Thursday, October 18, 2012
Here is a scenario to imagine: You’re a 12-year old girl. Your parents are sleeping, or are not at home, or are not monitoring you. You are online, in a chat room, playing silly chat room games. Someone, an anonymous name in the chat room, compliments you, and dares you to flash your boobs at your web cam. You do. Ha ha. That was funny. Next he says that unless you give a more explicit “show,” your boobs will be all over the internet. You refuse. Within weeks, there is a Facebook page started by a stranger. His profile picture? Your boobs. And the page contains other, more disturbing things like your name, address, phone number and other personal information. The police come to your home at four in the morning to tell you about this disturbing turn of events. Your parents freak. The situation gets worse, so your parents decide to move away, back to where you once lived. A boy you knew back then asks you to come over to hang out, and when you arrive, he expects sex. You comply, thinking he really likes you. You are, after all, a naïve twelve year old. A couple of weeks later the guy’s girlfriend and others accost you at school, hitting and kicking you, calling you a lot of really nasty names. You literally crawl into a ditch, wanting to die. You turn to drugs and alcohol, which only make life more miserable. You begin cutting yourself. Then to end it all, you drink bleach, but the hospital saves your life. Finally, things start to calm down. A year passes. Suddenly, the cyber bully re-appears and your hell starts all over again. Your topless photo, from when you were twelve, is all over the internet once again, and emails, calls, messages threatening you, naming you, drive you to near madness. The above scenario, sadly, was a real one. On September 7th of this year, a pretty and articulate fifteen year old girl named Amanda Todd, from British Columbia, Canada, went online and posted a nine minute video. In it, via a clever technique utilizing small flashcards that she had painstakingly filled out , she described some mistakes she had made in her short life… mistakes that literally thousands of kids make around the world every day. And she described the hell that her life had become because of those mistakes. And she expressed remorse and sadness for her mistakes. The comments by people who watched the video were revelatory: “You should die!” “SLUT” “Piece of garbage” read some of the milder ones. A little over a month later, on October 10, 2012, Amanda Todd took an apparent overdose of something. And her sad life ended. This is what the new bullying…call it “cyberbullying” hath wrought. In the wake of Amanda’s suicide, one would expect that the tone of comments to her video would have softened. But alas, the vitriol worsened. “I’m glad you’re dead! Slut!” was just one. It is enough to make you ashamed to be a human being. My point? I’m not sure I have one, I’m too numb. Just another story from the new America.