You Don’t Need a Gun to Kill Someone, Words Work Just as Well
In early October 2011, a video was leaked on YouTube, depicting a fourteen year old girl named Amber Cole performing oral sex on a guy at the back of her school in Baltimore, Fredrick Douglas High. Although she claimed to have been videotaped without her knowledge, the video gained mass popularity over YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Humiliating videos, songs, and dances were posted on YouTube called “The Amber Cole.” Rumours about her began spreading rapidly over the Internet to the point where people were claiming that she had died. Although YouTube and Twitter have taken down the videos, the rumors will continue to follow her.
Cole is not alone. In September 2010, a series of teen bullying cases dominated national news; the death toll from teen bullying was out of control. Tyler Clementi, 18, Billy Lucas, 15, Jamey Rodemeyer, 14, and Seth Walsh, 13, all committed suicide at the start of the 2010 school year, and all four teens took their lives after being bullied online. The Clementi case, in particular, was similar to Cole’s. Tyler Clementi, 18, was engaging in sexual relations with a male partner when he was recorded by his roommate, without his knowledge. The video was then broadcast live online. On September 22nd, Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.
Just like Clementi, Jamey Rodemeyer, 14, killed himself after suffering relentless bullying for his sexuality. On September 8th he wrote: “No one in my school cares about preventing suicide, while you’re the ones calling me [gay slur] and tearing me down.” The next day he said “I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. What do I have to do so people will listen to me?” On September 18th, his sister discovered his body hanging in his room. During a recent concert, Lady Gaga (Rodemeyer was a huge fan of Lady Gaga, and took comfort in her lyrics) dedicated her song “Hair” to him, saying, “Jamey, I know you’re up there looking at us and you’re not a victim; you’re a lesson to all of us.” His story, as well as Clementi’s, was featured on the Anderson Cooper Show, where their families spoke out on their behalf.
In most cases bullies often run an anonymous operation, and after their victims are dead, the bullies’ identities remain unknown. Social media has become both helpful and hurtful in this regard. In one breath, Twitter and Facebook users send condolences after bullying victims take their lives, but in another breath, users wish to see these videos and add their comments to it making the situation worse. Take the Amber Cole video; for example, in a survey 75 percent of people said they would watch the Amber Cole video: 6,669 voters said they would watch the video, while only 2,237 people said they wouldn’t. What people are not realizing is that the more people that watch it the more negative attention they garner which benefits the bully, and also contributes to cyber bullying. The power of online bullying is to get as many people attacking the victim without anyone really knowing who started it.
It only takes one person to ruin another’s life. You post one comment on Facebook or Twitter and within seconds it seems as if everyone knows about it. Facebook and Twitter are the news networks of today’s generation, and the saddest part is that the information doesn’t even have to be true. Once a person says it, people just assume that it is true.
Thankfully, the Red Cross has teamed up with high schools throughout Canada to help combat bullying by creating “Beyond the Hurt: Youth Peer Facilitator Program”. This program presents high school students with the opportunity to go to different schools and talk to other kids about the effects of bullying. Including, what to do if you’re being bullied and how to get help. It also covers what to do if you see someone getting bulled online, and how to stop it. Most kids find this effective because instead of an adult talking to them about it, they have someone their age talking to them. This makes it easier for them to relate, and also feel more comfortable talking about their own experiences.
ABC has made a movie called “Cyberbully” about a teen, Taylor Hillridge, who gets a laptop for her birthday and signs up on a social networking site. However, Taylor soon finds herself the victim of betrayal and bullying on this site. Tormented and afraid to face her peers at school, Taylor is pushed to an extreme breaking point of attempting suicide.
Although “Cyberbully” is only a movie, it has long lasting effects and teens can relate to it because it happens in everyday life. Someone we trust starts a nasty rumour and the next thing you know it has spiralled out of control into something utterly different from what was said in the first place.
The worst part about cyberbulling is that people that don’t even know you talk about you and judge you on something that may not even be true. However, we can all do our part to prevent cyber bullying. Next time someone posts a rude comment, tell them to stop, report it, but don’t just sit there and ignore it because that’s just as bad as bullying a person yourself. If you hear about a video that has been spreading, don’t watch it, the more views it gets the more people it will attract. If you read something online don’t jump to conclusions about it, or add your own opinion. Rather, ask the person that it is about, or better yet don’t pay any attention to it because the worst thing you can do is spread it. Once you say something, it can only be forgiven not forgotten.