Social media has an ugly side that is so filtered and edited that many are unaware that it exists.

The majority of the population are on one social media network or another. We all come across the birthday celebrations, the throwback Thursdays and celebrity feuds that grace our screens at a click of a button. But these nostalgic pictures and pointless arguments are not the true representation of social media. In fact, while we are busy concerning ourselves over how many likes and followers we have, thousands of people are being incessantly bullied and hounded on a daily basis. Sophie Gradon was one such person, and her story reveals the real face of social media.

Sophie, who found fame on ITV’s Love Island in 2016, was found dead due to suicide in June of this year. Many of her co-stars from the show have said that the bullying from social media carries a large part of the blame for her choice to end her life.

Malin Andersson wrote on Twitter:

‘mental health is serious’ and ‘please rest in peace now’.

Last year’s winner, Amber Davies, wrote:

‘to all of those ugly trolls … who have nothing nice to say. THIINK before you speak a certain way to someone. We are all human. You never know what someone is going through’.

Sophie was open about suffering from mental health issues prior to Love Island and the social media bombardment seems to have had a catastrophic effect on her fragile state.

Many influencers have spoken out about online bullying, highlighting its horrific effects on people. But this is not enough. Sophie’s death must be the shocking wakeup-call we all need. We can no longer just ‘like’ a tweet and say we support anti-bullying and move on. We need to make a difference, change the restrictions on the comment sections on these platforms. Sophie Gradon is not just a news story that we forget about after a few weeks. She was a positive, happy and empowering woman that was swept up in the social media storm. Platforms that are designed to connect people have disconnected Sophie from everyone and everything, and this vicious pattern needs to change.

Sophie used her platforms to promote her growing business ventures, to share her thoughts and opinions, and to post heartfelt pictures of her boyfriend, Aaron Armstrong — who also sadly committed suicide following the tragedy of the reality star’s death. But what did Sophie receive in return for allowing her audience to see so much of her life? Constant abuse. For every tweet, Instagram and Snapchat that Sophie posted there would be an influx of trolls waiting to write awful and disgusting things for her to read.

Social media appears harmless. You might think that by virtue of sitting behind a screen the words you say don’t have the ability to hurt people; or that saying them online somehow rids you of responsibility. This is not so. Every troll, every person who chose to write those awful things is responsible for Sophie’s death. She is the real face of social media, as she represents the thousands of comments left each day that could have an equally damaging and deadly effect on any other vulnerable person like her.

Sophie’s story is not uncommon. If we don’t stand up and realise that the real face of social media is Sophie Gradon, then there will be many more faces alongside hers exposed to the same malicious tendencies of our favourite pastime.

My thoughts are with Sophie’s family and friends.

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