Bullying is not a new phenomenon, nor are the unfortunate consequences of excessive teasing and name calling. Depression, lowered self esteem, reclusion, and even suicide have for years been the ugly consequences of crude jokes gone array. Over the years many young people have struggled with bullying, some have been fortunate enough to find themselves victorious in the end and go on to attain very successful adult lives, while others are much less fortunate. How educational institutions and family members deal with bullying has changed a lot over the years, and with society becoming more accepting of unique personalities, diverse races and multiple sexual orientations, it seems bullying is ever so slowly meeting its match in education and activism.
Yet, as society progresses so does the technology it uses, and, in some cases, can seem to reverse progress made in regards to some particular issues such as bullying. The time when students could seek refuge at home are gone. No longer can students avoid a certain area of the gymnasium for example, or the rough senior hallway. No, in 2013 bullys can find you anytime, anywhere and whenever they choose. Mobile phones, wireless internet, Facebook apps and constant internet connectedness has made bullying a 24/7, every minute of your life affair, and for some, this increased exposure to bullying can be too much to handle. For some, social media has become a nightmare.
Caroline Picchio, a 14 year old girl of northern Italy, tragically leapt to her death from a third story window last month. The reason for her suicide was the incessant bullying of eight teenage boys, who relentlessly taunted Picchio after a photo of her intoxicated was snapped at a social event. Mobile phones and their attached cameras are omnipresent, waiting to document moments in life that previous to this technology would be relegated to mere memories.
But pictures were taken, and damage was done. This is the darker, bloodied, ugly side of the social media sword that social media enthusiasts would prefer users not think of. Whilst social media networks and mobile phones have the power to unite people in positive ways as never before, such as activism during last year’s Arab spring, social media also has the ability to unite cold hearted, ruthless and immature teenagers and ultimately result in truly heartbreaking consequences.
Carolina could not escape her tormentors, so she took her own life. In a note to her then boyfriend she wrote: “Isn’t what you have done enough? You have made me paid too many times”. The taunting began after she left this boy, and in reaction he and his friends shared a picture of her drunk in disheveled in a bathroom. His revenge was amplified eight fold by the participation of his fiends. In the end, the badgering was too much to handle for this young woman.
Now Facebook faces lawsuits, for it’s negligent role in the bullying that led not only to Ms. Picchio’s death, but also because of a 15 year old boy from Rome’s death previous. He also killed himself after repeatedly being bullied because of his sexual orientation.
While bullying will take years of societal evolution to combat it’s ugly effects, we must first realize that social media, while connecting us all and having enormously positive impacts in regards to society-wide communication, also can simultaneously have very dark and destructive effects if not used with compassion and responsibility.
The total number of youths who took their lives as a result or partial result of cyber-bullying and Facebook bullying is unknown, however the effect of this omnipresent social network is obvious: either social media leaders will have to face reality and re-evaluate their anti-bullying policies, or society will have to reevaluate how it perceives Facebook and the like, and adjust how it perceives them as societal tools.