Blogpost: By Janie Livermore
“You are fat.”
“You have no friends. Go and kill yourself.”
Not pleasant is it?
Imagine getting messages like that on a daily basis.
A big subject this week is Internet Trolling. This is due to the sad and horrible suicide of Hannah Smith, a 14-year-old girl who suffered horrible taunts from strangers on the website ask.fm. She stood up for herself on numerous occasions, but it is obvious that this poor young girl eventually got pushed to the point where she could no longer carry on living, and took her own life. Sadly, she is not the first, nor will she be the last. 4,500 calls were made last year to Childline regarding internet abuse.
So what is the difference between a troll and just a little bit of banter? Well, there is a fine line between “banter” and “bullying” online, which is a line that can be easily crossed. Banter is usually between friends, where you may call your friend “fat” or something not so nice in good jest. Bullying is when it stops being taken in good humour. Bullying is when the person giving out the jibe starts to mean it, and usually, the comment itself gets that bit nastier.
But with both of these, it is usually between people who know one another. Trolls usually target celebrities, or people they hardly know. Maybe this is because they do not have any emotional attachment to the subject, so it is easier for them to be nasty.
Not soon after Hannah Smith’s death, a tribute site went straight up onto Facebook. Like many, these pages are made for friends and family to write heartfelt messages of support and sorrow for the victim. Sadly, it has become a target for the internet trolls, otherwise known as RIP trolling.
One comment on her tribute site said: ‘Its (sic) her own fault for taking her own life. its (sic) cowardice. and instead of opening our eyes to the dead we should open our ears to the living’.
Then later on after some confrontation, the same user: Oh for f**** sake bullying on the internet is soo f****** easy to avoid just turn off your f****** computer!’
Now, I don’t know about you, but this made my blood boil. This girl has just died, and some sad individual felt the need to write such an awful thing only days after her death? I just cannot fathom why there are people like this in the world. Sure, it may be “easy to avoid”, but she was 14. Most 14-year-olds are on their computers, and
I believe it is easier said than done. But at the end of the day, why should she cut of all ties in communicating with friends over the internet? Welcome to 2013, our lives are sadly based around technology and the internet. Why should she be bullied into not going on her computer, thanks to some obnoxious people, when the majority of her school friends communicate through the internet?
Trolling does not even have to be extreme, all it has to do is upset the individual or those close around them. Student Liam Stacey, who wrote an unacceptable tweet about Fabrice Muamba, who ended up fighting for his life when he collapsed during a Bolton v Spurs match, was sentenced to jail for 56 days. To some, this might be a bit too far, but at the same time, it will hopefully teach other people who get a so-called ”thrill” from being ”awful” to grieving families or friends, that there will be consequences and that they cannot hide behind their computer screens like sad, sad-excuse of a human being that they are.
I don’t know what can honestly be done about internet bullying. People look for someone to blame. Some blame the websites such as ask.fm for not having the right safety and security features. Some blame the parents for not teaching internet safety to their children, or for not keeping an eye on what they are doing online. But I am hoping that something will get put in place to raise awareness of the dangers on the internet, and maybe for some extreme cases, justice for the grieving family or anyone who has been affected severely by internet bullying. There have been a few cases where the trolls have ended up in jail, even just for a few days.
Everyone knows that famous saying: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”, but I think eventually if you hear enough negativity about yourself, it will wear you down. This may not give you scars physically, but it can do emotionally. As adults, we can handle taunts and put downs a little easier than a teenager. Think back to when you were a teenager, with all the stresses of school, growing up, puberty and much more, repetitive nastiness can sometimes be the last straw, as sadly proven by some teenage suicides.
This needs to stop; we should be using the internet to our ADVANTAGE by increasing our clientele if we have a business, or to advertise our blogs if you write, or to communicate with friends and family from across the world. Not to use it for bullying, however harmless you may think your words are, it could really hit a nerve in someone else. Just please, be careful and think before you speak type.