at myself in the mirror and focus on the parts of my body that trolls have picked on.
“But at the same time, I have to remind myself that it’s their problem and not mine.
“I have a lot of friends in the industry who have also experienced trolling and I wanted to highlight that it happens to people from all walks of life.
“My friend Femi talks about the horrible abuse he has gotten because he is black and another friend in the video is gay and he talks about the homophobic comments he receives.”
Since going live on Friday May 22, the video has had tens of thousands of views and Jessica said she’s pleasantly surprised by the positive reaction it received.
“With the first day it had 20,000 views and I think it’s getting people talking – which is the main thing.
“I think during lockdown, more people have more time on their hands and I have seen an increase in trolling.
“Social media is such a big part of our lives now I hope now people see the video and realise there is a person behind the photo.”