by Viki Papadakis
When she was in seventh grade, Amanda Todd, a young resident of British Columbia, and some friends were on an online video chatting site, where a man in his thirties complimented the young girl and urged her to flash her chest. Flattered by his praise, Todd complied. She would later state in a video that this was something she “could never get back”.
A year later, Todd was contacted by this same man. He knew her name, family members, address, and friends; she was being stalked. He threatened that if she didn’t put on a “show” for him, he would send the images of her breasts to her friends. Soon thereafter, Todd was contacted by police--nude photos of her were circulating the internet.
The harassment and bullying began. Todd began experiencing extreme anxiety, depression, and a panic disorder. After changing schools, the man (who has still not been identified) reappeared. He had found Todd’s new school, requested her new friends on Facebook, and changed his profile picture to a photo of Todd’s chest, which he also sent to Todd’s colleagues.
Cruelty and bullying caused Todd to switch schools again, where she was apparently happier. However, she began talking to an “old guy friend” who convinced her to come to his house, where they engaged in some form of sex. Todd understood that her “friend” had a girlfriend, but his assertions that he had feelings for her caused her to act unfavorably. The abuse she received after this incident, however, was uncalled for, disgusting, and wrong. The girlfriend of the “friend” and others (including the “friend” himself) mentally and physically assaulted Todd at school. They screamed insults at her, punched her to the ground, and left her in a ditch, where she remained until her father picked her up. When she returned home, Todd drank bleach in an attempt to commit suicide. However, she was taken to the hospital, where she was saved. Her bullies proved to be relentless. Posts such as, “She deserved it.”, “Did you wash the mud out of your hair?”, and “I hope she’s dead.” were posted on Facebook.
This lack of empathy caused Todd to switch schools yet again. The cyberbullying persisted, however, and Amanda began cutting herself. When she overdosed on anti-depressants, Todd was taken to the hospital. After this, Todd posted a harrowing video on YouTube, where she described her ordeal. She stated that she wanted the video to serve as an “inspiration” for others; she wanted them to realize that they weren’t alone. However, just over a month over the video was posted, on October 10, 2012, Todd was found dead in her home. Her death was deemed a suicide.
Even after her death, Todd’s bullies remain persistent. On her Facebook memorial page, one user posted an altered photo of Amanda, in which her face has been morphed into that of a Zombie and she is holding a bottle of bleach. The caption said: “I hope they sell Clorox in Hell.” Even people who didn’t know Todd personally are posting crude comments about the girl’s death. With the anti-bullying campaign that has been extremely prevalent for the last few years, it is appalling that this much negativity is surrounding such an unfortunate situation. The degree to which this bullying of Amanda Todd is occurring, especially after her death, is unacceptable.
What is extremely alarming about this case is the degree to which the bullying has escalated. Not only are Amanda’s tormentors people she knew during her all-too-short life, but also random “trolls” on the Internet, whom did not know Amanda or any of the personal issues she faced before her death. For those of you who aren’t aware, trolls are people who post questionable comments on the Internet in order for controversy to arise. The Internet sensation that surrounds the suicide of Amanda Todd is not, by any means, a memorial for a life lost to the very dishonorable actions of others. While there are some people defending and supporting Amanda, the more prevalent responses to her death are ones that represent an intensifying of the bullying that ultimately killed Amanda. Have we really reached a point in our society that we would use something as potentially useful as the Internet to ostracize and mock a teenage girl who felt such personal torment that she would commit suicide? This begs one to contemplate the issues surrounding the Internet, and how many of its users abuse this privilege that is the World Wide Web.
Obviously, iniquitous people exist in the world. However, I believe very strongly that many of Amanda’s post-suicide Internet bullies are not bad people. In many cases, these trolls don’t have a personal vendetta against Amanda, nor do they necessarily have malicious intent. In fact, I would go as far to say that many of these Internet trolls don’t feel strongly about or even care about any of the events involving Amanda’s suicide. Many of these Internet trolls, I believe, are merely following and copying the posts of the original trolls, either for acceptance, attention, or mere entertainment. These trolls are looking for an outlet for their anger, a sense of validation, or excitement through the controversy brought about by their posts. In the case of Amanda Todd’s bullying, a few individuals made the first crude comments about the young girl, which created a snowball effect. Eventually, there grew to be a moderately-sized group of individuals who can be found posting hurtful comments about Amanda all over the Internet.
Posting negative comments about a young girl who has recently committed suicide is very, very low and quite frankly, pathetic. However, what we must consider when we judge these Internet bullies is that oftentimes, they are insecure in themselves. It seems that many of these trolls want the scrutiny and scorn they receive for their obscene posts. They enjoy the name-calling and intense dislike they are receiving for their posts so much that they continue to post them. If one were to look at this objectively, they would realize that these Internet trolls are not simply nefarious individuals, but actually very troubled. Although it is a cowardly approach, some of these trolls are using the Internet as their coping mechanism. We must not get angry at these people, but attempt to help them. Many of these Internet bullies are crying out for help, just as Amanda was doing in her YouTube video. Amanda’s video proves that unassuming people, who are attempting to look strong and willed on the Internet, can be asking for help and acceptance. While these Internet trolls may not be asking for help in a conventional way, one can notice the obvious inadequacy, anger, and distress these people feel in their lives through their vicious posts. So, as we defend Amanda, let us use her unfortunate situation as an example. Amanda’s story of cyber bullying proves that the words we use and the comments we make on the Internet can be hurtful to others. We should not retaliate against crude Internet trolls. Instead, we must remember that even the people behind the most hateful posts are hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet to mask their own emotional pain and insecurities. On the Internet, we must respect one another, even if the other is acting with poor judgement, such as the case with Amanda Todd’s bullies.
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