Recently I've been rather shocked at the stories I've heard. Just this morning I was reading about this site that allows teenage kids to post videos of themselves and become "e-famous" by being controversial, racy, explicit and even nude. A site monitored by a 31 year-old man who used to work in the porn industry, and who regularly incites his members against each other into trolling and making teens attack each other in public, video forums. Last year there was a video that went viral of 11 year old Jessi Slaughter (not her real name, obviously). She had grown rather infamous among her teen followers for her trolling, explicit videos and personal attacks. It got so bad (she attacked her 'haters' by saying "If you can't stop hating, you know what? I'll pop a glock in your mouth and make a brain slushy.") that somehow, people got hold of her personal information, real name and address, and started harrassing her, which led to a tear-filled video that went viral of her imploring her followers to leave her alone, while her parents raged in the background, and her father made loud, angry and ultimately desperate threats against this anonymous enemy.
Eleven years old.
Today the latest teen e-celebrity is 18 year old Kiki Kannibal, who has been an online presence since she was 13, with a MySpace profile. She posted suggestive and inappropriate (for her age) pictures of herself, and was soon famous on the Interwebs. She amassed friends, enemies, and death threats, before dating an older teen whom she met online. The teen allegedly raped her, and when the police sought to arrest him, he fell off a parking garage and died. Kiki and her traumatized family changed addresses, but she refused to leave her online persona behind. Now, she's 18, with two websites, a Youtube channel, twitter and tumblr account where she keeps in touch with her legion of rabid 'fans', still parading in outrageous outfits, still a 'celebrity'.
Eighteen years old.
A teenage girl we knew ran away with an older man, leaving behind a crushed single mother and a sibling. She lived under his roof for two years, bore him a child, was physically abused by him when he was drunk, and then died in the hospital due to injuries caused by a local 'doctor' who was performing an abortion on her with a sticks and tubes.
I'm told her mother didn't shed a tear at the funeral.
As we read these stories - and I'm sure this is nothing compared to what you may have stumbled across on the net - are you not alarmed at how quick we are to dismiss this? With a simple shrug and a 'tut-tut', we are able to move on without a second thought to what we have just read. Today, no one even remembers the name of the Austrian lady that was kidnapped and imprisoned in a basement by her father, who raped her for twenty years, fathering seven children by his own daughter, three of which would never see the sun till they were freed decades later.
Or even worse, we rationalise. It's not the child's fault, it's the parents. It's the internet. It's the websites. It's no ones fault, it's freedom of expression. It's not a crime, he/she wants the attention. They deserve the hate, the trauma. Who allowed her to buy those outfits? What kind of music was she listening to? What kind of movies was she watching?
Isn't this all besides the point?
The truth is, it's too late. As you read this, your brain is already filing this under 'yesterdays news', because sadly, we've become so numb to anyone's pain except our own. Right now, even if we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone we knew was going through something similar to what I've posted above, there's a good chance not one of us would go that extra mile to try and help that person. Not one.
And perhaps that is the saddest thing of all.