The destructive nature of cyberbullying

5 Mins read

Victims of online abuse often feel that there’s no place to turn. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were created as a way to share information, connect with people who share similar interests and to keep in contact with distant friends and family. Although many use these sites for positive, creative and efficient ways to connect to others, some use them as a tool for cyberbullying.

Statistics show that cyberbullying is a growing trend in the UK. According to Liam Hackett in his Annual Bullying Survey (2013) of more than 2,000 British teens, 69 per cent of young people aged between 13 and 22 had experienced cyberbullying, with 20 per cent saying their cases were very extreme.

The charity ChildLine also saw an increase in the number of children contacting the organisation with concerns about online bullying. There were 4,507 cases reported in 2012-13, up from 2,410 in 2011-12.

Young adult Sasha, who suffers from epilepsy, told me about her heartbreaking story of how she became a victim on social media. She suffered such vile abuse that she even contemplated taking her own life.[divider type=”thin”]

When did it all begin?

When I was 17, I had a run in with three girls who attended my sixth form. The three girls were known troublemakers and had targeted me long before our encounter; it was just a matter of time. The first incident happened at a party I attended where they were present. I had been drinking and was a little bit tipsy, which looking back now wasn’t a great idea. In my drunken bubble, I was moving recklessly all over the place. I accidently knocked into one of the girls, who was holding a drink in her hand, which spilt all down her top. I remember being so apologetic but she retaliated really badly and punched me in the face. I fell to the ground and I had one of my seizures. I’m epileptic. A few days after recovering I found out that one of the girls had recorded what had happened and posted it on social media. I was in total shock, for days after I lived in shame but that was only the beginning.

They created this page under my name; it had different pictures of me that these girls had uploaded. They wrote really vile and vicious lies about me and even added my number below each picture. I would get these random calls from strangers, all guys, talking to me as if I were a prostitute. It was horrible. I was being attacked both at sixth form and at home through social media and nobody could help, well that’s what I thought at the time. They got to me so bad that I hated life, I didn’t want to live it anymore. I wanted out.

When did you attempt to take your own life and what happened?

It was a Friday evening around 8pm I think, nobody was home. I’d had a really awful week tormented by these girls. I was in my room in bed and I already had the pills. I had quite a few in my hand and I was staring at them for a long time. I felt like I had no one, nobody I could really talk to. I was going through all that by myself, I felt so many different emotions. I felt depressed, stressed, lonely, angry and sad. That was one of my lowest points. Still looking at the pills, I remember asking God, ‘why is this happening to me?’ Each day I kept putting on a brave face, facing the day as it came but at that very point I felt weak. All the strength I had was gone. I had given up.

I remember my phone started vibrating which distracted me a little as it kept buzzing. It was on my table which was besides my wardrobe. I got up and clutching hold of the pills in my hand, I walked towards it. I had a few WhatsApp messages from a friend, she had screen grabbed a picture that one of the girls had posted on Instagram, it was a picture of my front door with a caption saying ‘Hey doll, we know where you live now! haha haha…’ Each one of the three girls had liked it. I couldn’t even hold myself together I was so angry, with every last bit of energy I had in me I threw my phone so hard against my wall it smashed to pieces. I started screaming, I kept on screaming stamping all over the broken pieces. I was so mad and so tired, I just wanted them to leave me alone.

I fell to the ground and just broke down uncontrollably. I remember the pills fell out of my hand and the tears kept flooding down my face, I couldn’t control myself, I couldn’t hold it in anymore, all the pain and hurt I’d been harbouring. That was it, I just thought f**k it.  I started picking up the pills from my floor, at that point my mind wasn’t together, I was completely disconnected. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be here anymore and that was my exit. I started putting loads in my mouth but it was weird, as I knew what I was doing but I didn’t at the same time, I can’t explain it. I remember my stomach felt weird and everything started blurring, I passed out.

What happened when you woke up?

I woke up in hospital. I was in so much pain. I remember the broken look on my mum’s face when I opened my eyes it brought to life what I had actually attempted to do. I had attempted to kill myself. I knew she had been crying hard as she had heavy bags under her eyes. But she’s amazing, she just gave me a massive hug and said that everything was going to be all right. When I got out of hospital, I finally opened up to her and told her everything. The police got involved and with their help we were able to move houses and I was able to have a fresh start. My nightmare was over.[divider type=”thin”]

Shadow silhouette [Flickr: Sammee]

Something created as a means of connecting people was used in Sasha’s case as a destructive weapon, alienating her and leaving her feeling more alone than ever. With the amount of pills she had taken, the doctors were shocked that she had even survived. There have been many similar stories like Sasha’s, sadly not all have ended as hers did. There have been several devastating deaths at the hand of cyberbullies.

Following the rise of cyberbullying, many social networking sites are incorporating procedures that help to put a stop to online abuse – allowing users to report misconduct, sites will now remove content that breaches terms and conditions. Facebook also operates something called “social reporting”, that encourages people to work with others in their community to report offensive content.

There are several organisations and charities that work alongside parents and support victims of all forms of bullying in order to help stop such horrific acts. And every year in the UK, the Anti-Bullying Alliance coordinates national Anti-Bullying Week, where children and young people, schools, parents and careers come together with the aim of to stopping bullying for all, in real life and online.

Featured Image – Flickr: Grover Webb

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