This story, which has been resting on the back burner in the attention of the public and the media, shows how intense a force the internet can be. Particularly it reveals how much of an addictive social outlet cyberspace is and how it creates a vast emotional response in those who use it. Most people who I count among my blogging friends are a generation or so older than me but even so they too know both the numerous positive factors and numerous negative factors that go hand in hand with an active social life online. I'm largely familiar with the interface between 21st century technology and human emotions since I have had many experiences and much experience perusing this juxtaposition in depth. The advent of bloggers and blogging is just another continuation in a phenomenon I've been accustomed to for a decade and a half.
The internet since its inception has become a forum for bored, lonely teenagers and now everyone sees just how easily the medium can be exploited for hurtful intentions. It's easy to be condemnatory of the woman who tormented this poor girl and drove her to suicide without fully understanding the context. I admit freely that ten or fifteen years removed I might have been a victim myself. My saving grace was that in those days, so-called adults weren't as aware of the vast scope of technology and additionally the social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook that are ubiquitious now simply didn't exist then. When I was cyberbullied (and it did occasionally occur) it was by people in my own age group. My parents simply weren't aware of what a world unto itself the internet can be. I'd rather not go into a litany of cruelty here---suffice to say I was periodically treated pretty nastily by anonymous strangers.
For many years I was homebound and either too sick to travel out of the house or too fearful of social interaction in general due to an anxiety disorder. The internet was my solace, though it often times was a source of torment and pain. All of the cruelty that exists in human nature shines through in personal contact over the internet, and if anything, the de-personalization and relative anonymity mean that people can be much crueler and much harsher to others then they'd ever dare to be in person. I'm not sure what that says about us, that we're so cowardly and non-confrontational that our evil side shows most plainly when we can hide our true identities and not have to face the people we hurt or insult.
As I said, I was a teenager when the internet came to prominence. Though it would be years before an effective high-speed internet access point would be invented and then made cheap enough for the average person to afford, the technical limitations of the medium didn't prevent me from making lots of friends. Even to this day, I still maintain a few close friendships with people I met online and I've even met face to face with several of them. Though I don't often speak about this element of it, I admit as well that I found several sexual partners online, too. Sex was never my intent up front, but combine two people desperate for companionship and lacking in social skills with a mutual attraction for each other and this sort of thing is bound to transpire. I also admit that I took some risks and wasn't as cautious, nor as careful as I probably should have been in those days.
For a generation of socially awkward teenagers the internet provided us with a world of like-minded peers. It expanded my horizons and gave me an expansive view of the world that many people would never achieve within their lifetime. At seventeen, I had accumulated so much knowledge from all of my contacts then many people would realize at age forty or fifty. In that regard, the internet was very helpful. And in that spirit, the fellow bloggers whose sites I visit on a nearly daily basis give me insight that in another age to which I would never be privy. Thanks to those online friends who enrich my life and also, may I be careful to avoid those unfortunate creatures whose only desire is to bring others down to make themselves feel better.