At 47, Coy Bundy has her hands full. She’s a mother to three children and a grandmother to four grandchildren. But when she was introduced to TikTok around Christmastime in 2019, Bundy made time to take on a new challenge and learn about the social media platform.
“On December 31, I was like, ‘I’m gonna let go of all of my negative vibes, all of the negativity from the past years and I’m just gonna be happy.’ And 2020 came, and I just kept pushing through all the negative things that happened by posting videos dancing and joking,” she tells Yahoo Life. “TikTok made me happy.”
Happiness is something that the Des Moines, Iowa, native puts in the work to achieve, sharing, “I had a really hard life.”
“I’ve been in situations where I’ve been around people that were in gangs, I’ve seen people that have been killed by gang violence, I’ve seen people that’ve had drug problems and lost everything. I’ve seen kids that I saw grow up get killed. It changes people,” she says. “All I’ve ever done in my life is reflect kindness and care because fighting and hating doesn’t solve anything. It only makes you sad or angry and then your life has passed you by and you can’t sit there and smile about anything that you’ve done.”
But as she set out to do just that, Bundy began to experience small doses of what negativity looks like on the internet.
“When I did my first dance video that went viral, a lot of the younger people were coming in and kind of bullying me because I was big and because I had gray hair. They were saying things like, ‘Come get your grandma,’” she recalls. “So what I did was I made my name Granny Coy Bundy, so that not only do they see that I’m embracing my gray hair, it was to stop the bullying.”
The advice that she gave to herself in those moments was to “flip” the negativity around, to laugh at the joke and to show the bullies that they couldn’t actually hurt her — much like she has taught her own children growing up. With a fast-growing audience, now 2.6 million strong on TikTok alone, Bundy is using her platform to teach the young people watching her about how to do the same thing, despite the cruel nature of cyberbullying.
Yet the generational gap, despite Bundy’s efforts to focus on love and kindness, has resulted in unexpected tension.
“We aren’t on the same level. You’re a child and we don’t talk in the inbox,” she says of the boundaries she places when it comes to conversing with young people on the app. “If you do talk to an adult in the inbox, then you need to tell your parents or you need to delete them because there’s nothing we have to talk about that can’t be in the comments.”
When she made a video to respond to a young person’s video making a claim about how the TikTok algorithm works, however, Bundy seemingly crossed a line and found herself in a situation that quickly escalated.
“I needed to make that this person didn’t feel like I’m attacking them. So I said, ‘No offense to this beautiful lady,’” Bundy explains, noting the attention she pays to properly engaging with younger users. “They got angry and came into my comments saying, ‘Nobody asked you. I go by [the pronouns] ‘they and them.’”
Bundy maintains that she meant no offense. “I’m the grandma or mother or auntie that taught her own nephews, nieces and children to respect genders and gender identity,” adding that she was met with death threats on her page even after making efforts to apologize. Ultimately, she faced enough harassment to make the decision to step away from social media out of concern for the children reading those comments and further escalating the situation.
A TikTok spokesperson tells Yahoo Life, “TikTok's mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy, and we do not tolerate members of our community being shamed, bullied, threatened, or harassed.” The platform’s community guidelines also ensure that such content will be removed, while additional features to report and block users and control comments exist. Bundy says that she herself deletes many of the hateful comments she receives in order to protect her younger audience.
“Maybe fifty percent of my following is children. So it upset me because I don’t care if they wish me death because they can’t hurt me. I know this, I’m an adult. But what I care about is the children,” she says. “A child got on my comments and said, ‘Granny, they are wishing you ill. I don’t understand why they are talking about you like this.’”
“I removed all of my apps. I removed TikTok, I removed Instagram, I removed Twitter,” she says, practicing what she preaches to her followers about avoiding unproductive negativity. “I’m not trying to send hate to a child.”
But after posting about taking a break, Bundy was reminded of all of the compassion she’s spread through her platform. She even received a response from Sherri Shepherd.
“I am sorry you have to be dealing w the haters. Please know you bring joy to so many,” the former View co-host wrote on Bundy’s Instagram. “The devil comes to steal, kill & destroy. He wants to steal, kill & destroy your joy bc if you have no joy in posting and dancing then we who love you are also deprived of joy. ...Taking a social media break is good for your soul. But please know you have more folks who support and Love you than folks who send negativity. Praying for your peace.”
Bundy calls the message a “blessing from God.”
“I didn’t think that I was even noticed like that,” she says. “I didn’t know that I could inspire or make other people happy that inspire me and that makes me happy. It’s literally surreal. It makes you speechless.”
She also needed the reminder that she’s inspired not only children on the platform but also adults.
“There’s a lot of older people on TikTok and they call me the queen of TikTok because they say that I started their movement because I gave them inspiration to come out and do it, which is amazing,” Bundy says. “I never knew that it’d be a worldwide sensation to feel the positivity of granny.”
And while she admits that putting herself out there in front of the world, particularly on an app made for people much younger than herself, is difficult, Bundy says that TikTok has helped her to figure out who she is.
“It’s given me an understanding of who I am,” she says. “I found myself on TikTok.”
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