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Sarah Ferguson understands all too well what it’s like to be pitted against another woman.
In an open letter published by Hello!, Ferguson spoke of the nasty comments that have become typical online and how, with people spending as much time as they do on devices, the way people speak to each other is making a concerning impact.
“It’s time to confront head on the fact that much of social media has become a sewer,” Ferguson wrote.
“Take a look at any website, and you’ll see extraordinarily abusive comments aimed not only at people in the public eye but also other internet users. Bullying, sniping, bitching, even the most appalling sexism, racism and homophobia are commonplace—it seems that online, anything goes.”
While the public figure did acknowledge some of the benefits of the internet, she also revealed that she usually avoids the comment sections of sites and on social media altogether.
Though Princess Diana died more than 20 years ago, the current digital times remind Ferguson of the way the public treated them all those years ago. “Women, in particular, are constantly pitted against and compared with each other in a way that reminds me of how people tried to portray Diana and me all the time as rivals, which is something neither of us ever really felt,” she wrote.
In 2007, Ferguson explained their relationship to Harper’s Bazaar, stating, “I really miss Diana. I loved her so much…Diana was one of the quickest wits I knew; nobody made me laugh like her. But because we were like siblings—actually, we were fourth cousins and our mothers, who went to school together, were also best friends—we rowed.”
Back then, she said she wrote letters to try and repair their friendship, a vast change from the swift way people can communicate today—for better or worse.
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“People feel licensed to say things online that they would never dream of saying to someone’s face, and that encourages others to pile in,” Ferguson wrote in her public letter. “It’s so ubiquitous that we’ve all become numb to what’s going on.”
In an effort to make a difference, she has endorsed the #HelloToKindness campaign with a call to anyone reading: “Let’s all try to think before we post. Let’s all try to treat each other a little more gently. Before starting an argument online, take a deep breath and try to respect someone else’s position. Where we see others behaving unacceptably, let’s call it out. It’s an old motto, but a good one: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”