I know first hand what its like to be called names and to be affected by things. They would call me fat, they would call me promiscuous in different words. At the time, when I was 12-years-old, that was like the end of the world. To me, bullying is one of my biggest platforms. Lets change the world. -Demi Lovato
Recently I was asked my opinion on the Amanda Todd story. For those who may not know, Amanda Todd was a 15-year old high school student who lived in the same area as me – going to school in Maple Ridge, BC (where I attended elementary) and then transferring to Coquitlam, BC (where I grew up). A victim of incessant bullying, Amanda committed suicide this month.
The questions were:
What do you think the most important lesson to be learned from the Amanda Todd tragedy is? And why are so many young people creating Facebook pages to trash her?
I thought I would share my response…
I think there are multiple sides to this story, and there are, therefore, different lessons that each side can learn.
Victims of Bullying / Young People in General:
- First: in this world of Facebook, Twitter, and iPhones, girls need to learn that whatever they allow to be put on camera (body shots/nudity/sex tapes) is ‘fair game’ to be seen by ANY and everyone. This doesn’t mean it’s OK that these people shared the nude photos of Amanda, but it does mean that in light of this reality, girls should be smart, responsible, and have RESPECT for themselves when it comes to their sexuality and how they wish to showcase/portray it.
- Girls (or guys) who are victims of bullying and [potentially] have gone down the path of EDs/self-harm/self medicating in order to ‘cope’ with their emotions should take the story of Amanda as a wake-up call that this can lead to death (which, in the case of self-harm, death is usually not the goal – numbing is) and therefore they should seek out help from a professional immediately – understanding that they are NOT ‘bad’ or ‘weak’ and shouldn’t be ashamed because of their behaviours, but that these behaviours are still incredibly dangerous and should be addressed.
- Those who choose to put down others in a vicious/violent way, need to realize the impact this can have on the individual(s) and that this can go FAR beyond simply embarrassing them or making them feel unwelcome.
- On the other hand, they also need to realize that though we are responsible for our behaviours, we are not responsible for the way others respond to them. What I mean by this: these girls and guys who treated Amanda in this way need to take responsibility for their behaviours, which were wrong, but SHOULD NOT put her death on their shoulders. They are not DIRECTLY responsible for the fact that she has passed away – and by carrying this guilt with them, that can only make their situations/self-perception worse than it already is. What they did was wrong. But they are not murderers. They should take responsibility, learn from it, and strive to change, but they should not spend the rest of their lives carrying the guilt of someone else’s choice to commit suicide.
- The general public needs to see BOTH sides of the story. Yes, we must love and grieve for Amanda Todd, but we also must love and grieve for those who bullied her. Bullies don’t become bullies because they are bored; usually it is a response to an inner malice that they themselves face.
When someone doesn’t love themselves (or even hates themselves) they can respond in two ways: 1) they can lash out at others
2) they can lash out at themselves (or sometimes both).
No self-respecting, self-loving person would show this type of hate towards another human being. Typically the hate we direct towards others is the very hate we wish we could direct towards ourselves.
Bullies are fighting off some pretty big demons, and, just like those who are victims of bullying, they should seek out professional help. As Nietzsche said:
“When fighting off monsters, it is important that one sees to it that s/he does not become a monster in the process.”
They were hated (maybe by friends/family/themselves) and so they feel the need to pass that hate onto others. At some point someone has to stand up and say IT STOPS HERE, WITH ME. the cycle needs to stop.
And, as the public, hating those who bully is not going to end the cycle – fighting hate with hate does not breed love, it just breeds more hate. Hate hasn’t gotten us very far, so let’s try love instead.
- The general public also needs to take note that sharing the Amanda Todd video (whether to classes, friends, youth groups etc…) can cause more harm than good.
First it can be incredibly triggering for those who struggle with suicidal thoughts/self-harm. Second, because it is on YouTube (internet television, in essence) there is a risk of it ‘glamorizing‘ this type of behaviour. Similarly, it can put ideas in the mind’s of young people who are not able to fully rationalize things and who may choose to”‘just do what Amanda Todd did.”
In a world where young people, more than ever, are desperate for love & attention from parents, friends, and the world in general, we don’t need to offer them any other ideas regarding how they might be able to get that attention. (this is a great article discussing a memo sent out to BC teachers talking about this very thing: http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2012/10/22/ministry-memo-cautions-teachers-about-showing-amanda-todd-video-in-class/)
Why are people creating hate groups on Facebook?
We live in a society where bullying is common, and even accepted. I was actually pleasantly surprised when David Letterman made a great point related to this. He said (paraphrased) it is crazy for us to support/buy/read smutt magazines, which is, essentially, bullying celebrities on a mass scale, and then be surprised when our children/youth start bullying each other.
Look at PEOPLE magazine, look at reality television shows, and even the presidential campaigns/debates – it’s all verbal attacking as a means to tear someone else down. This is the example we are setting, and it’s crazy for us to think that children aren’t picking up on this. As with many other things, a great deal of the responsibility to instigate change lies in the hands of the ADULTS who are mature enough to fully understand situations and then lead by example. In order for us to get our kids to stop bullying other kids, we need stop bullying each other.
As for the “bystanders” and those who may not have instigated but who still were involved – basically it’s The Lord if the Flies Effect (aka peer pressure).- and so these people, again, should take responsibility for their actions but also understand it is not their fault Amanda is gone.
Finally, he asked me how Libero Network addresses the issue of bullying (if at all):
As for Libero Network – though bullying does not show up in our Mission statement, it is something we talk about whenever we have the opportunity – whether through sharing our stories, or positive messages, or anti-bullying campaigns etc… I’ve also done YouTube videos on it. This month we’re actually covering the topic of friendship, so we have a few posts on unhealthy vs. healthy friendships as well. We haven’t said anything re: Amanda Todd simply because up until today I just hadn’t gotten the chance to fully educate myself on the situation.
If you are a victim of bullying, I want you to know you are not alone, I have been there, and there is a way out that does not involve harming yourself. Seek help. Talk to someone. And know that you are beautiful – and words can’t change that.
“Your imperfections make you beautiful, and they make you who you are, so just be who you are, love yourself for who you are, and just keep going.” -Demi Lovato