A couple of decades ago a friend of mine came up with an excellent analogy of hell: “Being stuck in a room packed with mean, adolescent girls for all of eternity.”
Shudder. That one hits pretty close to the mark. At the time she said it, she was unaware that the hellish experience she described might someday be a reality for some here in the earthly realm. The tragic suicide of Rebecca Ann Sedwick is a case in point.
The 12-year-old Florida girl was relentless harassed through social media by at least fifteen girls. The sheriff investigating the tragedy said she was “absolutely terrorized” by a group of mean spirited peers.
No Way Out
Many of us have memories from junior high we’d rather forget. As a child I was bullied by a group of older girls who rode the school bus with me. For an agonizing twenty minutes a day I was filled with dread and anxiety. After feigning a number of tummy aches to avoid getting on the bus, my perceptive mother did a little digging and found out what was going on. She intervened and from that point on, I rode a different bus. End of story, I was bullied no more.
Rebecca’s mother tried to do something similar; soon after the bullying started she withdrew Rebecca from school and home schooled her the rest of that semester. The following year she enrolled her in a different middle school. But the bullies were undeterred – the far reaching tentacles of cyberspace made any hope of complete escape next to impossible.
A Very Real Threat
According to a Michigan State University study earlier this year, electronic terrorism can be at least as intense, if not more so than a physical altercation. The safety net of distance emboldened Rebecca’s tormentors to even greater heights of cruelty, as is often the case with cyberbullying.
Yet ironically for the victims, social media’s new bully venue tears down protective walls of safety they should be entitled to; their personal [cyber] space is continually violated.
As is the case with all forms of abuse, bullying is all about power; and the power of those fifteen girls’ vitriol hurled Rebecca to her death, just as if they’d literally pushed her off a cliff.