Bullying — especially cyberbullying — has been in the news a lot recently. Right now, the big story concerns Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University who jumped off a bridge after video of him making out with another man was posted on the Internet. Before that, there was the heartbreaking case of Phoebe Prince in Massachusetts and Megan Meier in Missouri — two teenage girls who committed suicide rather than face another day of being taunted.
Reading these stories, I always find myself wondering if I just got lucky. I had my share of issues when I was in high school but bullying — at least not the type of bullying that Phoebe Prince had to endure — was never one of them. I had to deal with the catty remarks and whispered innuendo. Phoebe Prince, meanwhile, had empty cans thrown at her while she tried to walk home and spent the last few days of her life in constant fear that she was going to be physically attacked. That’s no way for a fifteen year-old to live her life.
And then consider Megan Meier who was only 13 and was essentially murdered by an adult named Lori Drew who thought it would be funny to set up a fake MySpace account for a fictional boy who would befriend Meir and then reject her. Drew, incidentally, was the mother of one of Meier’s classmates. The Drew family lived next door to the Meier family. I’m not sure if Lori Drew knew that Megan Meier (like me) had been diagnosed as suffering from both ADD and Depression. But it really doesn’t matter, does it? As a woman, Lori Drew knows what it’s like to be an insecure, 13 year-old girl.
And yes, I know that a jury acquitted Lori Drew on criminal charges. I don’t care if what Lori Drew did was criminal or not. It was wrong and there’s no excusing it.
(Drew’s own explanation was that it was a “joke” meant to “mess with Megan.”)
I look at the cases of Phoebe Prince and Megan Meier and now Tyler Clementi and I have to wonder if I was just lucky or if, in the just the six years since I graduated high school, things have really degenerated that much.
What’s truly frustrating is that despite all of these stories about the consequences of bullying, nothing seems to be changing. Obviously, kids and teenagers are going to bully each other. It’s what you do when you’re insecure and being in your teens is all about being insecure. The question everyone asked after Phoebe Prince’s suicide was — where were the adults? As far as I know, that question hasn’t been answered yet.
Then again, in the case of Megan Meier, we know where at least one adult was. That adult, Lori Drew, was off trying to be a teenager the only way she knew how. And, as quickly as everyone was to declare their hatred of Lori Drew, I doubt she’s an isolated example.
So, if the adults can’t be counted on, is there a solution beyond people simply treating each other with a little common decency? Or is that something that has apparently been judged to be passé?
To be honest, I started this post mostly because I wanted to mention a news story that I read today:
If nothing else, maybe this story will cause some to give second thought to using the Internet’s false sense of security as an excuse to indulge in bullying.
If you can’t bring yourself to worry about the person you might kill, at least worry about the person who might end up killing you.