Topic: Health

Native Affairs Summer Series – Half a million views sparks online trolls

By Wepiha Te Kanawa
  • Auckland

It's tough enough being bullied online. But imagine what it's like when your video has gone viral, clocking up half a million views. A group of young boxers, who posted a training video online, found out some people can be downright ugly.

One of those young people was 20-year-old Talia Smith. She and the young girls she mentors at her mum's boxing gym in Auckland were attacked by cyberbullies last April. One of the girls was only 7 years old.

Native Affairs spoke with Talia and her mother last year.

Talia is the daughter of former Welterweight Champion Daniella Smith. Not surprisingly, boxing has always been a way of life for her.

“It wasn't really a choice, I've been brought up around it since I was three and it was kind of just my pathway,” she says.

Talia is a mentor for a boxing programme developed by her mum called 'Kaiārahi Tēina', where the ‘baby’ fighters are paired with older mentors. This helps them develop their skills and confidence.

Talia says she needs boxing because it helps her cope with her mental health illness, as she suffers from depression.

“In the simplest way of trying to put it," she says.  It’s like "you want to try to live, but your body is wanting to die. That's basically it.”

The boxing gym is a place where Talia doesn't have to worry. But last April she and the girls suffered a blow to their confidence when they were bullied online, after a video of them training was uploaded to Facebook and had half a million views.

While the girls received mostly positive comments, they also had to read hateful, mean, posts.

“They would just say real horrible things that didn't really matter.  They'd pick on certain things like our technique, the way we look, just like real stupid things that wouldn't really matter," she says.

As tough as the girls are, the remarks were hurtful, especially for Talia.

“I kind of got upset about the fact they were talking about my teammates like that. That was the thing that got me the most. It's not nice having random people online and they're saying these things about you. Horrible things for no reason,” she says.

Daniella tried to hide the negative comments to protect the girls.

“It was really hard at first hearing people putting the girls down. I'm a bIg girl I can handle it, I don't care. But I really struggled with what they were saying about my boxers."

She says, “I just didn't understand how people could be so horrible and say such negative things. I had one woman in America putting down my little 7-year-old boxer. I thought, who does that?'”

Mental Health advocate and comedian Mike King reached out to the girls and helped them deal with the adverse effects of bullying.

Talia says it was “one of the most amazing experiences listening to his story and being able to relate from it. It was really cool.”

She says she's learnt to ignore the haters and focus on her next fight.

Daniella encouraged the girls to use the criticism to help them become better, stronger, fighters.

“A lot of it is believing in yourself. You see it in their eyes when you ask them something and every now and again you get that look of doubt. You think, 'No. Believe in yourself!'”

And Daniella has a simple message for the bullies of the world.

“Haters make you better people, haters make you stronger, thank you to the haters.”