OK. In some way, Day 28 seems fitting to finish all this – four weeks precisely, though it seems like longer. I’ve reached the end of my own stamina for going any further. I’m not sure if I will continue in any way.
I hope that those people who have come here, and people who may come here, will have perhaps taken away something of value. I have simply tried to get to the truth about all this. It is unfortunate that it didn’t really turn into a discussion or a debate, but that’s to be expected. People form three different groups around this story – two polarised groups of ‘lovers’ and ‘haters’ and the vast majority of ‘don’t cares’.
So let’s get on with it. This is my view of what REALLY happened from beginning to end. Though some of it is based on assumptions, the important parts have been researched and should be taken as being as close to reality as I can get. The preceding posts on this blog go into much more detail. If there are any questions that people want answered, I will be returning to this blog to check, so please feel free to comment. So – the ‘true’ story of Amanda Todd:
I can only guess at what preceded everything before that fateful day when Amanda first went online and bared her chest for all to see. We know that, from an early age, she liked to perform. She was known for it at her school – Mary Hill Elementary. She sounds like a very typical young girl – she starts to like singing in front of an audience, and gets support from her parents and family, like children do. There is nothing strange about that. But it does become what looks like an obsession, with one of Amanda’s first online actions being to apply to join a band at the age of eleven.
But there is nothing wrong with being a young kid who dreams of being a singing superstar. Except, I think, it was dangerous for a child like Amanda. Firstly, I think she was the type of child who couldn’t handle the possibility of failure. When you’re a young child used to parental support, the realisation that you may not be quite as good as they say can be hurtful – witness some of the more distraught reactions on shows such as ‘American Idol’ when someone walks on full of confidence then five minutes later is shattered.
Secondly, I think it was in Amanda’s nature to want more and more attention. She went from being content to please her parents to wanting to be a real star like her teen influences – Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and so on. And the culture of celebrity and instant fame is attractive. Amanda was set on a path that would lead to trouble.
But let’s move forward to Amanda, aged twelve. Puberty has hit, and along with it all the accompanying problems of early teenhood. She’s beginning to make the first experiments around sexuality – it doesn’t take long for young girls these days to realise they’ve got boobs, those things that the entire media seems to be fixated on. And unfortunately, the Internet means that you can show off not just to the boy next door or kids in the playground, you can show the whole world.
At this point, I would like to raise two points. From what we know of Amanda, she appears to have had ‘learning difficulties’. I believe that she simply wasn’t properly equipped, mentally, to fully understand what she was doing, and I think this is what led to so many problems. At the age of 12, this can be seen as simple kid behaviour, but as she gets older it becomes more clear that, whereas her friends developed the abilities to better cope with the complexities of young teen behaviour prevalent in Port Coquitlam – marijuana, alcohol, sex – Amanda remained completely out of her depth.
And of course I need to mention parenting. I would argue that her parents could have set a better example, simply by telling her about what is right and wrong regarding what a girl should or shouldn’t do online. But I’ve been through that already. But in their defence – it isn’t easy. One minute your lovely daughter is just a child interested in dolls and Disney; next minute she wants make-up, boyfriends, to go out on her own, more freedom. It happens so quickly.
But there was another key factor when Amanda was twelve. Just as she was at her most vulnerable, something happened on the parent front. We don’t fully know what happened, so just let’s leave it as ‘problems at home’. For some reason, the parents split. With their own set of challenges, it looks like Amanda may have been ignored – not in the giving-of-gifts and spoiling way, but emotionally. Parents will often say that they lavished love and affection on their kids, when what they really mean is ‘showered them with X-Boxes’, not love and understanding.
So Amanda is twelve. It’s 2009. She goes online, talks to boys her own age, give or take a couple of years. She’s in the danger zone. The boys she meets online are like her in many ways – just on the first steps of growing up. Alongside the huge interest around online games, for boys there is that other huge preoccupation – girls and their boobs. And so it comes to pass. At some point, some kid shows interest in her chest. It’s all a bit of harmless fun (we can see that from what appears to be the video in which she first flashes). She even has a friend with her, so maybe they egged each other on. (This persists into the Manda&Shyy channel later). She flashes.
And that is it. No secret murky underworld type of behaviour. No mysterious predator. No coercion and enticement, no evil trickery. Simple teen behaviour – at this point, even quite innocent.
But Amanda has learned a lesson. If she sings online, she might get a bit of feedback. But if she flashes, she gets immediate praise and attention. Things she obviously isn’t getting at home. For Amanda, she might have seen it as even a source of affection – of being liked. And the media – with its Katie Prices and its Kim Kardashians – show that this isn’t a bad thing.
Amanda shows signs of some sort of addictive/narcissistic behaviour patterns. She has established that flashing gets her liked. She does it again. It’s a laugh. She’s proud of her boobs, proud of herself, she’s getting attention. But, as with addictions, she needs to do more. As she gets older, and the people she meets online get older, flashing is not enough. She must put on a show. She quickly finds the channels like TinyChat and BlogTV, and exploits them to the point of getting banned. And she is no longer just flashing to the boys she meets online; she’s flashing to larger audiences of complete strangers. She is cutiielover, AnnouncingAmanda, isabella100555 – she simply doesn’t know when to stop.
And then the disaster. Up until now, she is simply too ill-equipped to have foreseen the consequences. She is probably aware that what she is doing isn’t good, but the sort of instant highs she gets online overcome all that. But suddenly she is FAMOUS online – she features on the Daily Capper. A few days later, her photo is everywhere and the police arrive.
What really happens here? This is as close as I can get to reality:
Amanda is well-known online. She is fully aware of the online flashing world – she knows the rules of the game. She has been banned, and still finds her way back. She is no naive innocent when it comes to showing herself.
But when it comes to the consequences, she is clueless. She doesn’t know two things:
1. The online world is similar to the real world. There are all sorts of unwritten rules and moral codes. The online world will not tolerate a combination of stupidity and bigheadedness. Flashing is OK, but if you go too far, as Amanda did, there will be a backlash to bring you down. I think that Amanda had become arrogant (her channel ‘Announcing Amanda’ kind of gives it away), and I believe she would have made many enemies for the ‘bring her down a peg or two’ brigade.
2. She was unaware that there are mischievous kids out there who will pick up on the fact that she is online, and use it to their advantage.
So what happened? Once people find out about you on the Internet, it can spread like wildfire. One kid in the school finds your picture – 10 seconds later it’s common knowledge. If a kid is at your school and knows you through Facebook, all your friends, relatives and connections can be contacted. If the kid hates Amanda enough (and we know that she wasn’t well-liked in certain quarters) he/she may even maliciously warn her.
And that’s what happened. No evil stalker, no blackmail. Her photo simply escaped into a much wider domain.
Why do I dismiss the stalker so quickly? Basically, before the photo became public, Amanda had never mentioned it. If her family knew, they would have contacted the police and the December 23rd 2010 visit would not have been such a shock. If a stalker had a threat, he wouldn’t let it go so easily. The stalker – after two years – has never been found. There was no need to stalk Amanda, as she was already doing plenty of shows online. If Amanda had been stalked, her parents would have got her off Facebook and all her other channels, but she continues on quite happily. If Amanda had been in touch with a stalker, we would have had definite names – if not from her, then from all the people who were sent the photo.
No. I firmly believe that Amanda panicked when the police arrived, and desperately made up a story to try and explain away why she had become an online ‘celebrity of sorts’. We know now that Amanda doesn’t tell the whole truth about things.
In the video, Amanda tells us that she became depressed. This would be a reaction to having been caught out in such a bad way. She’s gone from liking all the ‘positive’ attention she got for flashing, to hating all the negative attention – the downside of it all. And this is unfortunate. But strangely, given all the pictures and news from around that time, and given that she is STILL online and having fun, there are no real signs of this depression.
Amanda moves. We don’t know if this because of home problems (mom and dad) but we can attribute it to wanting to escape the past. But all the moves – to a certain extent, it doesn’t matter how many there were – are pointless. Facebook and the Internet follow you wherever you go – she could have gone to another planet and it would have followed her. But the moves are not far. In my research, I have found that there are huge overlaps between the social circles of all the schools in her area. Even without the aid of computer technology, the local grapevine would have been enough to make sure that Amanda’s past would catch up with her. And also – Amanda has a habit of attracting trouble wherever she goes.
She gets into drugs and alcohol. When I first read this, I thought it was an exaggeration, but my research shows that drug and alcohol abuse in her social group was huge – a love of marijuana being most prevalent, and it appears to be widely accessible. And it appears that there was what appears to be a prevalent club or ‘rave’ culture open to young teens in the area. So it’s no surprise.
But Amanda – as I said before – was not mentally fit enough for all this so early on. There are plenty of street-wise kids who can breeze through all this – Amanda wasn’t one of them. The effects of marijuana and alcohol only exacerbate any underlying problems – they are not a solution. For a mentally fit kid, it’s just part of life’s experience – for a vulnerable child like Amanda, it’s like holding a loaded gun to your head.
So things get worse for Amanda (I have already dealt with how this should never have been allowed). Mentally, emotionally, she is lost.
A year passes and the guy comes back. Can we believe this? I don’t. This time, it’s all completely different. (See Day 9 of this blog).
She sinks deeper and deeper into trouble. On the one hand, it is excruciatingly painful to see that one’s actions on the Internet can never be erased, but on the other we can see the equally painful lack of ability to deal with the fallout.
Nobody likes Amanda. She gets judged. This is sad, but inevitable. She spent at least a year exhibiting herself online, and there are clues that show she wasn’t such a nice person as we are led to believe. It’s just sad, but that’s life.
And we should once more look at Amanda’s mental health. She simply does not seem to understand what is happening around her. I am no expert on psychology, but I would be tempted to mention some sort of autism. She doesn’t seem to grasp that what she did, and what she keeps doing, could have negative consequences. I have a feeling that at this point she might be hanging around with older kids, but it’s like this – I think that Amanda has the mind of a 10-11 year old, and the kids she knows have the minds of 20-30 year olds – they just happen to be all young teens.
But she maintains her lying. She still talks of ‘that photo’. She still needs to protect herself from the truth. But in reality, she knows what she’s done, and she knows it’s like a curse. That, at least, is beginning to dawn on her. And that is why she gets weaker. The enormity of it all is starting to sink in.
She shows all the signs of a kid in turmoil – putting out even more cries for help – help that never seemed to arrive. And goddammit she makes another fatal error of judgment – she has sex with some guy who has a boyfriend. Again, she shows her inability to grasp those fundamental schoolyard rules. Sex is OK so long as you don’t become a slut, you don’t boast about it, and whatever you do DO NOT SLEEP WITH ANOTHER GIRL’S BOYFRIEND. Amanda is simply not equipped for the world she is in.
(Note: all of this has been covered in Days 9 and 10)
In short – she gets beaten up. It’s not dealt with properly. She’s getting messages like ‘Nobody likes you’ and still can’t quite understand why. I will try to explain. In the background, we know that Amanda was in the cheerleading category of kids. And we know that cheerleaders can be adored by themselves and their fans, but vehemently hated by everyone else. I don’t think Amanda ever realised that any of her behaviour could lead to hate. She simply couldn’t fathom it – she was liked amongst her drug-taking, sex-indulging friends, so why or how could she be hated?
She drinks bleach. Things are getting desperate. She is well and truly lost. She is 14-15 and has all this confusion in her head. It’s not surprising that suicide could be an option – just to stop that confusion. Nobody seems to care. She moves again, but deep down she knows that the problems may never go away. She needs huge amounts of love, affection, compassion, protection, things that have seemed so lacking. But instead she’s getting tons of online hatred. Who from? Here enemies, pure and simple. Vicious little kids.
She’s getting better. She has a boyfriend. Dangerous! Why? Because Amanda will be looking to him for all the love and affection she lacks. In reality, he has a huge responsibility, but he’s not to know that. So any bust-up is going to be drastic, and we can see signs of trouble around September 2012.
Amanda gets hospitalised, but it’s all too late. She is too weakened, and too mentally unstable. All the things that should have happened never did. It will only take the slightest thing to set her back. She turns to the one thing that she knows about – YouTube and the Internet. It’s like the abused person seeking the attention of the abuser. She even resorts to one more singing appearance.
What happens then? Who really knows? We can have some good guesses. Amanda – exhibiting bipolar tendencies – has had the flurry of activity online, but then has a massive comedown when, yet again, she realises it doesn’t get the attention she thinks it deserves. She might have received some criticism – it wouldn’t have had to have been much to set her off. She might have received some more online hatred – still not having learned that she put herself in the target zone for it. There is some evidence to show that it might have simply been the break-up of a relationship. All we know is that on October 10th, 2012, she committed suicide.
That is the end of Amanda’s life, and nearly the end of this blog.
This Be the Verse
By Philip Larkin
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.