Paula is a University student in Brazil, who spends a lot of time online, especially on Tik Tok. She enjoys watching everything from viral dance videos, to life hacks, to tarot readings. She has always loved social media, but recently experienced a lot of harassment for the first time after a video she posted about consent went viral. This left her feeling empowered and terrified at the same time, as she didn’t know how to control the narrative or how to respond to and manage what was happening.
Paula had a small following of a few hundred friends and acquaintances, but since she went viral she has found herself with 2k+ followers on Tik Tok and Instagram, many of whom she doesn’t know.
After a bad personal experience on a date, Paula created a short video about consent. She posted it to raise awareness, and expected a few of her friends to see it, but it went viral, with 100,000 views within 24 hours, and 1 million views within 3 days. She only posted the video on one platform but it was saved and uploaded to other platforms, including some that she does not have an account for, where it went viral again.
Identity-based abuse, bullying
When her video went viral, Paula felt completely overwhelmed by the response. Dozens of people were commenting that they felt empowered by what she posted. At the same time, she was receiving loads of hateful comments which were upsetting and made her question herself and what she had posted. These comments were degrading and blamed Paula for her experience, and sometimes referred to her appearance. She also received some hurtful video responses which made fun of her original video.
Paula was initially not sure how to report the abuse. She thought she figured it out, but hasn’t heard from the platform since. She was upset that she had to spend more time working out how to respond than it took her to create the original video. The video had been shared, saved and re-uploaded in so many ways that deleting it didn’t seem like it would stop the abuse.
Paula's experience felt like a wake up call in that she realised she needed to change her privacy and security settings and learn how to report abuse. She started doing some research and read other people experiencing harassment on the platform. This made her feel part of a new community of people who have been through the experience, but she also felt more nervous about expressing her opinions and calling out bad behaviour.