Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Big girls don’t bully. Wednesday, July 14, 2010.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” – Children’s nursery rhyme
In October 2006, three weeks shy of her 14th birthday, Megan Taylor Meier of Missouri hung herself in her bedroom. Lori Drew, the mother of a friend of Megan’s, was charged with causing her death by “cyber-bullying” Megan on MySpace. Megan had thought she was communicating with a cute boy, Josh, but she was actually communicating with Drew, who lived just down the street.
At first, the “couple” got along famously. Before long, the messages became abusive. “You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life,” “Josh” wrote. “The world would be a better place without you." Once the details of Megan’s suicide became public, the Drew family was ostracized by the community – and the nation. Their property was vandalized, and businesses related to them were shunned.
Drew was convicted in 2008 but acquitted in 2009. A bill was introduced, HR 1966 (the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act) to make it a crime to use the Internet to "coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person."
Did Drew cause Megan to kill herself? Megan had been under psychiatric care since third grade, and was taking a number of medications including Celexa and Ritalin. A pretty and intelligent girl, she nevertheless had very low self-esteem. Communicating with “Josh” made her feel loved, and when “Josh” rejected her, it apparently was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
We’ll never know if Megan would have committed suicide anyway, perhaps due to a real-life breakup or just because she was clinically depressed. But the case says more about Drew than it does about Megan. What kind of person – what kind of adult and parent – would torment a young girl online? What kind of individual tells someone else, “Why don’t you just go ahead and kill yourself??”
I have met some of those individuals here on Facebook. Whether they are teens or adults, they are bullies, plain and simple. Bullies are to be pitied. Therapists say that people who bully have a need to control or dominate others to feed their own low self-esteem. They may envy or resent their target, or have a false sense of superiority. They often suffer from depression or personality disorders.
The nursery rhyme is wrong. Names can, and do, hurt. Verbal abuse is as egregious as physical abuse. In Real Life, there is no “block” button to prevent bullies from bothering you. But on Facebook there is. If someone tells you you’re better off dead, it says little about you and much about them. Click that button.