St. Louis, MO, resident Jessica McDaniels was overcome with grief when netizens took a moment she captured on Facebook and began to ruthlessly cyberbully her for it. But with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and social media worked tirelessly to give her a new smile.
On May 2nd, McDaniels, mother of two young boys, was overjoyed as she videoed her friend’s proposal. Hoping to share the moment with everyone, she posted the video to her Facebook feed, and then went to bed.
Jessica McDaniels just wanted to share a touching moment on Facebook when she was inundated with hateful comments.
The following morning she was surprised to find that she had received over 50 notifications for the video.
“Oh, my God,” McDaniel’s thought when she saw the original post, according to the St. Louis Dispatch.
That single post began McDaniels’ first experience with cyberbullying. Ignoring her friend’s proposal, netizens focused in on McDaniels, specifically her abnormal teeth.
“Someone was like I should be in a zoo,” McDaniels told KSDK 5 On Your Side. “Someone was like you shouldn’t have even had any kids.”
In the span of just a few weeks, cruel internet users had captured a photo of McDaniel’s smiling, and shared the photo over 88,000 times.
Her biggest regret through it all was that her pain took the spotlight off her friend’s special day.
What horrified her most, though, was that this negative attention on her took away from her friends special day. In a heartbreaking episode shortly after the negative attention began, McDaniels immediately called her friend and apologized for ruining their engagement.
“It was horrible,” McDaniels said according to the St. Louis Dispatch.
This was not the first time people had made fun of her teeth. But the level of vitriol spewed at her made the experience especially difficult since people were now insulting her ability to take care of her children. Still she remained undeterred.
“People care less, less about how I look, it’s all about my heart,” McDaniels told KSDK 5 On Your Side.
Of course, that was true. Because as social media turned on her, an old high-school friend, Krystal Starks, 32, saw the post on her Facebook feed. They had lost touch after graduating high school, but, moved by the excessive vitriol, Starks decided to act.
Her inner beauty inspired people to act on her behalf and give her a beautiful new smile.
She started a GoFundMe page for McDaniels so that she could finally have the dental surgery she needed. As of this date, it has raised over $8,000 dollars.
However, dental surgery is expensive. And even with the money from the GoFundMe campaign, McDaniel’s had difficulty finding a dental surgeon who would take her case.
Social media again came to the rescue. Her story went viral, and it came to the attention of Dr. Maryann Udy, with Northwest Oral Maxillo-Facial Surgeons. Dr. Udy contacted McDaniels, and offered to perform the procedure completely free of charge.
Aware of the GoFundme campaign running, Dr. Udy made McDaniels promise her something—once the surgery was over, she would use the money to take her two young children to Disneyland.
McDaniels agreed, and today, she has a beautiful new smile.
No one should ever have to suffer hatred the way Jessica McDaniels did. But even though social media can enable people to be cruel, it can also be a powerful tool for change.