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Cheryl has spoken out about her crippling anxiety and online trolling - and we salute her for it

Her revelation comes as Instagram announced two anti-cyberbullying features.

09 Jul 2019

No one would say Cheryl's had it easy. After all, she has endured 17 years of public criticism, delving into every aspect of her life, including a very public marital breakdown and endless speculation over her appearance and her weight. Yep, there's no denying that the Newcastle-born pop singer has suffered more than her fair share of invasive commentary as well as a chronic lack of privacy. And now, she's had enough.

Last week, Cheryl spoke out on BBC Radio 1 Life Hacks on the immense pressure she experienced during the height of her fame, as well as the crippling toll it took on her mental health.

Speaking to podcast hosts Katie Thistleton and Cel Spellman, Cheryl said, "I would walk out to a wall of paparazzi but inside I was dying" going on to explain how she would force a fake smile leaving her feeling mentally exhausted. As well as delivering a heart-felt and very emotive account of her experience, there were a number of things that stood out as particularly admirable during her appearance. We take a look at some of the poignant moments...

She wants us all to talk more

It comes as welcome relief to hear such a high-profile celebrity like Cheryl open up so honestly and eloquently about mental health - and the singer encourages us all to do the same. "I think it’s vital that we start talking about mental health more. I think before the conversation started, no one spoke about mental health at all. It wasn’t understood. It was hard to say what you were feeling inside because you thought it was crazy or not normal, and that people weren’t going to understand how you felt."

She's social media savvy

Not only that, but Cheryl offered shrewd insights into the perils of social media - a common source of insecurity and low self-esteem for many in our smart-phone obsessed culture. "With social media, people put on this face and this facade of how they are," she said on the podcast. "And then everybody looks around like, ‘why does everybody look like their having a good time and in a happy place and I feel like rubbish.” That’s not helpful. If people would just be a bit more open and honest with what they’re feeling, whatever that issue is, then I think we could all help each other."

Cheryl also admitted that she is not a fan of the "like" function on social media platforms, saying, "basing your self worth on whether somebody likes a photograph is dangerous, and just not factual. I’ve found myself scrolling through Instagram and finding pictures I like, but I haven’t pressed the like button, I just kept on scrolling. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it or I didn’t like what I saw, it just means that I didn’t press like. I don’t know what the like button is doing there to be honest. It’s just making people feel horrible." We totally agree with you on that one, Cheryl.

She has endless empathy

Internet trolling is one of the hardest things to control, and no one understands the impact it can have more than Cheryl. "Before social media, if you were being at bullied at school, you would go home at the end of the day. You would be with your parents and family and loved ones, and you could feel safe," she says. "Now, it doesn’t stop for them. They go home and they're still being bullied online, or they’re comparing themselves online to the other girl or guy at school. It doesn’t stop and it’s scary."

Her fans support each other

Cheryl also told the Radio 1 hosts how her followers support one another, and it seems she's used her platform to provide a safe space for people on social media. "My fans, they all help each other out, they DM each other. All someone has to do is comment, 'I feel like rubbish'. And that makes me really proud that they’re like a little team. Social media can be a help in that respect." Surely that is what social media should be used for, right?

Cheryl's revelation comes as Instagram revealed it is announcing two new features designed to reduce bullying on Instagram, and to help people feel safe and protected on the platform. The updates are:

Restrict: This allows you to protect your account from unwanted interactions, including in comments and direct messages. If you restrict someone they aren’t notified and therefore the situation won’t be escalated if you have to interact with that person in real life.

Comment Warning: A new feature that notifies people when their comment may be considered offensive before it’s posted. The aim is to encourage people to pause and reflect on a potentially hurtful comment before posting it. We have started rolling out this new feature.

The updates are just two examples of how Instagram is investing in developing the best tools and technologies to support their community and prevent bullying.