Last week, a 15 year old girl killed herself because she was being bullied.
I know that the first rule of news sites is never to read the comments at the bottom of a story if you do not want your day to be ruined and wish to retain even an ounce of faith in humanity. The second rule is that if you do venture to the comments section, do so with an emotional rage-shield and be prepared for outrageous claims and anonymous trollage. But some of the comments made about the Amanda Todd case have left me feeling very angry because these are not a case of trolls stirring up and making noise – these are the views that many people hold. Let me give you a few examples.
This commenter seems to soundly justify what he/she believes. The comment begins apologetically – “i (sic) don’t mean to sound rude, but…” then the good ole slut-shaming, victim-blaming comes into play. It was all her fault, really. She got her tits out – that’s just asking for trouble. What about the guy who started it all off? Oh the guy? “yes, the guy was wrong for sending the pictures, but…” OH THAT BUT AGAIN! But… ultimately it was her fault for being a slut in the first place. Amanda was 15 years old when she killed herself. She must have been aged 12-14 when her pubescent breasts were bared on webcam. But still we’re blaming her young nativity over a male (I do not know how old he was) who took it upon himself to screenshot those images and spread them around the internet? Yep actually, that seems about right. My favourite part is the last sentence – “it’s sad to see that she took her own life, though. rest in peace.” So yeah it’s all very sad that she was so depressed by all of this that she decided at the age of 15 to hang herself, but at the end of the day, basically, she deserved it.. They may as well have signed off with “soz lol”.
Thanks for your insights there commenter, and thanks especially for making introversion a negative trait synonymous with self-obsession. Also very useful tip there for anyone who may be in a similar position to Amanda – guys, just get off the internet and socialise with Real People, even if your crippling anxiety debilitates you to the point that it prevents you from leaving the house for fear of being ignored, ridiculed, and beaten up by Real People in places that are supposed to be considered safe, such as school.
I don’t think we really see cases like this as being real anymore. In a phenomenon which has perhaps been exaggerated with the addition of the heartbreaking video that was made a month before her death, it’s almost as if Amanda Todd is not quite a real person – she is a person who exists on The Internet. We are all saturated with news stories which become more and more shocking and more and more constant and graphic that it feels like the more we see or hear about, the less in touch with reality these cases become. We have our own fairly mundane lives, and then we have The Things That Happen On TV/Internet. The things that happen on TV used to be dramas, soaps – things that were easily distinguishable from reality – or the news, which for an hour of the day told us about important things that happened in the Real World that day. But now the line between fiction and reality is blurry – the news is on 24 hours a day and under pressure to make more things into news stories as well as now having access to news from literally all over the world. More and more TV is not quite fiction or reality or somewhere in-between – are the contestants of X Factor/Take Me Out/The Only Way Is Essex Real Life People, or People On TV? It’s hard to tell. And this worries me, because it leads to people talking about a 15 year old girl who has completed suicide because she was so depressed after being bullied as if she were not real, but rather someone In The Media who is open to public debate and opinion.
There are many things about this story that concern me, ranging from social media use, to child protection, to sex education, to slut-shaming, victim-blaming, public attitudes and the way we perceive events in the modern world. But mostly I am deeply saddened that a 15 year old girl felt that she had to take her own life because she could not live with being constantly tormented, and that the things that led to her tragic death are still going on even after she is gone.
Blaming a child – and she was a child – for her own harassment because she naively showed her breasts to someone she thought she could trust is sickening, but not an uncommon sentiment. How can we change this?