Walking through the crowded hallways of East Ridge High School in Woodbury, Minnesota, Tyler McKeever, 16, is just another face in the swarm of students. But online, in the Twittersphere, McKeever is a source of inspiration to thousands of teenagers who are the unfortunate victims of bullying.
He started a Twitter account, @ERHSnicewords, in August 2012. Today, it is just shy of reaching 25,000 followers, or, as he likes to call them, #TylersWarriors. And everyday, he posts messages to express his advice and support to bullied victims and let them know that they are never alone.
McKeever himself is no stranger to the effects of bullying. “It started probably freshman year,” he says. “I dressed a little more preppy than all the other guys, and they came after me and called me gay. But I wasn’t, and I’m still not. They just judged me on my appearance.”
In his sophomore year, the antics continued, and McKeever’s peers started to target him through social media. Recalling the cyberbullying he endured on Facebook, he says, “People would friend me just to say how much they hated me, and that I shouldn’t even be here.”
As if that wasn’t enough for one young man to be put through, McKeever was also victim to physical acts of bullying. His classmates would often push and shove him as he walked down the halls.
The bullying continued to weigh on his heart and soul, and McKeever, unfortunately started to spiral downward into a vicious cycle of self-harm and depression before he knew he had to tell someone about what he was going through.
After confiding in his 19-year-old sister and seeking help from a counselor, McKeever knew there had to be a way that he could use his painful experiences to help others going through similar situations.
While at his friend’s house one day, the two stumbled upon the Twitter account of a popular football player from a neighboring high school. He tweeted a lot of compliments to his classmates, which gave McKeever an idea.
“I was like, ‘There’s a lot of bullying and nobody’s really doing anything. The administration tries stuff all the time, and it doesn’t really work,’” he says. So, he created his own anti-bullying Twitter account, which quickly generated 300 followers, mostly from his school, in the first few weeks.
He couldn’t keep up with the account at first and, subsequently, lost a lot of followers from his school. But McKeever was about to attract a much larger crowd, and a crowd in great need of his assistance. “A lot of anonymous accounts that deal with depression and suicide started following me, and I kept tweeting, and it got bigger and bigger worldwide,” he says.
He even has celebrities supporting him. Most notably, McKeever says that he tweets occasionally with singer LeAnn Rimes and has even sent her some names of bullied victims, who she in turn reached out to in an effort to help them.
This past week, McKeever uploaded his first Youtube video in which he talks about the dangers of cyberbullying and gives viewers some insight into why he thinks people bully and what victims should do. I encourage my followers to watch it.
So, where does this young man see himself in the future? In the next few weeks, McKeever will be partnering with a local suicide prevention collaborative program to make tee shirts and bracelets to help support his warriors and other bullied victims. Long term? “Maybe eventually I can speak at schools around the country or get on a big talk show,” he says.
You certainly have my support, Tyler. Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep trying to reach people. Even if you just reach one child, one person who is struggling and doesn’t know where to turn, everything that you’re doing is well worth the time and effort. If we all continue to make a stand, together, we can stop bullying.