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Monday, October 25, 2021

Opinion

Add self-trolling to long list of spiteful cyberbullying behaviors


Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig yourself two graves. A woman in England was sentenced to 20 months in jail for ‘trolling’ herself, trying to get back at her parents. Her actions had a deeper impact than a snarky remark an online troll posts on a YouTube video.

In a year-long vendetta against her father, Michelle Chapman created fake Facebook profiles moonlighting as her father and his wife to send herself hundreds of abusive messages. Some of these messages were of an unpleasant sexual nature as Chapman went on to make complaints to police.

In this day and age, it’s fairly difficult to impersonate someone harassing you and reporting the incident to authorities without eventually getting caught.

Members of Chapman’s extended family were given official police warnings, and her then-stepmother was arrested and interviewed. It was then that forensic Internet inquiries revealed that the Facebook profiles originated at Chapman’s address. The person behind the abusive messages was her, and it eventually led to her arrest.

“People have suffered a great deal of distress as a result of (her) wicked behavior,” said Judge Harvey Clark.

If Regina George had a Facebook

In 2010, a Facebook page targeting high school girls in Fort Bend ISD called the “Whimsical Girls of FBISD” was essentially an online burn book. The page listed numerous girls from high schools throughout the district: Dulles, Elkins and Clements high schools.

The girls on the list were given a brief description, each implying promiscuity and misbehavior. With the rise of social media and the ability to remain anonymous behind a screen and keyboard, anyone can say what they want without immediate repercussions. The creator even went as far as to include himself or herself on the list in hopes of appearing victimized.

Sound familiar? Regina George basically wrote the rulebook; she included herself in the infamous burn book. Unlike the repercussions for the “Mean Girls” fictional character, there’s not going to be an assembly in the gym where all the girls raise their hands in unison to admit they have been victimized by her.

The investigation continued with a petition to seek the expulsion of the page’s creator. A large scale attack on numerous girls? It shouldn’t be a surprise that these girls would speak up against the page, especially when someone is calling them derogatory names and tarnishing their reputation.

The page was up for more than a week before the school district had it taken down, but the damage was already done.

“They wrote extremely mean, explicit and false things about us. It was humiliating to know that anyone on Facebook could see what one person thought about me. No one would ever know if what was written was true or not,” said then-junior Abby Kincer.

Hiding in plain sight

Cyberbullying is nothing new. Instead of the “Mean Girls” being limited to high school hallways, they’re now omnipresent, thanks to the Internet and social media. Gossip plays out on our Twitter and Facebook feeds rather than on the playground.

The abuse may not run to the extent of the character A from “Pretty Little Liars,” but the damage needs to be dealt with.

Punishments used to be less frequent. With the stakes much higher and everyone’s personal identity digital, everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions in real life and online.

So the next time you contemplate exacting some revenge, consider the consequences, and remember that when you bring someone down, they’re taking you with them. Leave the trolling under the bridge.

Opinion columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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