Anti bullying movements have become a normal part of most educational institutions and many online initiatives. But, despite best efforts, we do not live in a perfect world and bullying, especially cyber bullying, is a big issue. Sad bullying stories are prevalent and, unfortunately, easy to find.
Why is Cyber Bullying So Prevalent?
It is easy to be anonymous online, or at least to have the feeling of anonymity. When someone types a negative comment on a YouTube video, or posts a bullying remark to Twitter or via text message, that person does not see the faces of the people reading their words, nor does the person have to face up to the person being bullied. Most of us have seen how out of hand online conversations can get, and this is because without face-to-face interaction, it is easier to say mean and hurtful things to another person. The same goes for text messaging someone a hateful message or ridiculing someone by posting about them on social media.
A First Cyber Bullying Story
In what is considered one of the first cyber bully stories, the perpetrator was not a naive kid who may not have known better, nor was the bully an anonymous Internet troll that was just acting cruel. The bully in this story was a 49-year old mother in Missouri, and the person being bullied was a teenager on MySpace, one of the first social media sites to gain popularity and wide-spread use. The first of the two sad bullying stories below showcases that bullies do not all come from the same walks of life.
Megan Meier was like most 13-year old girls. She was a bit boy-crazy, she wore braces, and she was insecure about her body. She also struggled with depression and ADD, but was described as a generally happy girl who enjoyed spending time with friends and family. When Megan was entering eighth grade, her parents enrolled her in a private school, hoping that the policy of uniforms and no makeup would help her fit in. At around the same time, Megan became active on MySpace, under the strict supervision of her mother, Tina. One day, an older boy named Josh Evans sent Megan a message through MySpace and they became online friends. Josh was attractive and Megan was excited to receive attention from a boy, although she never met him in person or spoke to him on the phone (Josh claimed that he did not own a cell phone and his family did not have a landline). Tina Meier says on the Megan Meier Foundation website,
Megan had a lifelong struggle with weight and self-esteem. And now she finally had a boy who she thought really thought she was pretty.
Unfortunately, Josh began sending Megan hurtful and mean messages. Megan became extremely upset, and although her mother told her to sign off from MySpace and stop reading the messages, Megan continued to converse with Josh. The last message Josh is believed to have sent stated, “Everybody in O’Fallon knows how you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you.”
After reading the message from Josh, Megan ran past her parents and up to her room, crying. Megan’s parents discussed the MySpace account with one another and made dinner until Tina had a sudden bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. Tina ran upstairs to Megan’s room to check on her daughter, and found that Megan had hung herself in the closet. Megan died the next day.
Approximately six weeks after Megan’s death, it was determined that Josh Evans never existed. A fake MySpace account was created by the mother of a classmate and former friend of Megan’s who was allegedly upset about things Megan had said about her daughter. The mother contended that it was never her intention to drive Megan to suicide, despite allegedly being aware of Megan’s history of depression and self-esteem issues. The mother was never implicated in Megan’s suicide because, at the time, she had technically not broken any laws. As sad bullying stories go, Megan Meier’s story ended in tragedy.
Ryan Halligan is another 13-year old who committed suicide after being the victim of cyber bullying. In this story about bullying, Ryan Halligan was a smaller boy who first experienced bullying in fifth grade “because of his poor physical condition.” Ryan continued to be bullied to the point where he was begging his parents to either home school him or move to a different school district. Boys in his school started rumors that Ryan was gay, which only added to his sense of otherness and loneliness.
Despite the rumors, Ryan developed an online relationship with a popular girl from his school over the summer before his eighth grade year. However, when he started school, the girl proclaimed in front of his peers that Ryan was a loser and that her online relationship with him was a joke. She also had shared her conversations with Ryan with other people at Ryan’s school and laughed at him behind his back. To add insult to injury, Ryan was also communicating with a boy online who was “providing Ryan with information about suicide and encouraging Ryan to kill himself.” While communicating with this boy, Ryan actually said he was planning on ending his life, to which the boy responded, “It’s about fu**ing time.” Two weeks later, Ryan hanged himself.
What Can We Learn from Sad Bullying Stories?
The two sad bullying stories above make most people’s hearts ache and blood boil. Educating oneself and children about cyber bullying is the first step in preventing children from feeling that their only escape from bullying is death.