Meghan Markle Says Online 'Bullying' Peaked While Pregnant with Archie and Lili: 'It's Not Catty, It's Cruel'

The Duchess of Sussex said she currently keeps "distance" from social media for her well-being

<p>SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty </p> Meghan Markle at SXSW in Austin on March 8, 2024


Meghan Markle at SXSW in Austin on March 8, 2024

Meghan Markle revealed that online hatred toward her came to a head at a vulnerable time.

The Duchess of Sussex, 42, said at the SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas that she experienced the worst abuse on social media when she was expecting son Prince Archie, 4, and daughter Princess Lilibet, 2, and when her children were infants.

In a question to Meghan during the “Breaking Barriers, Shaping Narratives: How Women Lead On and Off the Screen” discussion, the conference's Opening Day Keynote Panel, moderator Errin Haines asked, “Social media really has become the place for women and girls to, be scrutinized, objectified, bullied, and unfortunately I know this is something you are all too familiar with. How have you been able to manage the seemingly endless toxicity that comes at you?”

The Duchess of Sussex took a moment to gather her thoughts and began, “Yes, social media is an environment that I think has a lot of that. You know I think, it’s really interesting as I can reflect on it, I keep my distance from it right now just for my own well-being, but the bulk of the bullying and abuse that I was experiencing on social media and online was when I was pregnant with Archie and Lili, and with a newborn with each of them.”

Related: Meghan Markle Teams Up with Katie Couric and Brooke Shields on International Women's Day Panel at SXSW

“You just think about that, and to really wrap your head around why people would be so hateful. It’s not catty, it’s cruel. And why you would do that, certainly, when you’re pregnant, with a newborn, we all know as moms, it’s such a tender and sacred time," she said.

"I think you know, you could either succumb to it, nearly succumb to how painful that it is, and maybe in some regards, because I was pregnant, that mammalian instinct just kicked in, you do everything you can to protect your child, and as a result, protect yourself too,” she continued.

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Meghan said there's a lot of work to be done to keep people safe online, but she finds it "disturbing" how "much of the hate is women completely spewing it to other women."

“I cannot make sense of that, because I understand that there are certain platforms, today is a really good example, this is being streamed on one of those platforms, and it’s also fantastic because people are going to have access to hear all of this brilliance and all of this insight, and at the same time, it’s a platform that has quite a bit of hate and rhetoric and incentives people to create pages where they can churn out very, very inciting comments and conspiracy theories that can have a tremendously negative effect on someone’s mental health, on their physical safety,” she added.

<p>SUZANNE CORDEIRO / AFP</p> Meghan Markle at SXSW in Austin on March 8, 2024


Meghan Markle at SXSW in Austin on March 8, 2024

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Meghan’s pregnancy with Prince Archie came during her time living in the U.K. with her husband Prince Harry, before they stepped back from their royal roles and relocated to her home state of California in 2020, where Princess Lilibet was born in 2021.

Elsewhere in the wide-ranging conversation with Katie Couric, Brooke Shields and sociologist, pop culture expert and DEI consultant Nancy Wang Yuen on International Women’s Day, the Duchess of Sussex touched on how the illusions that social media perpetuates can be especially harmful to new moms.

“As moms, and as I was saying earlier when you're a new mom, it's a really vulnerable time. The effect that social media can have on new mothers, even just the lack of sleep because they spend all this time scrolling, but it can also be really dizzying for them to see this portrayal of motherhood that looks so perfect when we all know it's not perfect,” Meghan said. “We all know that it's messy. I'm fortunate in that, among the privileges I have in my life, I have an incredible partner,” she said, gesturing to Prince Harry, who sat front row at her panel event.

<p>SUZANNE CORDEIRO / AFP</p> Prince Harry supports wife Meghan Markle at SXSW panel on March 8, 2024


Prince Harry supports wife Meghan Markle at SXSW panel on March 8, 2024

“My husband is such a hands-on dad and such a supporter of me and my family. That I don't take for granted,” she continued, shouting out her husband of five years. “That is a real blessing. But a lot of people don't have that same level of support. So I think for us, it's about putting safeguards in so women and moms especially can not feel like they're even more vulnerable when they go online.”

Meghan and Prince Harry previously spoke about the urgency of making the online world a safer place during their Archewell Foundation’s first in-person event in New York City on World Mental Health Day in October. The Archewell Foundation Parents’ Summit: Mental Wellness in a Digital Age event gave a voice to families who are passionate about building a safer online world for children and teens, and PEOPLE learned the Duke and Duchess of Sussex directly worked with parents involved behind the scenes.

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