Damn internet, you crazy!
So the long, sad story of “Jessi Slaughter” (an internet handle, not her real name) has taken an interesting turn lately with the reveal of a new character in the drama: a boy named “Damien.”
Admittedly, I am at a crossroads after having now talked with the internet pariah, who is back living with her mom deep in the reaches of Florida. She’s allegedly had several suicide attempts, did a tour of duty in foster care and has nude photos of her circulating the internet, forever being shared in chat rooms by perverts and sickos. She’s been the subject of national news, internet smear campaigns, and at one point was the poster child for online bullying. Now at the battle-hardened age of 14, she’s decided she’s more comfortable living life as a boy named Damien.
On the one hand, to talk to him over Skype, I get the notion that Damien is sharp and thoughtful — he accepts his life as “not so bad” because he “knows no other way.” He even takes a “whaddaya gonna do” approach to those child pornography images and handles drama better than most adults I know, saying he does not “blame the internet.” And yet, he is 14, sold on elective surgery, and as he terms it, is “in a relationship with a 39-year-old man.” And so, sanguine disposition notwithstanding, I have to wonder: Is the internet to blame for all this?
For those of you who weren’t into that whole “media thing” in 2010, Jessi Slaughter became a viral sensation after a video surfaced of the 11-year-old lashing out at her online peers over some salacious (and untrue) web gossip. A cautionary tale for letting your children become exposed to too much too soon in the Digital Era, Slaughter threatens, in the expletive-laden video, to put a Glock in her enemies’ mouths and turn their heads into “brain-slushees.” Posted to YouTube, that response video quickly bounced around the internet and wound up in the hands of the notoriously toxic 4chan forum.