On March 4th of this year, the British royal family released an official set of guidelines for anyone who chooses to interact with their social media channels. This came after months of online abuse targeted at the Duchess of Sussex Kate Middleton and the Duchess of Cambridge Meghan Markle. Across social media platforms, both duchesses have been hit with sexist, racist, and even violent comments on their posts. They have been doing what they can to handle the negativity, but things seem to have come to a head this year.
For the number of people that must interact with the royal social media accounts, I am surprised that something of this nature was not done before. The royal family has millions of followers across their platforms, millions of chances for people to pass judgment on them. Of course, that is the price of being a public figure – to expose yourself to the eyes of the people who know you, think they know you, and don’t know you at all. It is a lot of pressure and visibility to handle. On store shelves, I have walked by stories about feuds between the two duchesses and tales of infidelity and more. But I dismissed those as fictional drama, the type that you normally see on sensational magazine covers. For the people of the stories though, these rumors are more than just rumors. They pile up and become constant attacks against their character. At some point, these attacks cause people to break.
According to Hello magazine, the Kensington Palace staff spend hours every week monitoring the comments that are posted on their social media accounts. Fortunately, a great number of comments on the royal family’s posts are positive and encouraging, but much caution still needs to be taken to minimize negative dialogue in the feeds. However, like Prince William said in his anti-cyberbullying speech from last year, “[social media platforms’] self-image is so grounded in their positive power for good that they seem unable to engage in constructive discussion about the social problems they are creating.” So, they took further matters into their own hands.
The social media guidelines state that comments must not:
- Contain spam, be defamatory of any person, deceive others, be obscene, offensive, threatening, abusive, hateful, inflammatory or promote sexually explicit material or violence.
- Promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age.
- Breach any of the terms of any of the social media platforms themselves.
- Be off-topic, irrelevant or unintelligible.
- Contain any advertising or promote any services.
If posts violate any of these guidelines, the account administrators have the authority to hide or delete comments. If necessary, the accounts could also block users and report comments to the police. All of this is done to create a safe environment in the comment feed, one in which people show “courtesy, kindness, and respect for all other members of our social media communities”.
Hopefully, these guidelines deter a great number of people from posting hurtful comments against the royals. It was a smart move to create official guidelines because it shows the online community that the royal family takes their character and mental health seriously. When you have to constantly defend your integrity and actions, it takes a toll on your self-image. Perhaps people forget that the royal family is just as human as the rest. This allows them to distance themselves from the royal family, invoking a sense of fantasy and detachment. And when you don’t understand something, it is easier to hate it and mock it.
As important as it is to exercise free speech, people have to better understand the effects that their words can have on others. At Health By Principle, we stress the importance of understanding one’s mental state and the stressors – both internal and external – that can impact mental health. As I mentioned in “Instagram Takes a Stand Against Self-Harm and Social Media”, we need to be conscious of the ways in which we express ourselves. Social media represents an extension of ourselves. It is an outward expression of who you want others to see you as. The association between negative use of social media and depression (among others) is a popular topic in psychology and sociology. I’m sure we will have many more blogs about it on the HBP website, as the connection is further developed.
1. Picheta, Rob. “Royal family issues social media guidelines after Meghan-Kate abuse.” Cable News Network, 2019. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/04/uk/royal-family-social-media-guidelines-scli-gbr-intl/index.html
2. Hallemann, Caroline. “The British Royal Family Issues Social Media Guidelines to Prevent Online Abuse.” Town & Country, 2019. Hearst Digital Media. https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/a26622863/royal-social-media-guidelines-online-abuse-kate-middleton-meghan-markle/
3. Gonzales, Erica. “The Royal Family Combats Online Trolls with Official Social Media Guidelines.” Harper’s Bazaar, 2019. Hearst Digital Media. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/celebrity/latest/a26621439/royal-family-social-media-guidelines/
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