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High school became a downer for Allyson Pereira after she hit "send" on a photo that was meant for her boyfriend's eyes only.
1. Are you currently active on Social Media? If yes, how has your online activity changed since the incident that changed your life?
Yes. I am often asked this question by parents and school administrators when I speak at their schools. I love social media. I use it all - Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat. I think that the important message is teaching cyber safety. My sister is six years younger than me, so I spent much of her high school years monitoring her social networks. We don't throw seventeen year olds behind the wheels of cars without education, practice, and tests yet we throw kids cell phones with access to the world wide web, which they can ruin their lives with, without any education.
2. What type of support did you seek in the aftermath of what happened to you?
After my picture went viral and I was bullied, I felt alone and scared. I was afraid to reach out for help because I didn't want to ruin my reputation or the image my parents had of me. When my parents did find out, it was great because they really helped me deal with what I went through. Looking back, telling my mom what was going on was the smartest thing I did. I also told my principal and school guidance counselor I was being bullied but they told me to "come back if it got physical." In many ways my school failed me but my family was there for me when my school wasn't.
3. If you had the chance to re-do the tweet/post that changed your life, what, if anything, would you do differently?
If I had the chance to go back in time I would never have sent the picture in the first place. I'm very lucky that I was able to turn such a terrible experience into a learning experience and have some "good" come from it but high school was awful for me. High school is supposed to be the four best years of your life. I couldn't wait to graduate. The picture and bullying altered every aspect of my life. I no longer could go away to college out of fear and because my grades had dropped, my dreams of becoming a doctor were gone, and I lost all of my self confidence because I pressed "send". One hundred percent I'd go back in time and never take the picture in the first place if I could.
4. What, if any, ramifications from your incident are you still experiencing today?
Because of my picture and my advocacy I have to be open and honest with all of my employers because a simple Google search shows all of the details of my past. I will never know what sites my picture is on and that's both scary and gross. I have no control over the picture. My entire life was altered because of the picture and while I'm happy with where I am today it's still hard. Anytime I do any interviews or television shows, the comments underneath the articles are almost always 70% negative. There are people calling me a whore, saying I shouldn't have sent the picture if I didn't want to deal with the repercussions, and saying I have "daddy issues." I don't have any issues. Yes, sending the picture was my fault. I take full responsibility for that, but I didn't and don't deserve to be bullied, torn apart, and reminded of my biggest mistake every day. The only reason I'm vocal is because I want to stop other teenagers from making the mistake I made.
5. Have you had any other life-changing incidents on the Internet since the one we profiled?
No, I haven't had any other Internet related experiences like the one I had.
6. What advice would you give to other people on managing social media?
My biggest advice would be to not take any compromising pictures or put anything in writing that you wouldn't be comfortable with everyone in the world seeing. Because that's how scary the Internet and social media can be; something you write or a picture you take can come back ten years later to haunt you.
7. What do you feel are positive aspects of the Internet (if any)?
As I've said, I love social media and the Internet. It's the twenty first century, social media isn't disappearing. There are so many positives; staying in contact, enjoyment, being able to look up anything with a click of a button. Social media and the internet helps make my life easier.