Bullying is disgusting and vile. I am sure everyone can agree on that. Whether it’s in the school play ground, at home, in the streets or across screens via social networks, it’s completely unacceptable. It can have a profound and devastating effect on the people it targets. The story of Natasha MacBryde, only 15 years of age, is one such heart breaking example of cyber bullying.
Having received some nasty messages on the Facebook and Formspring networks, Natasha grew increasingly isolated and depressed. She feared that she no longer had any friends and had been accused of “hiding behind make-up”. Sadly, on 14th February, she took her own life. Now, there may well have been other factors which amounted to her decision to end her life, but the cyber bullying was clearly a factor. She had come home from school crying just weeks before claiming she had lost all of her friends. This article is not just about the impact online behaviour has on victims of bullying. Yes, in this circumstance, the most tragic outcome prevailed. But it gets worse for Natasha’s memory and her grieving family.
Soon after her death, family and friends put up a Facebook group dedicated to her memory. A place where they can write to her, remain connected with her and share memories. A lovely thought. But her memorial page was then a victim of “Trolling”. Sean Duffy*, 25, who had never even met or heard of Natasha before her tragic death, started posting outrageous and hurtful comments just because he deemed it entertaining and funny. For those who may be unfamiliar with the term Trolling, here is a quick definition,
trolling” – a term used to describe the trend of anonymously seeking to provoke outrage by posting insults and abuse online.”
Trolling Is Bullying
Mr Duffy, posted hurtful and demeaning comments and videos on YouTube and Facebook about her and her death. This even included calling her a “slut” on her memorial page. This type of networking behaviour caused immense distress and hurt for her family who frequently monitored the page and understandably so. Having lost a daughter so suddenly in such a manner, no family should then face ridicule by online networking bullies. And trolling is a form of bullying. It inflicts great pain and distress on the families of those involved. The manner taunting and horrible remarks are the same formula as any other type of bullying. Having already taken her life because of cyber bullying, Natasha now faces even more in death.
What’s more, is that this is not the only death that Sean Duffy took advantage of on this manner. He would sit and scour the Internet for stories like Natasha’s and then intentionally write hurtful messages on Facebook. Another example of his disgusting online addiction, is the story of Lauren Drew, 14, who died during an epileptic seizure. On Mothers Day, he wrote on her Facebook wall “Help me mummy, it’s hot in hell”. In fact, he did this to a handful of grieving families over a period of time.
He is now facing an 18 week jail sentence for his online exploits.
Did Sean Duffy think about the impact his actions would have? I don’t mean just for the families and the memories of the dead but I also mean for him? If he finds it so easy to start up hateful pages and groups or gatecrash on someones pain in Facebook, what’s stopping others from setting up pages dedicated to hurting him in return? There is precedent for this.
One man within the social media circles we’ll refer to him as “RQ”, happened to stumble upon the name of and home address and phone number of the individual who made the BNP website. BNP is a radical right wing nationalist party here in the UK. They are generally considered hateful and very few people agree with their views and beliefs. RQ set up a hate group for the man who made their website listing all his personal details with a slogan closely resembling “get out of Cornwall”. Yes, he made a website for a somewhat morally unjust political party, but as a web designer, that is his job. More to the point, people are free to have any views they wish and support and political party they like. To set up hate groups on Facebook in unacceptable, particularly when you are listing personal information in there which could set their life in immediate danger. It is not morally correct to swap one hate for another.
There is nothing to stop people who have strong feelings against Sean Duffy from doing the same and putting him on the receiving end of his own bullying tactics.
Key Take Away
Social networking is meant to be social and social implies fun and friendly. But this is not always the case. Online bullying and victimisation is increasing and with the web being free and people having the right to freedom of expression, hurtful comments and trolling can not always be monitored or stopped. Should Facebook and other networks try and reign in this behaviour? Some would argue yes because of the impact it has on victims and their families, whilst others would say people have the right to say what they like, regardless of how hurtful and disgusting it is. The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer and even if there were, it would be impossible to stop this type of online social behaviour as the Internet is just so big with so many places to incite hatefulness.
*Editor’s note: Just after this article went live it was brought to our attention that Duffy suffered from Asperger Syndrome so we felt we had a duty to mention it as it could have been a contributing factor to his actions.
~Articles mentioned in this post: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hereford-worcester-14239702
~Articles mentioned in this post: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-14894576
~Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bhiima