There are moments that the photography community on social media really comes through for one another, and this is one of them. 20 year old budding photographer Breana Marrero-Welch of Augusta, Georgia found herself and her business, Easy Breezy Photography, in the crosshairs of hundreds of cyberbullies when an Instagram user from some apparent truck-loving seedy underbelly of the website, @the.real.john.sema.2, stole and posted one of her photographs with trash-talking commentary. She contacted the account’s owner and asked for her copyrighted material to be taken down, and that’s when things turned sour.
The Instagram user posted a screenshot of her request as well as a screenshot of her personal Facebook account in a separate post and unleashed his 65.1k followers on her (reported by her local area’s news channel as 60k just days ago, one can only hope they were rounding the number and this incident hasn’t fed his following.)
From there, she began receiving all manner of hateful messages from his followers, was body-shamed, received death threats, told she should be killed and was doxxed – her address was posted publicly. Then they went for her business Facebook page. Within 15 minutes of this person sending their followers after her, she had received hundreds of one star reviews on her business page, bringing her rating from 4.8 stars that she had earned working down to 1.9 with made-up garbage.
Comments ranged from absurd to hateful or disgusting to simply, ego-bolsteringly, naming the man who sent them.
Fortunately, this is not the end of the story. Local news channel WJBF picked up her story and the link began to circulate among photography groups on Facebook. Understandingly sympathetic and outraged, thousands of photographers have answered the cyberbullies’ hundreds of one star reviews with thousands of four and five star reviews of their own, bringing her rating up to 4.7 – just one decimal point from where it was before this hellish ordeal began.
The outpouring of support has helped Breana stand strong against her attackers as she seeks legal recourse against the defamation and other awfulness. The posts have reportedly been removed from the John Sema Instagram, though one wouldn’t know without following since he’s locked his page down, with new follows requiring a request.
As easy as it would have been to crumble under such cruelty, Breana has fought back, and now has thousands of photographers by her virtual side. No one deserves to be abused for having the nerve to speak up for themselves. It’s especially wrong to prey on someone for their size. People who have been plus-sized since childhood are usually well acquainted with bullying and it’s bad enough to have endured it from children. This treatment being dished out by supposed adults is sad, on the insulter’s part especially. I’m very pleased to see the outpouring of support the photographic community has offered Breana, and am happy to see her stand proud in knowing she is not the problem here. How does the internet continually bring out the worst in some people? What would you have done in her position?