Meghan Markle on Social Media Hate: ‘It’s Not Catty, It’s Cruel’

Meghan Markle spoke candidly about the harms and toxicity of social media during a panel at SXSW in Austin on Friday, recalling the hate she received from commenters online particularly while she was pregnant with her two children.

“I keep my distance from it right now just for my own well-being,” Markle told the panel, which also featured Katie Couric, Brooke Shields, and Nancy Wang Yuen. “But the bulk of the bullying and abuse I was experiencing in social media and online was when I was pregnant with Archie and with Lily. You think about that, to really wrap your head around why people would be so hateful. It’s not catty, it’s cruel.”

Markle, speaking on International Women’s day, discussed the need for reform from social platforms, particularly pointing toward female executives at those companies. She also addressed concern about negativity she sees particularly from other women online.

“This [panel] is being streamed on one of those platforms, people are going to have access to all of this brilliance and insight,” Markle said, appearing to refer to YouTube, which livestreamed the talk. She added, “At the same time it’s a platform that has quite a bit of hate and rhetoric and incentivizes people to create pages where they can churn out very inciting comments and conspiracy theories that can have a tremendously negative affect on somebody’s mental health, their physical safety.”

“There are women that are at the highest executive level who are great champions of women and they’re working in these spaces and yet they’re allowing this behavior to run rampant,” Markle continued. “At a certain point they have to put the dos behind the says and make changes on a systemic level. We’ve forgotten about our humanity. I understand a lot of money is being made, but even if it’s making dollars, it doesn’t make sense.”

Markle’s comments come at a time of increased scrutiny toward the major tech and social media companies, particularly regarding misinformation and negative impact on mental health for young users.

Shields and Couric affirmed Markle’s comments, with Shields highlighting a need for change for young women online. “Social media was not around when all the vitriol was being hurled at me and my mother. Had their been social media, it might’ve just disintegrated me,” Shields said. “We have to make sure we look right behind us and bring up these young women who want to cancel out that messaging and only go toward the positive. There’s no function in the negativity.”


Couric similarly called out the major tech platforms, casting doubt that they’ll make significant changes to combat harmful content.

“I sense in the a zeitgeist a real uprising of people saying ‘enough.’ These tech companies aren’t going to do much,” she said. “It’s clear their bottom line is much more important than the mental health of American kids.”