If you know of Albert from Eat Lit Food, you know his Instagram persona and his unflinchingly honest restaurant reviews, written in his signature humorous, sometimes spiky, and always colourful style. But, in person, this online persona couldn’t be further from this friendly, caring and articulate young man who has something to say - and not just about what he likes for lunch.
“Bullying is really something that we need to keep talking about. It can become so installed in us that we don’t even notice it’s going on,” says Albert. “And with social media that line between what is bullying and what isn’t can be blurred - sometimes we don’t even know that we’re doing it - that’s why we need to keep talking about it.”
“Throughout my school life, I was incredibly shy, experienced crippling social anxiety and was a victim of bullying. At school, all you want to do is blend in. But I was the short, fat, Asian kid who hit puberty later than everyone else and this made me a target.”
“I let it eat away at me and became more and more of a recluse and just wanted to be invisible and get through high school rather than be noticed and picked on.”
As he grew older and lost weight, overt bullying became more subtle and sneaky, directed at his race and culture in the form of jokes and comments that seemed targeted to make him feel different.
“That was really hard for me, because when it’s not black and white it’s harder to call it out and get help.”
Thankfully for Albert, help did come from a friend who stood up for him, choosing not to be a bystander but instead speaking out. This made a huge difference for him, allowing him to feel safe, especially as others started to listen to that person and act differently.
Albert knows the difference having a friend who was prepared to be an upstander made to him, and knows not everyone is so lucky.
“ I consider myself privileged that I managed to find people along the way who acted as a ladder to help get me out of a deep dark pit. In a lot of other cases, targets of bullying remain stuck and isolated and it’s a topic that cannot be forgotten, no matter what stage of life we’re in. We must always keep the conversation about bullying alive. The least we can do is be aware of it and learn ways to crawl out of the lonely pit and just as importantly, how to be the ladder for someone else.”
Today, Albert’s confidence is evident and his Instagram account, Eat Lit Food, has over 53,000 followers. This has made him a bit of a public figure, and he’s proud to use his platform to connect with young people who feel invisible or anxious, just as he used to. “It’s quite fun when you get asked to have your photo taken,” Albert admits. “But it’s the conversations I share with these individuals that touch me the most. I have had young teenagers approach me, saying that they admire my confidence and hope to achieve that for themselves one day. I’m so proud to be a supporter for Pink Shirt Day - I hope everyone will get behind the kaupapa this year.”