As the government announces plans to introduce laws forcing social networks to police their users' content, former TOWIE star Lydia Bright has revealed the online trolling she received as an 18-year-old reality star nearly caused her to quit showbiz entirely. Opening up to Loose Women's Andrea McLean during HELLO! magazine's #HelloToKindness panel discussion on Safer Internet Day, Lydia revealed she was literally inundated with cruel comments and only managed to navigate the horrendous situation thanks to the psychologists employed by the TOWIE production company, who helped her learn how to ignore the bullies.
Lydia Bright revealed that she nearly quit showbiz because of online trolls
"I was the victim of severe Twitter abuse when I first started on TOWIE," Lydia revealed during the panel discussion hosted at tech giant Apple’s studios. "I was only 18 and when I first started Twitter was just starting too. I was playing myself and people had opinions on that and they weren’t thinking about things before they put it out there.
MORE: Lydia Bright's sister Roma Bright on being a teenager today
"I knew I’d taken this job role on where I was putting myself out there but I was not ready for the abuse that I got at the beginning. TOWIE at its height was getting 1.3 million views, and some weeks I’d be getting 50,000 tweets an hour. Sometimes they were really against me. I struggled – I was young, I was new to the industry, it really did affect me. At times I thought I really couldn’t do this anymore. It was supposed to be the best time in my life and I was given the opportunity of a lifetime and instead, strangers who I’ve never met were completely ruining my experience."
Lydia spoke at the HELLO! to Kindness panel
Lydia was joined by fellow panellists Dr Dawn Harper, tech expert David Phelan, HELLO!'s royal editor who spearheaded the #HelloToKindness campaign (which has received support from David and Victoria Beckham amongst numerous other celebs) and Tessy Ojo, anti-bullying ambassador and CEO of the Diana Award.
Dr Dawn revealed that the number of women and young people seeking help for mental health issues is at an all-time high. "I see a huge amount of young people with mental health issues, way more than I did when I first started general practice 25 years ago," she explained. "And I have no doubt that social media has a massive impact on that."
READ: Social media giants will be forced to tackle online bullying online
Andrea McLean was also part of the panel
Lydia feels her experience would have been totally different – and probably impossible to bounce back from – had she not had such amazing access to mental health professionals. "I had a lot of support around me," she explained. "Part of The Only Way is Essex's obligation is that there psychiatrists there to help us with that, I had my family, but I do often think about young people who don’t have that. People need to thing before they do these things, because when you’re young you really take it on board."
MORE: Why do people really post mean comments online? Expert explains
For Tessy Ojo, who runs the Diana Award – the charity partner for the sale of HELLO!’s #HelloToKindness T-shirts, says the most important thing any of us can do is learn values. “Think before you speak and show respect,” Tessy advises. "One of our quick slogans is, 'How would your grandma feel if she saw what you'd posted?' These are messages that are true for everyone, both young and old."
It’s a very relevant conversation following Margot James, Minister for Digital’s speech at today's Safer Internet Day event. The MP explained that the government will soon be publishing an Online Harms White Paper which will set out clear expectations for companies to help keep their users, particularly children, safe online. The White Paper will set out new legislative measures to ensure that the social media platforms are required to remove abusive content, and that the protection of social media users, especially children, young people and vulnerable adults, is prioritised.
Lydia has been supporting the HELLO! to Kindness campaign
"From a technological point of view things are a lot better than they’ve ever been," says tech expert David Phelan. "There are strong parental controls in place on phones, there’s a thing called Screen Time on Apple phones and a similar thing on android phones which helps you limit how much time you spend on social media.
"On Twitter you can report tweets, you can mute people – they don’t know they’ve been muted. But you also have to then make sure you don’t go and see what the muted people have been saying."
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