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Session 237: Cyberbullying & Online Harassment

The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.

Our experiences in spaces like social media are heavily impacted by our identities and how we show up in the world. While this can be the grounds for increased connections and networks, it can also be the basis for things like racialized cyber bullying and harassment. Joining me today to dig deeper into what these experiences look like online and how we might be impacted are Dr. Brendesha Tynes and Dr. Danielle Hairston. During our conversations we chatted about what radicalized cyberbullying and harassment might look like online, how it impacts young people, how it might impact our mental health, and how we can support ourselves and loved ones who might have had these experiences.


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Session 237: Cyberbullying & Online Harassment

Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 237 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We'll get right into the episode after a word from our sponsors.


Dr. Joy: Our experiences in spaces like social media are heavily impacted by our identities and how we show up in the world. While this can be the grounds for increased connections and networks, it can also be the basis for things like racialized cyber bullying and harassment. Joining me today to dig deeper into what these experiences look like online, and how we might be impacted, is Dr. Brendesha Tynes. Dr. Tynes is an associate professor of education and psychology and founding director of the Center for Empowered Learning and Development with Technology at the University of Southern California. She's a developmental psychologist whose research focuses on the racial landscape adolescents navigate in online settings, online racial discrimination, digital equity in schools, digital literacy, and the design of digital tools that empower students.

A little later, you'll also hear from Dr. Danielle Hairston who's the Director of Residency Training in the Department of Psychiatry at Howard University College of Medicine and a practicing psychiatrist in the Division of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland.

During our conversations, we chatted about what racialized cyber bullying and harassment might look like online, how it impacts young people, how it might impact our mental health, and how we can support ourselves and loved ones who might have had these experiences. If there's something that resonates with you while enjoying our conversations, please share it with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession. Here's our conversation.

Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Tynes.

Dr. Tynes: Oh, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Dr. Joy: I'm very excited to chat with you because I know there has been so much going on related to just everything with like the social media platforms and everything in the digital space, so I know that you will have a wealth of information to share with us.

Dr. Tynes: Yes, I'm excited to talk about my work.

Dr. Joy: Indeed. Can you start by maybe just telling us a little bit about what you do as a developmental and educational psychologist, and how your work touches the digital experience?

Dr. Tynes: Developmental psychologists are more interested in changes in development over time and across different life stages and these changes might be social, cognitive, emotional, physical. Whereas the educational psychologist in me would apply theories of human development to teaching and learning and we're more interested in the range of factors that might impact learning processes, be they social, cognitive, or emotional. And so my questions as a developmental psychologist might be more geared toward understanding how online experiences are associated with mental health outcomes over time, academic performance over time. And then as an educational psychologist, I'm more interested in blended learning types of experiences or remote and online learning and how those experiences might be associated with mental health outcomes.

Dr. Joy: Got it. Okay, I think many of us have an understanding of what bullying looks like in person and in real life, but now that a lot of people have connections to mobile devices and computers, we have seen a rise in cyber bullying. Can you just say a little bit about what cyber bullying is and some of the race based cyber bullying that you've been studying?

Dr. Tynes: Yes. I actually cover a range of online victimization experiences, so general types of cyber bullying that often include repeated experiences and in some cases a power imbalance. And then there's online racial discrimination where you might be demeaned or denigrated or excluded because of your race in some sort of online environment or via text. And then there's also traumatic events online which we think are different than online racial discrimination, and it's witnessing viral videos of state or police violence. Seeing police killing of an unarmed black person or witnessing an immigrant being placed in a cage. When we talk about cyber bullying, sometimes we tend to lump all of those experiences together, but we try to make a distinction in the work that I do.

Dr. Joy: Got it. When you're talking about like cyber bullying, let's stick with the first category that you mentioned. People kind of making racial comments or those kinds of things, are these typically people that know one another or is this somebody that is like unknown to the victim?

Dr. Tynes: We've seen that it's both. It could be people that they just might encounter, say for example, when they're watching a YouTube video and reading the comments and then it also could be people from school that they may know. And so it varies.

Dr. Joy: In your work, you've identified that adolescents of color are most likely to be the ones that suffer from online victimization. Can you say more about that work?

Dr. Tynes: Yes. We actually stopped administering our measures that assess online racial discrimination and traumatic events online to white populations, just because we found early on that some white kids didn't even know their race. And when we would ask them about racial discrimination, they would say one time this British person was making fun of Americans. And so we were like, okay, we're talking about apples and oranges here.

But early on, in the first study of online racial discrimination and psychological adjustment, for example, we found that black high school students experienced online racial discrimination. Twenty nine percent of the sample experienced online racial discrimination whereas only 20% of whites said that they had those experiences. Now again, they aren't able to recognize what's racial discrimination and so that number could be inflated a bit.

Dr. Joy: Did the research really talk about like how this was impacting the young people?

Dr. Tynes: Yes. Early on, we never published this study, but we show that online racial discrimination was not associated with any of our mental health outcomes for white children. I've been studying this topic for 20 years and we've consistently found that online racial discrimination is associated with depressive symptoms, we've seen it associated with anxiety and, more recently, we've done studies where it's actually associated with suicide ideation. And so we're hoping to get that manuscript submitted very soon because of this rise that we're finding with black youth and suicide.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. You know, Dr. Tynes, I read something that you wrote I think a couple of years ago, around parents and adults have concerns around screen time related to devices. But really, this is a greater concern, the cyberbullying that children and adolescents might be experiencing online.

Dr. Tynes: Absolutely. I argued in that New York Times piece that just being on a screen does not tell us a whole lot about people's mental health outcomes. I think because a lot of times black kids in particular may have positive experiences with race where they're interacting with other black people, they are supporting one another, they’re learning how to critique and resist racism, and so in some instances their screen time is really beneficial. And we've actually found that connecting with other black people online for adolescents is associated with increased empathy over time. We have both these positive and negative outcomes that can result from the time that people spend in front of screens.

Dr. Joy: Do you have suggestions for maybe how parents or adults can talk with their young people about whether these kinds of instances are happening or whether they might even be perpetrators or some of this?

Dr. Tynes: Yes. My main recommendation is for parents to make sure that they have open lines of communication with their children and to also make sure that their children trust them with their secrets. And I want to make sure that parents aren't going to take away the students’ devices if they find out that they're online and having these experiences. Because the answer isn't to take away the devices, it's how do we give the young person strategies to cope with the experiences once they happen. Or making their settings so that they're not automatically, for example, seeing these traumatic events, seeing a police killing that comes up on their timelines. And so helping them also to put the messages in historical context and showing them how we as black people have been resilient and we've been able to overcome having these types of experiences for centuries and so this is another thing that we're going to get through. Those are my main recommendations.

Dr. Joy: I appreciate you sharing that historical context because that is like where the world is now. We know historically racial discrimination and stuff was much more in real life. And of course that still happens, but there is this whole new world that technology has opened up that adds to what that can look like now.

Dr. Tynes: Yes, absolutely.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. Dr. Tynes, I'm wondering if you have seen, either through your work or just through research that you've done from other people, if there is a difference between the social media platforms. Because it seems like younger people are drawn to platforms like TikTok and Snapchat and maybe not so much like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Does the bullying look different from platform to platform?

Dr. Tynes: We haven't done any studies looking at differences across platforms but there have been several studies that suggest that girls might be more interested in more of the visual types of platforms like Instagram and then we've consistently found that larger percentages of black people are interested in social media platforms like Twitter. And so the experiences that we've asked our participants about, we haven't noticed differences across platforms but in the early 2010s, our participants were more likely to experience online racial discrimination via Facebook and also through texts. We just have data on the spaces where people are more likely to witness online racial discrimination but we don't have data on the nature of the experiences and how they might differ across platforms.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, recently in the news, we are hearing more about like how some of these platforms impact self-esteem. All the information that came out around the Instagram for teens that they were trying to create and how teens actually don't necessarily have great experiences, it actually makes them feel worse about themselves after spending time on the platform. It feels like just so much more to learn there.

Dr. Tynes: We're starting to find out about algorithmic bias and I created a scale of algorithmic bias that includes using these filters to make yourself look more...

Dr. Joy: Yes, yes.

Dr. Tynes: And so we're trying to see if those taking a pic with these filters, if it's associated with psychological functioning and racial identity over time. And we did a daily diary study, I'm so excited about this data. It's a daily diary study of algorithmic bias, traumatic events online, racial discrimination, and then positive online messages about their race. And we're trying to see how those different types of experiences might be associated with depressive symptoms and anxiety across the seven-day period and then also how their racial identity might fluctuate.

Dr. Joy: Oh, that sounds like it'll be very interesting. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about adolescents but we know that as adults, we also have experiences online. Something that often comes up... and we've had a lot of conversations with black women on the podcast who have really had to limit like their use of some of the platforms and being online because of the bullying and the name calling and all of those things. Can you talk a little bit about what this might look like for adults?

Dr. Tynes: Yes. I have been doing this research, like I said, 20 years and I have yet to forget an image or a video. And I've had trouble myself looking at videos, especially of police killings and so I put my settings so that these videos aren't automatically playing because it could steal a whole day or week of productivity for me. We're finding that for emerging adults, 18 to 24, when they are witnessing these viral videos of police killings, it’s associated with PTSD symptoms. I should say that when they have increased liberatory media literacy (it's a type of critical media literacy where people can critique racism) there's no association between the traumatic event online and PTSD symptoms.

Dr. Joy: Really?

Dr. Tynes: Yes.

Dr. Joy: So how would that work? Like what kind of skill would you need to not have that impact you?

Dr. Tynes: You would need to know about systemic racism, you would need to place messages in historical context, you would need to know something about possibly white supremacy, you would need to have also a range of ways to cope. And so we didn't assess coping but we think because people who are emerging adults may have more of a toolkit for managing racist experiences, we think that may be another reason why their critical media literacy experiences are a buffer. But definitely, for the experiences that we did assess explicitly, like being able to critique racism–recognize it and critique it–we're showing that it's a definite buffer.

Dr. Joy: Got it. I’m wondering if there's something that you can speak to about why black women, black trans people, some of the people who are most marginalized in culture, often are targets for some of this behavior online.

Dr. Tynes: I think because so often black women are the moral compass of platforms and they're the ones pointing out injustice. When you're vocal about injustice, when you're able to resist, people find that threatening and so, unfortunately, they get targeted more often. They are resilient and have strategies for managing these experiences and we see them sort of modeling for other people how to manage the trolls that they might encounter, how to manage the racism. They're always the people to watch.

Dr. Joy: Right, and often that comes at our detriment. That’s why I said so many of us have had to limit either time or put all these kinds of things in place to like try to stop people from being able to respond to you. It really has become another job of figuring out just how to protect your peace when you're engaging online, I think, for a lot of people.

Dr. Tynes: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Dr. Joy: Are there any resources that you would suggest for people who want to kind of read more about the kinds of things that you research?

Dr. Tynes: Yes. Some of my work is open access, so the article in the Journal of Adolescent Health on traumatic events online and mental health outcomes. Child Development recently published an article on online racial discrimination over time and if it's not available now, it will be. If they can do Google Scholar, most of my manuscripts should come up. And if they can't access the full article, then they can email me and I can send it to them.

Dr. Joy: Perfect. And what is your website, Dr. Tynes, and any social media handles that you’d want to share?

Dr. Tynes: On Twitter, I'm @Brendesha and for my website it’s the Rossier site, I don't have a personal website.

Dr. Joy: Okay, we have that, we'll include that. Perfect. Thank you so much, Dr. Tynes, I really appreciate you sharing this with us today.

Dr. Tynes: Thank you. This was really a wonderful conversation.


Dr. Joy: Recently, HBO Max released a documentary called 15 Minutes of Shame that digs into the culture around online harassment and bullying and the impact it can have on those who've experienced it. I was particularly struck by Taylor Dumpson’s story as a young sister who at the time was a student at American University, who experienced despicable threats and harassment after being elected as the first black woman president of their student government. She shared that following these experiences, it was very triggering to even be on campus and that she was diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety. It seems that when harassment occurs online, people tend to minimize it and encourage people to just walk away from the device, but it's not always that easy. Joining me now to talk about how cyber bullying and harassment can impact our mental health is Dr. Dani.

Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for joining me today, Dr. Dani.

Dr. Dani: Thank you Dr. Joy for having me, I'm like fangirling over here that I'm actually talking to you. You are an inspiration and an influencer for all things black girls and mental health, so I’m excited to be here.

Dr. Joy: Oh, I love it! Thank you so much for those kind words. I appreciate you joining me today to talk about this really important topic. It feels really important to also be talking with you as you're the director of the residency program at Howard and so, a little later, I want to get into how you’re training your students to like do some of this new work. Because it feels like with the advent of and the increases in technology, and especially social media, it has really opened up the world in terms of connections, but it has also opened up the world in terms of like harassment and bullying.

We know that in particular, black women (it seems like) experience this unique kind of flavor of disrespect and harassment. Can you say a little bit about the ways that you have seen black women experience things like cyber bullying and racial harassment?

Dr. Dani: It's a dichotomy because you and I use social media, diverse media, for our benefits–to educate people, to connect people, to network, so there's the positive side. But then there's the negative side as well and it seems like black women seem to get the worst of things. Especially when there's a lot going on with body shaming, I think that's huge. A lot of comparing others, like why don't you look like this? Why is her hair like this? Why are you doing that to your hair? Why do you look like this? And just coming for them, if you will. “Coming for them” in quotes. I think that this is something that I notice a lot on the Twitter. A lot of people just feeling like they have the ability to just comment on every aspect of every single thing that you say. And I think that it's something that black women go through the most and I think that it's something that black women experience. It can be a lot and it can weigh upon people.

Dr. Joy: It sometimes feels like people don't pay attention to or really recognize that these are actual people on the other side of the computer. And so there are real ramifications and consequences for people who have experienced this type of harassment and bullying–can you say a little bit about how that might impact their mental health?

Dr. Dani: It can be as extreme as people being driven to having suicidal thoughts, suicidal ideations, that's something that we've seen. I mean that's something I'm sure that your listeners and you have also seen posts about, like people who have been bullied, children even who have been bullied to the extent that they either have attempted to take their lives, have taken their lives, or have at least thought about that. That's the extreme level.

Then there's also those who it drives you to lose sleep, people lose their appetite, people start... you know, just like any other stressor. Social media, although (like I said) I can find it to be very helpful and beneficial and educational, but it can also be a stressor, it can also be a trigger, it also can be a source of anxiety and depression so we really have to be careful with it. The things that you see with depression, the things that you see with traumatic disorders like PTSD or acute stress disorder–loss of sleep, inability to concentrate. When you see people whose lives are being distressed by these issues, like they're not able to go to work, they're not able to engage with people on a normal level, they're not interested in the same thing, that they're just being encompassed by social media and the attacks or the comments.

Dr. Joy: I want to spend a little more time here because you've been doing a lot of work advocating for the inclusion of media-based distress and media-based trauma in the DSM. Can you talk a little bit more about this term? Because I think a lot of people think about social media as frivolous and not necessarily something that could lead to somebody experiencing symptoms like a PTSD. I want to hear more about the term that you're talking about in terms of media-based distress and your thinking for why it should be included in something like the DSM.

Dr. Dani: The DSM was created years and years and years ago, we have multiple versions and you're changing with the times, and they change the diagnoses based on the culture and things. And I think in this time where we have social media and diverse media, we really have to think about how things are felt vicariously, whether that is racism, whether that is bullying. It does not always have to be this direct thing that we've been discussing in DSM 5 when we talk about the diagnostic criteria, like what is actually a trigger for PTSD or another acute stress disorder. We have to change what we're thinking about. Times are changing and we have to change the way that we diagnose and the way that we assess.

Now, if someone is on their phone constantly–especially for those who social media is a means of employment or getting their coins, who have to check social media frequently–to be constantly bombarded with negative comments, with hurtful statements, it's hurtful. And I've actually talked to creators, like creators on YouTube who've had to deal with negative comments constantly. And I think that a lot of times people will see you on screen but don't think about them as an actual person and they are an actual person who can go through depressive episodes, who can be traumatized, who can be triggered, who are not able to just let things go, especially when it's constantly happening.

I think that being able to create content, you are bringing your talents, right? You’re bringing your talents to an audience, you're trying to inform people, you're trying to empower people. Also, you're trying to show off your talents or your art or your skills, and that's a privilege. And for you to be attacked constantly or to be scrutinized constantly or criticized constantly, that can weigh on people. And when media is the source of this, that's where we get to the point where media can be traumatic, where social media can be traumatic. Where this constant barrage of comments over text, of questioning you, questioning your worth, questioning your skills, questioning your art or your talent, it can really weigh on someone.

So we can't say that, “oh, it's only if you experience this, that's the only definition of trauma.” Because as we see, a lot of things can result in trauma and we really have to come to a change and we really have to level up. There was a time when homosexuality was a mental health diagnosis in the DSM, which of course we know is completely unacceptable. You know, when we've looked at things changing then, we have to look at things changing now as well and look at how media affects, especially the younger generations.

Dr. Joy: I would like to move into some of the interventions. What would you tell somebody who is struggling with like maybe post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms or things like depression and anxiety related to harassment or some experiences they've had online?

Dr. Dani: One thing about me, Dr. Joy, my block game is strong. Let me tell you, I'll block you, I’ll block your mother, your cousin too, whoever it is, because I don't need that. Again, it's a privilege for you to see the content that I'm producing for you. It's a privilege for someone to bring you into their life and try to relate to you and create relatable content and educate or entertain, whether you're singing or teaching. If someone is attacking you, you can block them, you can turn off commenting if you need to.

And also, let other people do some heavy lifting for you. Let other people. If they want to go back and forth, your friends, if they want to comment, okay. If they want to stand up for you, they want to advocate for you, that's fine. But know that you do not have to respond to everything. And I think that is probably the most powerful thing you can do, is not give them a response. That stops people even more in their tracks, by not giving a response. Everything does not deserve a response and everything does not deserve your energy.

If you do respond, respond with awareness and advocacy, respond with purpose and intention. Know what you're going to say, don't just clap back and start cussing and things. Because you know, everything on these internets, on the interweb, stays. Especially if you're trying to build your brand or build whoever you are or what you represent, you don't want something that's going to be sticking around and floating around or becoming a meme forever. So if you do respond, respond with purpose, with awareness, intention.

I think it's also important for people to decompress. Like whether it's a racist or a hateful interaction, decompress. And decompressing will be different for everyone but some things are a must. Like closing the app, close the app and walk away. Some people think that this is trivial but counting to 10 is also helpful even if it sounds childish. Counting to 10, just taking some deep breaths and walking away from what it is that is triggering you or upsetting you. Remind yourself of why you're here, of how you got here, of what you did, your accomplishments big and small. When someone is attacking you and coming for your character, you can really say, “I know who I am, I know that this person doesn't know me. I know what I'm about. I know my purpose.”

Deep breathing and music can also be helpful approaches. I think that how you decompress changes based on who you are. But maybe it's discussing things with your family, discussing things with your friends. Or if it's coming to the point where it's really damaging you, it's causing distress in your life, you're not able to go on with your regular activities of living and it's hampering your life, talk to a professional.

Dr. Joy: More from my conversation after the break.


Dr. Joy: Dr. Dani, I have had conversations with people where it has gotten to that point. People who maybe make their living doing maybe influencer work or doing something that involves them being on screen or being active on social media channels. And they will have anxiety about like even opening the app or like really, really worried about what's going to be in their DMs when they get there. And so it interferes with their ability to even create a life for themselves and take care of themselves. Can you talk a little bit about, professionally, how you might work with a client who maybe came in with some of those struggles?

Dr. Dani: Sure. It's distressing. It's not for me or any other mental health professional to say like, oh, it's just social media or what you're going through isn't a big deal. Because as I said, and as you said, this is how people make ends meet. This is how people are funded, this is how they make their coins, this is how they literally get paid and put food on the table for themselves and their family, so it is a huge issue. First is to acknowledge that this is a big issue, not to dismiss it, not to say, oh, this is just Instagram or this is just Twitter or you are a TikTok star or whatever. This is what is important to someone's life, so first you have to acknowledge what is going on and that this is having an impact on them. I think that's the most important.

And then I would have to address it the same way I address all issues, whether it's postpartum depression or infidelity or cheating or a medical issue that's causing you stress. We have to really open up our minds and open up our practices and our treatment plans to understanding that these things are issues, it's complex. I think it's important that we acknowledge and also we treat and we attack the symptoms that they're presenting with. I don't believe... in my treatment and in my practice, yes, diagnoses are important, but I really try to understand what is the biggest thing distressing my patients. What is the issue? Is it causing you a lack of sleep? Then I'm going to talk about your sleep. Is it causing you to have palpitations? Is it causing you to have headaches? Like what is going on so that we can address it head on so you can move on with your life because these things can be very distressing.

Dr. Joy: I would like to hear, Dr. Dani, a little bit about how you are training your residents to do some of this new work. I think a lot of us are kind of building the foundation as we teach in a lot of ways, there is no manual for like some of these things that the field hasn't necessarily kept up with. Can you talk a little bit about how you're infusing maybe some of this into your training with your residents?

Dr. Dani: Yes. First, I tell them to take a look at themselves. I happen to be a program director, a teacher and educator who uses social media. I'm very into using diverse media, whether it's film and documentaries, whether it's social media to inform people about what we're doing at Howard and in our program. But also take a look at yourself. Take a look at how you're taking care of yourself. What does wellness look like for you so that you can understand what wellness needs to look like for others. I really ask them to start with the basics and build a foundation for what people should know and what people need to know, and understanding why they're seeking help.

And I try to make sure that my residents and students understand that there's not just one approach. There's not just therapy; there's also medication, there's also social support, there's a self-assessment. You might need to bring in music, you might need to bring in yoga, exercise, food, relaxation, whatever it is. But I try to make sure that they understand patients and people not as just that picture that you see right there in your office or in the emergency room. Like truly try to understand people holistically and what they're dealing with in total, and understanding all the factors that are acting upon them. And understanding, especially for those who are living in this age where social media is important, where it drives your wares, how you promote yourself or just how you market yourself. Understand the large impact that it has on them.

I think it's easier, and luckily I have that advantage that I am younger than some of my more senior seasoned colleagues who don't have that same connection to social media. I understand really the intricacies of what it's like to receive these comments all the time, what it's like when people will perceive or talk about your weaknesses or character flaws that they perceive–that's their perception. I really get my residents to think about the people (their patients) as a whole, not just as a diagnosis.

Dr. Joy: You know, Dr. Dani, as we're talking, I'm thinking it could be helpful to even have questions on like our intake forms about online behavior because I could imagine people maybe feeling a little hesitant. I mean, we know it’s already difficult to just come to a therapist or a psychiatrist’s office, but if you feel like I'm coming in talking about like “oh, I got harassed on YouTube,” I think for a lot of people they may worry that that isn't a valid concern. But it is a valid concern.

Dr. Dani: I agree. I work with a lot of college students and a lot of young adults and they come in talking about it, they're like, yes. I'm like, well, what's going on? Well, this person said this on Facebook and then I said this and this and this. I'm like, oh, okay. And they're very open about it because it's plays such a huge part in their lives that they don't hold back. But for those who are being harassed or feel that they are being traumatized or being triggered, they're not as open to it. Because I have my residents ask about racism and we talk about social justice in the media and how that impacts yourself, your parents, the older generations and how generational trauma is really perpetuated. But we need to add in social media in there too, because while we do have a lot of patients who are happy to talk about it, everyone is not as open so that is something valuable and beneficial.

Dr. Joy: Do you have other tips, Dr. Dani, just for us to manage our peace and promote peace for ourselves and establish healthy boundaries?

Dr. Dani: Something that has been helpful for me, and I also encourage my patients to do it, is turn off notifications. You no longer own your own time and I learned this actually from one of my assistants. It’s just selecting a time that you look at social media. Okay, when I wake up, I’m gonna check the news and I'm gonna check Instagram from 7:30 to 8:00 or something like that. Own that time, schedule that time so that it's not taking up all of your time throughout the day. Or if you only do it twice a day or you only do it in the evening, but somehow to compartmentalize that aspect so it's not taking over your entire day. Which I know can be a struggle, especially for those who are creators–who create content, who have small businesses. People are asking you questions in your DM and then if you don't answer them quick enough, they're writing a negative comment about you. It's challenging but you really have to find a balance that puts you first.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm.

Dr. Dani: And I think my biggest tip or take home is saying yes to yourself and protecting yourself first. Promoting peace for yourself is what's most important. Self-care is not just a spa day. It's self-preservation, it's self-protection, it's saying no, it's stepping back, it's turning off notifications. I have found great joy in taking off my work email notifications from my phone. Like just that relieved so much stress for me.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm, so important. I wonder if you could also share how we might be able to support family and friends who maybe have had an experience with being bullied or harassed online. Are there things that we can do to support the other people in our lives?

Dr. Dani: Yes. I think the first thing that we need to do, the same thing I was saying about my residents and students, is listen. Like actually listen to what they're saying. Don't minimize their experience, don't say it's just social media, it's not a big deal. Acknowledge that this is something serious and acknowledge that it actually has an impact. Acknowledge that and recognize that this is something that can be triggering, this is something that can be traumatizing.

And there's often stigma about even just having a conversation. Understand it's a huge step to even talk about mental health, to even talk about bullying, to even talk about the trauma that you're going through, so first go in with your listening ears. Actually listen, listen to what someone's saying, listen and learn, and don't listen to just have a response. And really ask them. Do check ins. I think that a lot of times people are like, oh, that's my strong friend. Or yeah, she looks great on social media, I don't need to check in on her. Or I don't need to check in on him or them. But check in on them. If they had shared something with you, they're big on social media, they've told you about bullying, check in on them. Check in on them and tell them when it's time to seek professional help.

Now I'm saying this and I know and you know, Dr. Joy, that access to mental health care, access to therapy is a privilege. And I know that it can be quite elitist and it's not always... Based on what resources you have, it’s not always the most readily available thing. But knowing when you are out of your league, knowing when you're not able to help, just listen. Listen with purpose and listen to try to understand what's happening.

Dr. Joy: What are your thoughts about like the different platforms and the way that harassment and bullying maybe looks?

Dr. Dani: My friends and I call Twitter the angry app because it seems like that's where people come to like vent, to attack. Again, there's great things like Black Twitter and the community and all of those things, but I think that Twitter has a space for foolishness because you can't delete someone's comment. Like I can't delete someone's calling... You know on Instagram, if someone says something, you can just go right ahead and delete it. I think on Twitter, it allows for the foolishness to continue, it allows for hateful comments to continue. Even though you can hide them from yourself, they're still there and other people can comment on them. Unless you delete your entire post, which you might not want to do if you were saying something important, something that you wanted others to engage with and you wanted to have some influence on. And I think that Twitter is the social media platform that allows for the most attacking and quick back and forth, sub tweeting and tweeting, and you can't prevent them from commenting. Or if you want to prevent someone from retweeting what you said, then you have to turn off retweeting for everything.

And I think that what we see on Instagram is a lot of like exposing people. I think they like to expose people and screenshot people, doing the doxing. Both on Twitter and Instagram, but I think that Instagram is more for like the “oh, I got this screenshot, like I got the receipts, you're gonna see this here.” But it's easier to block negativity on YouTube and on Instagram because you have the control to delete things on your own page. I actually appreciate when I see content creators or people posting and saying like “any negative comment, I will delete.” Like putting the boundary right there, like letting you know don't try it. But if you do, you're gonna be deleted.

Dr. Joy: Dr. Dani, let us know, where can people find you and keep up with you on the social media channels, like we've been talking?

Dr. Dani: On the socials, Dr. Joy, you can find me on Instagram and Twitter @ADocNamedDani. I also am the content creator behind a YouTube and Instagram platform called Black Psychiatry, which includes lots of black psychiatrists and other mental health professionals talking about all things black mental health for the community. Free, easily accessible, we have lots of content there. And also, I have my own podcast, it's called The Next 72 Hours. It's wherever you find your podcasts–Apple, Spotify, Google–and it's about racism, historical racism, current racism in mental health, in medicine, in psychiatry. So that's definitely something that I would appreciate your listeners listening to. And I have a website, it's

Dr. Joy: Perfect. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today, Dr. Dani.

Dr. Dani: Thank you.

Dr. Joy: I'm so thankful that Dr. Tynes and Dr. Dani were able to share their expertise with us today. To learn more about them and their work, be sure to visit the show notes at TherapyFor And don't forget to text two sisters right now and tell them to check out the episode. If you're looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at

And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Thank y’all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.


Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Sisterhood heals
Order Now

Looking for the UK Edition?
Order here

Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Looking for the UK Edition? Order here