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Meghan on ‘toxicity’ of social media: We have forgotten about our humanity

Meghan on ‘toxicity’ of social media: We have forgotten about our humanity

The Duchess of Sussex said we have lost our sense of humanity on social media, as she recalled the “cruel” comments aimed at her while she was pregnant with Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet.

Meghan led a keynote speech on International Women’s Day titled Breaking Barriers, Shaping Narratives: How Women Lead On And Off The Screen, alongside speakers including US actress Brooke Shields.

During the annual SXSW Conference, Meghan, 42, said that even though social media sites are “making dollars, it doesn’t make sense”, emphasising the “negative effect” on mental health and physical safety.

When asked how she tackled the “seemingly endless toxicity” aimed at her online, she said: “It is really interesting as I can reflect on it, I keep my distance from it right now for my own wellbeing, but the bulk of the bullying and abuse that I was experiencing on social media and online was when I was pregnant with Archie and with Lili.

“You just think about that and really wrap your head around why people would be so hateful – it is not catty, it is cruel.”

The former Suits actress said she found it “disturbing” that women were “spewing” hatred at each other online, adding: “I cannot make sense of that.”

“If you’re reading something terrible about a woman, why are you sharing it with your friends?” she said.

“Why are you choosing to put it out in the world, what if it was your friend, or your mum or your daughter, you wouldn’t do it.

“I think that is the piece that is so lost right now (with) what is happening in the digital space and in certain sections of the media – we have forgotten about our humanity and that has got to change.”

Meghan said that when she was 11 she wrote to Procter & Gamble and got an advert changed, from saying dishwashing liquid was for women, but for people all over America.

She said: “It’s funny to look back at it now as it was before social media, where you had a reach that was so much greater, it was just an 11-year-old with a pen and paper, but goes to show if you know there is something wrong and you’re using your voice to advocate for what is right, that (can) really land and resonate with people.

“Your voice is not small, it just needs to be heard.”

Shields joked: “This is one of the ways we’re different, when I was 11 I was playing a prostitute,” recalling her starring role in 1978 film Pretty Baby.

During the session, Meghan also emphasised that “representation matters”.

The Duke of Sussex
The Duke of Sussex is reportedly in Texas with his wife (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

“The key thing that I think needs to be focused on in terms of equity is it’s not a zero-sum game, just because someone else has the same advantage that you do doesn’t mean that you’re losing anything, and actually create an environment that is so inclusive, where people feel as if they have a seat at the table – as they should,” she said.

In an earlier session, Modern Family star Julie Bowen said that the Duke of Sussex was also at the event in Austin, Texas.

Meghan’s appearance comes as the Princess of Wales recovers from abdominal surgery in the UK, and Kate’s maternal uncle, Gary Goldsmith, appears on Celebrity Big Brother.

During his five days on the ITV reality show, Goldsmith told his housemates that Meghan put a “stick in the spokes” when she was first introduced to the royal family, creating “so much drama that I don’t generally think is there”.

The keynote speech was presented by Meghan and Harry’s The Archewell Foundation and The 19th, the national non-profit newsroom reporting on gender, politics and policy.