Author’s Note: This piece is going to publish much later, just in time to let tempers cool for my next grand feat of feet in mouth up to hip, or so it’s been perceived. I believe the best audience is educators, youth ministers, and anyone–lunch lady, bus driver, parent–who works with kids.
I did something lately that I thought was really smart.
In a public gathering, I watched a woman walk away with tears, not big, messy ones, but tears. I was angered; I couldn’t encourage her in the moment, but I sure wasn’t happy with the way no one seemed to notice. Eventually, the wife of one of the leaders did appear to check on her. I didn’t like the way anyone in the crowd handled it, and I didn’t like the way I handled it. Even my daughter with Aspergers knew she was crying and was at a loss for what to do.
So I went home to my trusty nemesis Facebook. I posted to my very close, select group of friends (at the time 144…yes, I have even fewer Friends than trusted blog companions) with Friends Only security, knowing it would only be seen by six or seven at most. Admittedly, it was more rant. But I digress. My hope was my friends would know the best route in the future because country girls like me just don’t have a good fund of experience to work from.
I had 15 people trying to tell me I was too sensitive and the woman only had allergies. A subset of that tried to intimate that I had spiritual maturity issues. The best response came from a stay-at-home mom who should probably run a business; she validated my perception, presented some other alternatives, and then gave me real solutions…which when I get stuck in valkyrie on a white charger mode is exactly what I need.
I decided to pull the post, and I posted a thanks for all who participated. Even as I pulled the post, I got a voice mail from someone not even on my friend list wanting, in not so gentle a tone, to discuss my post. I had already pulled the post, so I just decided to wait for another, better day when my charger wasn’t foaming at the mouth and my sword wasn’t gleaming red.
I realized that one of my “friends” who didn’t like my tone probably tried to start a lynch mob to protect the image of all involved… despite my argument about the woes of burnout in leadership. Whoever it was probably carried it on a mobile device or took a screen shot or picture with a phone (why I actually support European attitudes and rules toward social media).
I also chortled that when I finally had to deal with that voice message there would be no proof but my own integrity.
Then I got scared. I remembered my days as a bullying survivor in the making. I had the frightening idea of how this could be misused.
I started, as a writer given to paranoia and indulgence in conspiracy theories and flights of fancy, wondering what if…
I’m 14. My grades stink. My parents are always ragging me. I have this beautiful 15-year-old neighbor. She excels at writing and studying; everyone loves her, especially my parents. They love to hold her up as a shining example of all that I fail to do and should.
My rage is seething and my hormones are raging. She’s the same way. The difference is she’s quiet, doesn’t make friends well, and always seems to cry and hate herself every 28 days. She is my competition for my parents’ attention, and I don’t like it very much.
It’s summer. Both our parents work. Like clockwork every day at 7 am all the adults leave. Facebook is our friend, and I friend her.
Around 8 am, I post the nastiest message I can. I tell her she’s fat, she’s ugly, she’s weird, she’s crazy. I can see her sobbing in her bedroom. She doesn’t respond, but all the kids do. By noon, I delete the post. And I do it again and again.
She can’t begin to ask for help because she can’t find the proof. Meanwhile, our parents are continually forcing us to spend time together. I’m getting high on her misery.
I wait a few days, and do it again. And again. By mid-July, I do it for the last time, only I don’t know it. I post my usual rant. I watch her room, and nothing happens. Still nothing by 10, by 11, by noon. I delete the post, thinking I must have missed her sneaking off.
Our parents arrive at 6:30 pm. I hear a shriek from her house. By 6:45, the coroner arrives.
I wonder how many bullies cause the death of their victims by electronic bullying of post then pull, post then pull, resulting in a torture so sadistic suicide appears the only answer. I wonder if the authorities have seen that tactic. I wonder if they’ve even thought to look. I wonder how many of the kids liking (or even seeing) a bullying post think to intervene.
And I pray that I’m just too backwater and not creating a scene. I’m praying that authorities have thought of this and are working with Facebook to not have this happen.