Bella Thorne is learning to listen to herself over the haters.
The former Shake It Up! actress tells PEOPLE that, although she is in the process of getting her happy back, she admits she wrestles with how much attention to pay to negative comments from Internet critics.
“It’s hard. I was in a happier place [a while ago] than I had been recently,” says Thorne, 19. “And now I’m back to a happier place.”
The Disney Channel alum revealed that her split from an ex was a trying time in her life and that she was deeply affected by the negative comments from social media users who assumed she’d cheated.
“I went through a breakup and that was kind of tough. You know, fans, if you’re just seen with somebody, they think you’re immediately, you gotta be in a relationship with them. Which is not true. I hang out all the time with different people that I’m not dating, that I’m just friends with. I hang out with a lot of guys because I’m a total tomboy,” the actress, who is the new face of Bioré, admits. “So a lot of my friends end up being guys because a lot of girls are like kind of too girly for me sometimes.”
She adds, “People take social media as such a big thing. And they all think they know what they’re talking about. And they think they know your life and they get their friends to trash you. And they get all these people to hate on you and call you whatever names in the book. It’s kind of like one person says it and then everybody jumps on it.”
The actress shares that after she a split from an ex, she “was getting death threats for a hot minute because they thought I had cheated on my ex, which is a total lie.”
In August, Thorne and Gregg Sulkin split after a year together, PEOPLE exclusively reported, and one month later, she moved on with longtime buddy and Teen Wolf star Tyler Posey (from whom she says she split in early December). Just weeks later, Thorne and Charlie Puth had a short-lived whirlwind romance.
“When I woke up that morning — it f—ing sucks,” she recalls of the moment she got backlash from social media users. “It doesn’t feel good to think that everybody in the world just thinks you’re an absolutely disgusting person and just because I’m somebody where people know my name, it’s so much worse for me.”
She continues, “And people think that, like, we don’t get bullied in Hollywood — but we do! We get bullied by the public eye and fans and it’s really, let me tell you, it f—ing hurts.”
“You think that I’m not seeing these comments, but I do see them,” she says. “And it doesn’t feel good. Especially when they’re lies! Then I’m, like, really hurt. At least if it was true, I would be like, ‘all right, all right, all right, okay.’ But, it’s not!”
More than merely sticking up for just herself, Thorne — who reveals that she was “bullied in school a lot” — hopes to be an example to others who are also at the brunt of bullying.
“I’m letting kids know like, ‘If somebody’s being rude to you, you have the right to stick up for yourself!’ When I see [bullying] on other people’s pages, I respond because it irks me to my core.”
She adds, “I don’t care what anybody says. That is not cool! It’s not normal to sit there and look at somebody’s photo and go, ‘I hate their nose, I hate their lips. Her face is ugly. She’s such a whore.’ No! What is wrong with you?”
- Reporting by JACKIE FIELDS