It was 5.50pm. Jordyn, her fiance, their children and their dog were packing up after an afternoon at the beach, as they did most afternoons. Jordyn was changing her two-year-old daughter, Winter, out of her soggy swimmers when she fell onto the sand.
Winter laughed and wandered down to the water to wash the sand off her hands. As the toddler made her way back up the beach, the 23-year-old from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast realised just how idyllic the scene was with the sun setting behind her daughter. So she took a photo, applied her pre-set filter and fiddled with the tones, and shared it on Instagram before bed.
She couldn’t have anticipated what would be waiting for her when she woke up.
The next morning, Jordyn saw a notification from Instagram that her photo of Winter had been removed for breaching community guidelines.
Not because Winter was nude, or exposed in anyway. But because of the shade of her skin, and her ‘apparent’ lack of sun protection.
“While I had so many positive messages of support, I received comments and messages saying they were reporting the photo and it’s disgusting that I think my daughter should be that colour or that brown,” Jordyn, also mum to five-month-old Wilde, told Mamamia.
“They couldn’t believe I’d let my daughter’s skin get to that colour, that she looked burnt to a crisp and her skin is so dark it’s not normal, that she’ll look 40 at four. People were calling me a horrible mother and an anorexic c-word.
“I just thought it was a gorgeous photo of an innocent child on the beach – I never expected to get hate, it was a shock.”
Jordyn contacted Instagram to refute the breach in guidelines, and is yet to receive a response. But what concerned her more than the photo being removed was just how comfortable people seemed to send her and her daughter vile, judgemental comments.
“I do get some negative messages, I’ve been called every name under the sun. I ignore it and move on, but when it comes to my children… she’s a two-year-old who can’t defend herself,” she said.
“I really wanted to share this experience because online bullying happens too often – I know I’m not the only one who goes through it – and at the end of the day, I’m a real person with real feelings, if I read something like those things about my child, it hurts.
“That was a beautiful photo taken just after she’d taken off her hat and full coverage swimsuit. We’re at the beach a lot, and at home Winter’s nude the majority of the time, I’m forever trying to dress her. She’s outside all day running around playing with her dog, covered in zinc and sunscreen. I’ve always taken the appropriate measures to make sure my skin, my children’s skin, and my fiance’s skin, even my dog’s skin, is protected.
“But my feed is a snippet of our lives, I’m capturing a second of our day, people don’t see the rest. It’s upsetting that without knowing me from a bar of soap, people think they can comment and say that I don’t use sunscreen [on my children] or that I neglect them because of their skin colour.”
Before that one photo, Jordyn and her family never received any negativity about their daughter’s darker skin colour, which has nothing to do with sun exposure, but her Aboriginal heritage. Taking after her nan, who is of Aboriginal descent, Winter has always been complimented on her complexion.
“Winter’s had darker skin since she was born. When I was in labour, I had my nan and mother in the room and the midwife turned to my nan and said ‘she’s a very lucky girl, she’s got your beautiful Aboriginal skin’.”
“Literally since the second she’s been in this world, Winter’s always been complimented on her skin. Some of my family members have darker skin, my mum has very dark skin, as does my nan, and we’re very proud of our heritage. Nan taught my brother and I to be proud of where we come from and our heritage, and she’s so proud my child has that connection to our background.”
But Jordyn won’t let this experience change the way she shares her life on Instagram, or enjoys time at the beach with her family. She’d rather use it as a reminder to anyone using social media that behind the photos, there are people.
“I thought I can ignore this, but I was quite upset that, regardless of who it’s about, that someone would think it’s OK to say a person’s skin colour is “disgusting”. So I decided to keep sharing.”
“I won’t change what I post or stop letting my daughter play at the beach because her skin is apparently “too dark”. I’ll be more conscious than before because it was really upsetting to read those comments. But I won’t stop sharing our lives. We’re down at the beach everyday, that’s our happy place. If I was to stop sharing beach photos, that wouldn’t be us.
“My feed is a highlight reel, and we chose to open up our lives [on social media] in the most authentic way that we can. But we are real people, we read your messages and it does affect us. I post a photo, and then go back to my life that has struggles too. People forget there’s a person on the other side of the photo, reading and feeling your words.”
Mamamia has reached out to Instagram for comment.
If you or someone you know is experiencing online bullying or struggling with their mental health, please seek professional help or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you’re in immediate danger, call 000.