Cyber bullying is a serious problem, but sadly, many people do not take it so seriously. Cyber crimes are not considered “real crimes.” Honestly, what harm can someone do to you from across the realms of the internet? If someone makes up a nasty rumor about you on Facebook, well, it is only Facebook, not your real life. Besides, you can always delete your account. But what if someone catches you doing something embarrassing, or worse, something extremely private and personal, on tape and posts it on YouTube? What if said video goes viral and everyone you know, along with many people you do not know, see it? Calm down, embarrassment always blows over, right? Eventually people will get tired of laughing at you and find someone new to laugh at.
Even though our culture does not consider cyber crimes “real,” the affects of cyber bullying is very real. Megan Meier was a teenager from Dardenne Prairie, Missouri who hanged herself in 2006, just before her fourteenth birthday, after being bullied online by adults in her neighborhood. Phoebe Prince of South Hadley, Massachusetts hanged herself in 2010, at the age of 15, after facing months of harassment online and at school. That same year, Alexis Pilkingon who lived in Long Island, New York committed suicide after enduring cyber bullying. So maybe cyber crimes are “real;” after all, these young girls’ suicides were real.
To be fair, the people bullying those girls probably did not intend for them to kill themselves. And most cyber bullying does not go that far. For instance, I have been stalked online by a family friend. I had known this person my whole life, and even lived with them for a few months during high school. When I left my small hometown to go to college, I began learning new things, expanding my worldview, opening my mind, and started developing into my own person – a person I actually started to like, I might add. Well, some people from my narrow-minded hometown did not like the changes taking place in my life, including this family friend. So, this person thought it would be a good idea to follow me around Facebook, to all the feminist, gay rights, etc. pages that I follow, harassing me and telling me how wrong and ungodly my views were. They even quoted scriptures all over may Facebook page. I asked this person to stop stalking and harassing me, but they simply played innocent, made excuses, and continued to harass and stalk me.
I finally decided to block this person even though they had been a significant part of my life. My own family told me I overreacted and responded rudely. After all, it was not that big of a deal was it? But what if this had not been a cyber crime? What if it had been a “real” crime? What if this person had physically followed me to my classes, my club meetings, and my friends’ apartments telling me how wrong I was in everything I said and did? Those would be “real” crimes. So, the next time you are tempted to brush off cyber bullying, whether it is being done to someone else or yourself, think of Megan, Phoebe, and Alexis, think of how very real their pain (caused by cyber bullies) was, and think how different you might feel if the bullying was happening in “real” life rather than in cyberspace.