This is a sad story about a girl named Amanda Todd who killed herself because she couldn’t escape bullying. For some of you, that’s all you need to read. For others, you hang around because you want the gory details.
In this circumstance, the gory details are that a 15-year-old girl was peer pressured, stalked, and then mocked until she couldn’t take it anymore. She took steps to escape the drama that surrounded her and when that didn’t work, she died. For all the horrible shit I’ve seen in my life, that is about as gory as it gets.
It is still a lucky thing to be born a guy, even in this country, because there is a whole world of pressure that us guys cannot possibly comprehend, particularly when it comes to the Internet. It’s still the era of “Mad Men” online as the faceless words, coursing with testosterone, berate and harass women with the declaration of “Tits or GTFO.” And girls do these things because they feel like it is their way to belong and to be a part of the group. It took Amanda Todd a year to cave in and show her breasts online. It took substantially less time for that decision to take away her will to live.
There is a weird mentality that prevails whenever a large enough group gets together in any format. I remember going to rock concerts and having girls crowd surf above the masses and all of us guys would use it as our opportunity to get our grope on. Anything you could grab and squeeze, you did because you could get away with it. Am I proud of the memory now? No, but I won’t lie to you and tell you I didn’t. That is the same sort of pack mentality though that sought Amanda out online and punished her for giving them what they wanted. One guy in particular kept coming back to her and threatening to expose her nude photos to everyone on Facebook unless she played his game and showed him more. The cheerleader did what he asked, and the son of a bitch released the photos anyway.
She moved, but the bullies caught up to her and created new bullies in her new school — such is the inescapable reach of the Internet. The new crowd harassed her and one girl, caught up in the peer pressure, beat Amanda Todd up, leaving her to bleed in a ditch. People get angry when you take solace on the aggressors, but attempt to imagine how miserable that other girl is now going to feel for the rest of her life? You might say, “Who cares?” but many people don’t realize how easy it is to get caught up in being a bully. I remember I saw a kid one time pop a zit and then, curious, he tasted his pus. I was so repulsed I called him out on it publicly. He was a scummy, white trash-looking kid, and I was probably white trash too, but I thought it was funnier to mock him. He, humiliated, just sat there and took it, and everybody made comments about how disgusting he was. He didn’t kill himself, and he never talked to me, nor I to him, but every time I think about it (which is surprisingly often), I wish I could take it back. I can’t fathom how I would feel had he done something to himself. So yes, I do empathize somewhat with Amanda Todd’s tormentors. Kids do stupid things without recognizing the bigger implications. It happens easily.
After Amanda got home from lying beaten in a ditch, she swallowed bleach. Because she survived, the bullies were even more cruel, asking her if she swallowed the bleach to get the taste of the ditch mud out of her mouth. Again Amanda moved, and, desperate to alleviate the emotional angst and horror she was feeling, she even returned to the Internet to tell her side of things. That is why I get to share this horror story with you. Amanda made a video, where her face is blurred out, and she holds up cue cards detailing her mistakes and her hurt. I don’t think it gave her what she needed, because a month later (yesterday) she was dead. YouTube pulled her video. Now everybody who is left alive gets to take the information we have about this girl and do with it what we can.
I think my editors deliberately paired me up with this story because I am typically insensitive to the plight of others and they figured that maybe this story and I could benefit one another. Maybe you didn’t like how I wrote it, because the only way I could process Amanda’s story was to filter it through my own interactions with bullying. I’m sad that Amanda is not alive today, and I can’t help but think how easily it could have been for me to be one of the taunting bullies that resulted in her death. I could have done it without a second thought. For me at least, on this one, I think my editors were right.