Update: this probably needs a trigger warning. It is indeed very upsetting.
Speaking of girls, and bullying, and sexualization, and bullying, and name-calling, and bullying…
A girl in Coquitlam, BC, couldn’t wait for it to get better, and killed herself on Wednesday. She left a video telling the story.
“In 7th grade I would go with friends on webcam,” the card in the teen’s hand read.
The next few cards reveal that the teen began to get attention on the Internet from people that she did not know. People who told her she was beautiful, stunning, perfect.
“They wanted me to flash. So I did one year later,” the cards said.
The teen then got a message on Facebook from a stranger who said she needed to show more of herself or he would publish the topless pictures he had taken of her.
“He knew my address, school, relatives, friends, family, names …”
And it went on from there. Anxiety, depression, withdrawal, self-cutting. Bullying. More and more and more bullying. So she killed herself.
The weird thing about this (weird to me) is that I saw it via a tweet by Al Stefanelli, a tweet which was (kind of) aimed at me, in the sense that it quoted something I’d said on his (new-old) blog. I said it as a comment on his post Free Speech, Being Offended and the Role the Internet Plays in the Exchange of Ideas, which (I think) makes the whole thing much too simple.
For fuck’s sake, if something is being said about you or about a subject that you are sensitive to on the Internet in a way that is going to cause you extreme duress, stress you out, or trigger a reaction that will cause you to have a psychological breakdown, the stay the hell away from those spaces. Really, it’s that simple.
No, really, it isn’t. So I commented to that effect. (It wasn’t meant as a hostile gesture. On the contrary, it was meant as a conciliatory one – a maybe we can still keep the conversation going despite your sudden departure gesture.)
But it isn’t that simple. Suppose what is being said about you is both false and defamatory? Suppose it could do you real-world damage? Then just staying the hell away isn’t really a solution, is it.
So you’re over-simplifying, Al. Quite drastically. It’s just not the case that the only harm ever done by any kind of speech including written speech is that it “offends” someone.
Al’s tweet a couple of hours later said
THIS is what ‘real-world damage’ from digital bullying looks like: Teen leaves behind chilling YouTube video
Quoting me, see. But it’s odd, because that’s what I was saying. Just staying the hell away isn’t always really a solution.
Anyway…the gesture didn’t work, to say the least. Al is angrier than I’d realized. I frankly don’t know why. But the point remains – no, it’s not that simple. This subject isn’t simple.