Today, I decided to produce a list of teen suicides. This will appear as a separate page. Mainly, I hope that the list will provide anyone who is interested in bullying and cyberbullying with more background information.
As usual, no single case of bullying is straightforward, yet the media tends to want to find easy answers, overlooking many of the circumstances that have led to the tragedies, such as mental health, parenting problems, gender and sexuality issues. It should be noted that one of the films – ‘Bully’ – that is recommended viewing amongst the anti-bully campaigners does not deal with pre-existing mental health problems and, as we have seen in the Amanda Todd story, nobody wants to really get to grips with the more important issues of drink, drugs, mental health and what have you.
But here I would like to focus on a particular issue that I find difficult to comprehend, and, as you can see from the heading of this post, it’s bound to be seen as controversial: why do some of the victims of cyberbullying seem to cause their own problems? Or, perhaps to put it in a better way, why, as children, are some of the victims not given more supervision and help to avoid the problems? I find it puzzling.
I will avoid mentioning names in all this. Hopefully, readers of this blog will know that I do my research, and that none of it is made up, but many people will be familiar with the cases I am alluding to. So let’s begin.
Firstly, I would like to look at what I would call the ‘Ask.fm’ problem. There is a brief description of Ask.fm on wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ask.fm but basically it’s yet another social media site dominated by young people.
The behaviour of some kids on Ask.fm is sad. They will go on there and reveal all sorts of information about themselves – about their family lives, their suicidal thoughts – obviously looking for answers that they are not getting from elsewhere. It is relatively easy to understand the motivations behind this – loneliness, confusion, attention-seeking, parents who are unapproachable, parents who might be too intrusive, plus all the plethora of teenage anguish. But what I can’t understand is why, when the replies become abusive (‘I think you are fat’) or even worse (‘Why don’t you kill yourself?’), the victim does not just walk away.
What is it that motivates a child, having been insulted and degraded on a site, to keep on going back there? I wish someone could explain. And then, once the bullying becomes an evident problem known to the parents, why don’t they step in and simply get the child to close down access to the site? There appears to be fundamental flaws in all this.
I find it odd that the parents of some of these victims immediately clamour for the closure of these sites after the event. There have been calls to get Ask.fm closed, and there are more and more Facebook pages urging everything from more controls, more laws, and even Facebook closure. But they overlook two things – the vast majority of people on all these sites are OK, and the ability to NOT go to these sites is incredibly easy.
Of course, what I seem to always get round to in every post on my blog is some form of parental responsibility. Why is it that parents seem to invest huge amounts of energy in forming foundations, campaigning for new laws and so on, when small, simple steps at home would prevent so much of all this stuff? And, of course, it’s impossible for me to resist the temptation to mention the Amanda Todd story – why did a set of parents deem it acceptable to drink, take drugs, be all over the Internet, and then when the result was tragedy seem to pile the blame on everything else but themselves?
However, I digress as usual. But you will have to excuse me while I wander off into my own reverie (but hey, this is MY blog so why not?):
Am I a bully? Well, that’s difficult. All bullies can rationalise their behaviour. The amount of online threats I’ve received from the anti-bullying lobby is outrageous. I have been hounded off Facebook at a level which has far exceeded any provocation I have provided, whilst refusing to report the same people who harassed me with death threats and abuse. Somehow or other, they managed to justify their responses. And it continues even now. Some of it I find amusing, and perhaps I asked for it – but hang on, isn’t that the path that many victims go down, that in some way they deserved it? There have been many cases where I definitely didn’t deserve it, and I have been abused for simply stating my opinion.
But am I a bully? I have certainly attacked some people in this blog, but they have been given every opportunity to respond. I can’t say that I am being the strong, aggressive bully, as I consider myself to be a minnow compared to the shark when it comes to criticising the Amanda Todd story. And I can’t venture back on to Facebook, as I will be rapidly be bullied off again. As far as being the faceless, anonymous hiding-behind-the-computer type is concerned – well, I think that’s wise given some of the threats I’ve received. I haven’t yet stated, like some of the Todd supporters, that I will track someone down and go round their house and commit acts of violence. And I have yet to create a Facebook page called ‘Kill Kody Maxson’.
Me being a bully would imply that I am in some way wielding power to hurt someone. Mmmm…perhaps I am. Or maybe not. My desire is not to hurt Carol Todd or any or the other people involved, though perhaps that will be an effect of what I am saying. Carol Todd is a grown adult woman capable of defending herself. I don’t expect her to join in some sort of verbal fight with me. Why should she? I would very much like to provoke some sort of response from her though – about why she sanctioned Amanda’s drug abuse, or why she allowed so much of all this to happen. I have written to her blog asking her to tell more of the truth, and I have communicated at different levels with various people inviting them to join in civilised honest discussions, all to no avail.
So this is how I see it. Carol Todd and others have put themselves in the spotlight. All well and good. But they have been deceitful (not telling the truth about Amanda’s activities) and they have encouraged dangerous behaviour (marijuana indulgence) whilst not doing much to discourage tragic behaviour (suicide). They have sought to place blame on others whilst not taking any of the responsibility upon themselves, and, whilst supposedly encouraging an anti-bullying stance of love and understanding, they have tacitly supported the ongoing vigilante campaigns against Kody Maxson and others.
So – am I a bully? You decide. As far as I’m concerned, I will do anything within reason to expose ALL the problems around this story. And if I’m seen as a bully in my efforts, then part of me wants to apologise, but the rest says I don’t give a damn.
Now – where was I? Oh yes. Just why do some of the victims of cyberbullying seem to keep on going back to the source of their pain and anguish? I can’t answer that.
In other suicide cases, it’s as if the victims have deliberately sought out misery. I’ve seen this type of behaviour many times. Some people seem to be driven by an urge to see the world as a bad place. I can see it in the anti-bullying sites that have sprung up all over the place. They spend inordinate amounts of time tracking down horror stories, and with the Internet that’s not too difficult. They make it look like the world is full of terror around every corner. Some of the sites – usually run by long-established organisations – are good, but the majority are simply resorting to scare-mongering and sensationalism, in many cases not reporting the whole true story (ho-hum, yes, Amanda Todd, we get it!) or, in other cases, not even knowing if it’s true or not!
I’ll give you an example. There was a recent story passed around by the ‘Team Bully Response Squad’ concerning a fictional suicide – Kenzie Littleton. Horror upon horror! Yet another victim! But….she didn’t exist. I told them this, and got banned from the page. The Kenzie Littleton story was set up by a bunch of bored teens looking for attention. I won’t bore you with detail – it’s not uncommon. Tons of kids are going online with fake stories – Giovanna Plowman at worst – and tons of adults are falling for it every time. It’s just yet another side-effect of the Amanda Todd story. Madness.
But where was I? Right. Some of the suicidal kids are going online and actively searching out suicide or hate pages. Instead of going to gay support groups or whatever, they are visiting sites like ‘We hate gays’. Instead of keeping away from Facebook hate pages, they are visiting them.
What is it with these kids that drives them to self-destruct, and to actively maintain their presence in the gladiatorial arena in which they willingly seem to feed themselves to the lions? I have no answers.
Another example: a few months ago, I got involved with one of these Facebook hate pages. It was against a young girl. These pages are all over the place. It’s a great way for the kids to bring down an enemy. But you know what was odd? The girl involved LIKED the idea of it. Yep. Take a deep breath. Take another glug of gin or whatever your tranquillizer of choice is. The ‘victim’ enjoyed the attention. It was a gob-smacking example of some sort of totally skewed new popularity prize. Oscar Wilde wrote: ‘There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about’ and here it was in action. ‘I must be important, because I have a hate page made against me.’ Amanda Todd? Possibly.
So what has been the point of today’s post?
We MUST start to look at all this cyberbullying malarkey from a much wider perspective. The desire to put it down to one reason, or a narrow set of reasons, will not deal with the problem. Here, I’ve tried to show that, to some extent, victims can be tragically instrumental in their own downfall and that, yet again, modern parents have failed miserably in their attempts to deal with it. I hate not being well-informed enough to give any authoritative answers – I simply do not understand all the psychological motivations. But I hope that I can make people think.
At a later date, I’ll try to get to grips with the other side of the story – why do some kids get a kick out of persecuting people online. That won’t be easy.