In the pre-internet era, news of teenage indiscretions might travel around the high school hallways. Now they are broadcast to the world. Too often, the cyber-bullying of vulnerable teenage girls leads to self-mutiliation or even suicide.
Two teenaged girls recently killed themselves after posting heart-wrenching messages on social media. On the flip side, another teen might have been saved by the online activist group Anonymous, who stepped in to defend a 15 year-old girl from cyber-bullies and trolls.
Last month, 15-year-old Felicia Garcia tweeted her final dispatch: “I cant, Im done, I give up.” Two days later, the Staten Island teen committed suicide by jumping in front of a passenger train. Garcia jumped from a platform in front of roughly 200 classmates.
According to the Daily News, Garcia met a teacher on the platform who asked her if she was ok. When the high school freshman saw the oncoming train she exclaimed to a friend, “yeah, finally” before dropping her bag and making the fatal jump.
The New York Times reported that Garcia might have been led to suicide by persistent bullying by members of the Tottenville High School football team. Rumors spread, alleging that Garcia had sex with several members of the team. The NYPD’s Special Victims Unit is investigating the possibility of a sex tape. Garcia lived in a foster home — her parents died years ago — and reportedly had a strained relationship with her foster parents.
Despite her plaintive final tweet, classmates recalled Garcia as strong and confident. “She never really reached out for help; she was a really tough person,” her friend Briana Torres told a reporter. “When I dropped her off at class, I wasn’t really worried about her.”
When 15-year-old Kylie Kylem posted about her pain on Twitter, it did worry people. “I’ve got the blade in my hand i need to think BBL” she wrote under her Twitter handle “@YayyImKyliebaby”. Internet vigilantes from Anonymous and the Rustle League came to her aid and enlisted hundreds of followers to reach out to Kylie.
The school bullies going after Kylie tweeted with the handle “killyourselfkylie.” They were joined by an unrelated cybertroll “bigjohn_666”. Neither enjoyed the taste of their own medicine. Kylie’s newfound friends went after the bullies with threats of their own – and by posting information about their true identities on the web.
Finally, the bullies were schooled by the hackers. Kylie’s school harassers tweeted: Dont do this ok… Plz.. We’re sorry for doing this to her. We will leave her alone forever. Promise”. Bigjohn_666 wrote “@YayyImKyliebaby i never meant any harm or anything..sorry for what i said. im just a asshole.” A fuller accounting of the horrible but ultimately uplifting episode can be found on dailydot.com.
“Amanda Todd is dead now shes in hell kylie wants to kill herself welcome her to hell” was one noxious post in the Kyle Kylem story that referenced the most viral teen suicide note in web history. Canadian teenager Amanda Todd caused an internet sensation by posting a heart-wrenching YouTube video in which she silently told her story of cyber-bullying on a series of hand-scrawled cue cards.
In the video, Todd says she flashed her chest in front of a webcam and that a man captured the photo and transmitted it to her classmates — and continued sending it even as Todd transferred schools. Todd describes being ostracized by her peers, developing anxiety disorders, turning to drugs and alcohol, and trying to end her life by drinking bleach.
And yet, she seemingly posted the video as a show of strength. Underneath her video she posted a message that read in part: “I hope I can show you guys that everyone has a story, and everyone’s future will be bright one day, you just gotta pull through. I’m still here aren’t I?”
But just over a month later, Todd’s life ended in suicide. After his daughter’s senseless death, Norm Todd suggested Amanda’s video be shown in schools to illustrate the consequences of bullying: “Amanda put the message out there to help people. You can’t help people if you don’t use it.”
In the wake of bullying-induced suicides, high school administrators offer counselling and anti-bullying instruction. Indictments followed the infamous suicide of teenager Phoebe Prince.
An important lesson for teens is that nothing on the internet is ever erased – and not everyone can rely on Anonymous to stick up for them online. ”I can never get that photo back,” Amanda Todd’s cue card read. “It’s out there forever.” Still, in this attention-span deficient world, there is a light at the end of the tunnel — a light at which some teens, like Todd and Garcia, tragically never arrive.