The Duchess of Sussex has revealed she was told last year that she was the “most trolled person in the entire world” in a podcast in which she opened up about the “almost unsurvivable” online abuse she has experienced.
Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry, joined three Californian high school students during an episode of their podcast, Teenager Therapy, and discussed topics including mental health stigma, self-care and online abuse.
The duchess said the Covid-19 pandemic, which has closed schools around the world, has meant more time online for many.
She told the hosts Gael, Kayla, and Thomas: “Yes, it’s a great way to connect, but it also ends up being a place where there’s a lot of disconnection, you know, I can speak personally to.
“I’m told that in 2019 I was the most trolled person in the entire world, male or female. Now, eight months of that I wasn’t even visible, I was on maternity leave or with a baby.
“But what was able to just be manufactured and churned out, it’s almost unsurvivable, that’s so big, you can’t think of what that feels like, because I don’t care if you’re 15 or 25, if people are saying things about you that aren’t true, what that does to your mental and emotional health is so damaging.”
Harry said people may hide behind user names on virtual spaces to project or say things they would not say in person.
“I think many, many people are hurting, a lot, and are freaking out because of the way the world is and because of, sometimes, the echo chamber that has been created for them by the online platform that they’ve chosen to be on,” he said.
“But also it comes down to control as well. You can control what you see, you can control what you do, so whether it’s notifications or whether it’s vibration ringtones, whatever it is, these things control you, rather than taking control.”
The broadcast was recorded earlier this week in the area of Santa Barbara where the Sussexes now live, and with everyone socially distanced and wearing masks.
It normally features five senior students from Loara high school in the Orange County city of Anaheim who have candid conversations about a range of topics from mental health, school and family to friendships and sexuality.
The pair discussed their coping strategies for anchoring their mental health. Harry told the hosts he meditated and Meghan that she wrote a journal.
The duke and duchess also marked International Day of the Girl on Sunday with a conversation with the activist Malala Yousafzai. In their video chat, Meghan said: “You know and this we believe as well, when young girls have access to education, everyone wins and everyone succeeds and it just opens the door for societal success at the highest level.”
Harry said: “To know there’s over 130 million girls out of education right now, before the pandemic, and the numbers are only going to go up, it worries me and it probably worries all of us, the effect that is going to have not just on the individual, but on the family, and community, for the country and the world at large.”
Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman at the age of 15 after campaigning for girls to be educated in her native Pakistan, set up the Malala Fund to raise awareness of the importance of girls’ education and in 2014 became the youngest-ever Nobel peace prize winner.
Asked by the activist about why she has advocated for women’s education, Meghan said: “Similar to you, I see something that is so critical to be addressed and so critical to be fixed and that by fixing that one thing, you end up fixing multiple problems.
“What I realised very early on was that when women have a seat at the table, conversations in terms of policy change, conversations in terms of legislation, certainly in terms of just the dynamics of the community are all shifted, and typically when a woman is present at the table, she’s going to be advocating for the entire family.”