A couple of days ago a 15-year old Canadian girl committed suicide after a long bout of internet bullying that followed her even when she switched schools. Prior to hanging herself she drank bleach and cut herself. The RCMP are investigating online activity before the teen's death to see if any criminal charges should be laid. But the online activity after
she died seems to have become even more vicious and frenzied.
The predominant online reaction to her death is sympathetic, of course, but there is also a huge presence of unsympathetic responses. Many people have even posted nasty jokes and jeers on the Facebook page that was created to honor her, "RIP Amanda Todd".
In addition to jokes and jeers in text form, dozens of people have taken the time to make homemade posters that put captions on pictures of her. Here is the text of some of these posters, preserving case and errors, that I've divided into categories.
Encouraging others to hurt themselves
Making fun of mental illness or suicide
- I BOUGHT YOU A NECKLACE / HERE PUT IT ON (on a picture of a noose)
- Hey girls? / Did you know? That umm... / Bleach? / Has to be drunk 4x for it to work?
- Let's play a drinking game. Everytime someone / gets butt hurt about Amanda Todd We drink a cup of bleach
- BRB BLEACH MARTINI / YOLO!
- WHAT ARE YOU UP TO LATER? / JUST HANGING AROUND
- DEPPRESSION / YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG
- DAD I HEARD SHE KILLED HERSELF / ID KILL MYSELF TOO IF MY LAST NAME WAS TODD!!!
Calling her a slut
- SENDS NUDES AND PERSONAL INFO TO STRANGERS / WHAT'S THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN? #YOLO
- POSTS HER OWN TITS ONLINE THEN KILLS HERSELF / GETS INTERNET SYMPATHY FOR SUDDENLY NOT BEING RESPONSIBLE FOR HER OWN ACTIONS
- SHE WAS ASKING FOR IT
- If you send nudes to strangers / You're gonna have a short life
- GETS BULLIED IN HIGH SCHOOL / "MY ONLY OPTION IS TO KILL MYSELF"
- CAMWHORES FOR GUYS. / WHORES FOR HER GUY FRIEND. / ATTENTION WHORES WITH HER BULLY STORY. / LIKE WHORES WITH HER R.I.P. PAGES / FOREVER A WHORE.
- ATTENTION / WHORE
- BECOMES A SLUT / LOL BRB RAGE QUIZ
- DOESN'T FOLLOW THE "TITS OR GTFO" RULE / GETS THE FUCK OUT OF LIFE
- HAS INTERNET PROBLEMS / RAGE QUITS
- I WAS A DIRTY GIRL
- MOUTH TASTES LIKE SPERM / HAVE BLEACH
- SILLY GIRL / BLEACH IS FOR CLOTHES
- CLOROX / IT'S TO DIE FOR
- INB4 TITS OR GTFO / AAAAND SHE'S GONE
- LOL AM I / AMANDA TODD YET?
- SAW NIPPLES WERE TOO DARK / TRIED TO BLEACH THEM FROM THE INSIDE
- On the "RIP Amanda Todd" Facebook page, someone posted a photo of her turned into a zombie, with the words, "Guys, you don't need to worry about her anymore... She's still alive just look"
- Someone posted a long rap poem about her that ended: I got fed up of one little hater / And I yelled to the bullies "Yo cunts smell you later!" / I sighed to myself, I had nowhere to go so / I pulled out a rope and became an hero
(Despite the quotes above, she didn't post nude photos of herself. After being talked into it she took one photo with her shirt raised, and that photo seems to have been the root of the bullying and the thing she couldn't escape by moving. That could happen to anyone, in a change room or via a hidden camera.)
So what's going on here? I read these as anonymous thrills by teenagers and in poor taste but not necessarily hateful. Some may be like that need to giggle at a funeral: an inappropriate but natural reaction to a tragedy. The slut claims may be from sex-obsessed boys who resent the idea of women having control over sex.
But some of the sentiments have some internal validity, at least to the point that I think we should try to understand their perspective. A group of boys josh each other in a crude way, and then behave the same way towards girls; they feel that the girls shouldn't get upset about it. Kids see outrageous behavior online, in movies and on TV and don't see why they shouldn't do it too. They think that words shouldn't be taken so seriously. They think, perhaps, that the anti-bullying campaign is unfair to those deemed bullies. And maybe to an extent they're right.
In some cases, just because there's a victim doesn't mean that someone is to blame. In other cases, fighting cyber-bullies might not be the most productive way to help kids in Amanda Todd's predicament. It might be much better to help victims find acceptance elsewhere and learn to ignore taunts. (Physical injury, which Amanda Todd also suffered, is of course another issue altogether and should be stomped on.) Finally, we need to do something to help people who are victimized by embarrassing photos that are circulated without their permission; it's ridiculous that we don't have any protection for that yet.
Someone on the Facebook memorial page pointed out that Amanda Todd is another case of a victim being popularized because she's heterosexual, white and pretty; that there are thousands of suicides by tormented gay kids, unattractive kids, ethnic kids - who never make the press. There are a lot of issues to think about here.
Whatever conclusions we adults come to, the ferocity of attacks after
she died suggests that the kids aren't backing down.
Bullies are sociopaths, but their enablers are often worse.
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