Teenager's tragic life and death shares lessons
It is a video that is simple and heartrending. A girl holds up note cards telling her story about years of abuse at the hands of her classmates, saying, “I have nobody. I need someone.” The video went viral in the wake of British Columbia teenager Amanda Todd’s suicide, with thousands going online on a Facebook memorial page to share their stories about bullying and express their grief at Todd’s death.
In life, Amanda Todd felt alone and tormented, the result of years of bullying, which forced her into depression, anxiety and self-harm, such as drinking bleach and cutting herself. But in death, thousands of people have united behind her, mourned her passing, and felt touched by her words.
Yet at least some of Amanda’s tormentors seem to show no remorse, with former classmates and strangers posting comments such as “I hope they sell Clorox in hell,” or expressing gladness that she is now dead. It is a sad reflection on the cold-heartedness of those that bullied her, but also on how the use of social media allows people the anonymity to be cruel and savage. It is no longer possible to leave taunts at school or on the playground – now these jeers follow people into their homes, into their phones or anywhere else through the Internet.
Todd seems to have been targeted in part because of showing her sexuality – at the age of 12, she made a mistake that would haunt her for the next three years. She started fooling around online with friends, and at the request of one person, sent out a photo of herself lifting up her top and flashing the screen. From then on, she became labeled a slut, a porn star, and other derisive terms that followed her even after she changed schools.
So-called ‘sexting’ and using webcams or phones to share intimate pictures is becoming more and more common amongst young people – Todd’s case should serve as a warning how an image shared online is not necessarily private and that one should be careful what they post or send, let it come back to haunt them.
One also hopes that those who view Todd’s video don’t dissociate themselves or their own actions from it, but recognize how this could happen anywhere to anyone. It is the responsibility of everybody to fight bullying behaviours – both by not taking part in bullying, and also speaking out when they see it, rather than being a passive bystander. It could make the difference between life and death for others like Amanda Todd, who feel like they have nobody, and that they need someone.
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